2020 Quarantine/Social Isolation Report That Again, No One Asked For

Inside The Grind
When I first learned we were moving our classes fully online, I thought, "no big deal -- so much of my material is already up on Blackboard," but this was a false sense of security and possibly excessive pride, because this has turned out to be very untrue.

I mean, yes, my materials are up on Blackboard, but they are not necessarily useful in terms of *teaching* -- discussion boards have to be created, and slide presentations need supplementary voiceover in the form of screencast videos, which are not necessarily difficult to create but *do* require me to have a quiet room to myself for at least 30 minutes per video -- usually more, because sometimes you mess up, even when you create a script. And the creation of the script itself takes time, as in at least another half hour, and creating these scripts when I'm interrupted by other members of my household every 15 minutes makes all of this course prep *while the class is already running* much like navigating an obstacle course, albeit a mental one. And, of course, it's not just one class that I'm doing this for. And then there are the emails. So. many. emails.

But there's an end in sight, for my poor students and for me: Four more weeks. This deadline is both frightening and also reassuring.  How will we get everything done that we're supposed to do? How will I actually *grade* items, ever again? I feel like I'm doing so much course management that I don't have time to actually review any of their work. It's a little nightmarish.

Inside My Head
Speaking of nightmares -- I've been having more vivid dreams, ones I can actually remember. They aren't even really that frightening, just stressful. Full of hallways and conference rooms, spaces I don't recognize and in real life wouldn't give a shit about -- and yet I'm really concerned, in my dreams, with being in the right place at the right time. The other day I had a dream that I was wandering around one of these mazes dressed in pajamas, not real clothes.

And then I wake up to anxiety. But I do put on real clothes. Even jewelry. Because I've been trying to make this whole work-from-home situation not be one large slide into complete sloth.

Eviscerated bunny carcass courtesy of my lovely dogs.
Inside My Home
Two dogs create so. much. dog. hair. So much.

Three children create so. many. dishes. So many used glasses with random levels of varying types of drinks. I feel like we're constantly washing dishes, putting away dishes, or talking about washing and putting away dishes.

Reading and Writing
Remember when I used to write about poetry? About reading poetry? About *writing* poetry? Yeah, me too. Good times.

Actually, I've been reading in small, stolen minutes Aziza Barnes' I Be But I Ain't. I began that book years ago when visiting Poet's House in NYC -- I found it on the shelves and began reading it while I waited to attend some reading downtown. I loved it, felt disappointed I had to put it back on the shelves and leave it there -- and so, a couple of weeks later, or maybe months, bought a copy -- and then didn't pick it back up again until just now. No idea why. It's so very good.

I've had to do a lot of rereading, too, for the classes I'm teaching, so I'm also reading things that are not poetry. The play Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes. It's great, and I'm hoping my creative writing students like it. (Out of all of my classes this semester, they seem to be a group that's been most comfortable and happy with the transition to online learning -- and the play features an online recovery group, which is a kind of strange coincidence now that almost all aspects of ((social)) life are virtual these days.) For my lit class, A Raisin in the Sun. I forget sometimes how funny the play can be, in the middle of all the gravity. Small, beautiful moments of realistic humor -- sarcastic asides, jokiness between family members. Like little rays of sunshine, or furtive drafts of fresh air, through the otherwise dark, claustrophobic room of the play.

I'm kind of dreading the next assignment for that lit class. Normally I love teaching Cormac McCarthy, particularly *because* he's so dark, but why -- why -- did I have to assign The Road for *this* semester? Why couldn't I have stuck with No Country?

Similarly, my novel class is reading The Corrections, which I pair with The Sound and the Fury, and is normally a very apt and instructive pairing. BUT GOOD GOD. Assigning a book that actively works to make you loathe the characters, from which you'd very much like to *escape* the characters, just doesn't sit well with the close quarters of quarantine. I have no idea how the students in that class will take it. What a note on which to end the semester! (Because it's 500 plus pages, we're going to be reading it as our last complete work of the course).

I'm writing small, weird pieces in the mornings this week. And then moving on to emails, class prep, my kids' distance learning, etc. Eventually I'd like to play with these morning sketches and see if they can be turned into actual poems, but that *eventually* seems like a very long way off.

Still, writing *something* makes me feel a little more like my usual self. My Quarantine Self is not exactly a chick I want to be good friends with. The sooner she can move on, the better.


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