Archive for August, 2010

Teaching today was a joy.  As depressing as my first class period was, today’s class period felt joyous, organic, natural, right.  I taught Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”.  He is likely my favorite poet of all time.  I had the students try to identify a twelve line passage from the poem which would inform how they read texts in my class moving forward.  The lines were:

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much?  have you reckon’d the earth


Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all


You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of

suns left,)

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look

through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

Most of them found the passage.  We talked about America, about democracy, about our bodies and sexuality, about god and nature.  We went outside into the beautiful Ioway sun and read “Song of Myself” underneath a great maple tree beside the swollen Ioway River.

At the end of class, I asked them to identify one small piece of the poem that I have in the past considered for a tattoo.  They tried mightily to identify it, but couldn’t.  It is this:

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I told them that to me, those three lines are about personal growth, about avoiding stagnation, about changing and learning every day.  I want to be complex and change and I’m hoping that my students will want to learn and change too.  They are good kids, the lot of them.  Earnest and kind and open and giving and I am happy to be their teacher.

Godspeed Walt Whitman.  Godspeed america.  There are still some of us reading and writing poetry.


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Online Journal Poetry Fever

Two poems recently accepted by ultra-cool online journals and set for publication this fall:

Sixth Finch: http://sixthfinch.com/

Terrain.org: http://www.terrain.org/

One poem is a homage to the late architect Samuel Mockbee and the other is about the tribulations of being age(s) 20-30 and the kind of ambition and heartbreak that we’re all dealing with.  Busing tables, washing dishes, working shit jobs, and trying to get a leg up in the world.

I’m excited for you to read these poems and I’ll post further links in the near future.

Until then, there is a Writer’s Workshop bbq this afternoon and later, some kind of party.  It is oppressively sticky down here in Ioway and the biscuits and gravy I ate for breakfast this morning have hardly made me feel better.  I laid in my bedroom trying to fall asleep last night for something like five hours, listening to the cicadas, crickets, and then finally an owl.  I love owls.  But not at three in the morning.


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Away in Ioway

Just as we returned to Minnesota after almost two weeks in the Pacific Northwest, Henry began spontaneously offering hugs and kisses.  Standing in our kitchen and watching Regina cook, he might stretch his little arms out and offer a hug.  First to her, then to me.  In my one year as a parent, this is a kind of watershed moment, akin to the first time he giggled, or said a word.  And just like that, one day later,  I’m in the Bullitt, driving four and a half hours down to Ioway, there to spend the night alone, listening to cicadas and afraid of the dark.  (I slept with the bathroom light on.)

My Dad used to spend many years on airplanes, or in cars, driving around the Midwest.  He complained about it, about missing time, with us, with my Mom.  I get that now.  I’m down here for a reason, to do the things I want to do, to earn a degree, to write, to learn, to teach.  But right now, it isn’t very fun.  It just feels like missing time.

I listened this morning to the university archivist talk excitedly about a memo from the 1960s written by the university provost.  He was excited about the memo because its six bullet points made it especially difficult to catalog.  He was so enthusiastic about this banal memo that one point I feared he might bring himself to an intellectual orgasm before us.  A fifty something man, no doubt very kind and sincere, with white dreadlocks, non-descript clothing, and wire-rimmed glasses.  Meanwhile and back at the ranch, I’m thinking about my days in SLICE PAK as my old boss Mark Sebranek from corporate Oscar Mayer would chastise us about production while my old co-worker Darwin would grab his crotch in protest.  Or the heat exhaustion I suffered from roasting coffee.  Or the bum who dropped a handful of cocaine-covered change in my hand at Star Liquor.  How can all of these realities exist on the same plane?  How am I here?  Talking about pedagogy and hermeneutics?  I don’t even remember what the hell hermeneutics is.

I just want to write.  I just want to get home to my family.  I just want to write.  I just want to get home to my family.

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