Almost Random Notes, Part 4
1. I teach one class per semester at Hope College. The constant reader (Who are you, b.t.w.? Don't you have anything useful to do?) will remember that last term I taught a poetry class. This semester I am back to teaching Freshman Composition. Things are made a bit more interesting because, topic-wise, the instructor is permitted to design the class. My students will be writing about creativity. The assigned texts include Twlya Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use It for Life (Simon & Schuster, 2003) and The Habit of Being (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1979), Flannery O'Connor's selected letters. The first class is Wednesday. I have been working on the syllabus for my class and rereading O'Connor's short stories from the Flannery O'Connor: Collected Works (Library of America, 1988).
O'Connor is a master of dialect and an amazingly economical writer. Today, her language (in stories like "Revelation" from Everything that Rises Must Converge, 1965) seems shocking. When originally published, her words must have seemed challenging and rude, but necessary. At the same time, the violence in many of her stories (which was once shocking) seems quaint by today's cultural standards and even melodramatic; perhaps too easily purchased. Too many of her stories resolve through "shots rang out and they were all dead" methodologies. Is it familiarity with O'Connor's writing that makes me think this about her work? Would I have said the same things thirty years ago?
Would I say the same things about O'Connor's stories if they were the work of--just speculating here--Cormac McCarthy?
2. Eight days into 2007, the award for most auspicious debut of the year in the poetry category has already been won by Reginald Shepherd's Blog. As Shepherd promises in his masthead, the blog is about poetry, it isn't about what he had for breakfast or what CD he is listening to. Shepherd goes right after Ron Silliman and Joshua Clover (to name two) in a devastating critique of some of the more outrageous claims made by them and their allies. Shepherd has a new book of essays coming out in the University of Michigan's Poets on Poetry Series. If his blog is an accurate indicator, I will be a big fan of his book.
And when they come after me, I want Reginald Shepherd in my corner.
3. Note to self: Before she goes back to NYC, have Hannah teach you how to do links within the body of the post.
4. Seth Abramson's poem "Public Defender" is featured today on Poetry Daily. Check it out. The poem originally appeared in The Iowa Review. Not only is this a terrific piece of writing, it is also a clear-eyed, dead-on accurate take on life as an attorney, representing the indigent and the baffled. I know something about that, and Seth's poem speaks from the very heart of the experience.
5. As my vision deteriorates, the quality of my typing becomes worse and worse. And I was not much of a typist to begin with. Generally, I catch my more egregious mistakes with spell check (or by rereading my own posts) but find that I don't catch all my errors when I post comments on the blogs of others. I apologize for this. When it becomes too embarrassing, I will quit posting comments.
Still though, alas, I invoke these deadly birds of the soul.