25 September 2008

What a Week

Prompted by my computer breaking down on Sunday along with the mortgage bail-out, the nationalization of AIG and the overall U.S. economy rescue mission, I did a heck of a lot of reading this week -- and it was pretty wonderful. I worried about connecting with my students, naturally, but I survived that by complaining to my husband and a few friends and continuing to read. First I read Papal Lies, a book my Pope-hating friend gave me about the popes of the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. The book is so out of print that it's not even listed on Amazon, but it was a fun romp through a seriously corrupted organization that leaves no question as to why Luther and a few others were angry back then.

Then I re-read a few of my friends' poetry books in progress, including Tonya Foster's A Swarm of Bees in High Court, which is composed entirely in haiku. I also read through Zone: Zero the wonderful and very difficult new book by Stephanie Strickland which Robin Reagler has featured on Big Window this week. This one definitely bears more than on re-reading, and I haven't yet played the interactive CD that accompanies it. I read the Japanese fabulist Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore in one day -- all 436 pages of a wild and magical novel that I highly recommend. And after hearing Tomaz Salamun read his poetry at St. Mark's Poetry Project Monday night, I bought and read most of his first book in English, Poker.

Poker was originally published in Slovenian in 1966 and was seen as revolutionary and subversive. Which is a pretty good definition of what I want from poetry--words that undermine the obvious paths of thought to (help me to) break into new vistas. Of course, when I came home from the reading and told my husband I'd heard the most marvelous Slovenian poetry, he behaved as if I were trying to act like an effete New Yorker. But, truly, he is the most marvelous. Here is a quatrain from the very middle of Poker. It sits alone on a page at the beginning of a long poem called "Things."

Between any two points in space
you can always draw a straight line
but where is the way
between the same place

Where indeed is the way? No doubt we'll all find it next week. Keep blogging, my students....

11 September 2008

What I'm reading

I'm reading Sophocles' Antigone, or actually re-reading it, which is actually more like thinking about it. The play is thought to have been first performed in late March, 441 B.C.

I fear B.C. is a politically incorrect term, as it means Before Christ and not everyone is Christian. I believe the new term is B.C.E. Before the Common Era. Forgive me!

The play was part of a public festival known as the "Great Dionysia," which celebrated Dionysius, the god of wine. During the annual Dionysia many of the famous Greek trajedies--and commedies and satires--were first produced.

The play is not Sophocles' easiest. It is the story of a myth, or the part of the myth that occurs at the tale end of the Oedipal disaster, after it's been discovered that their father was also their brother -- that is, their mother is also their grandmother. (You'll figure it out, if you don't know the story already) Other things have happened, such as their father poking his eyes out and their brothers killing each other. The people left in the family are the two sisters, a bossy, high-strung and righteous Antigone and her sweet mild lil sis, Ismene, and an uncle, Creon, who has taken the throne and immediately promises to kill anyone who attempts to properly bury Antigone's outcast, and already quite dead, brother.

In the first scene, Antigone meets her sister outside the castle--or whatever Greek royalty lived in--and says, "Ismene, my sister, mine own dear sister, knowest thou what ill there is?"

I'm impressed with how easy it is to read Antigone online. MIT has it here, Bartleby has it here, the awesome Diotima has it here, and Sparknotes--whoever they are--has it here.

It would be cool if all of those links worked.

More on tragedy--Greek--soon.

03 September 2008

Teaching Art

First, it's impossible. And often terribly insulting, condescending, and especially unwittingly condescending (my specialty). (Due to the many years of teaching art, of course.)

But that doesn't mean that the students enrolled in English 332 (Advanced Creative Writing) won't be learning a thing or two about art while in my vicinity in the next four months. But mostly they'll learn it out of my vicinity. Mostly they'll learn it by realizing they already know it. Buried somewhere in their noggins. Art and the old longing for more more more of it, dangit.

This is not my point.

My point is that classes start tomorrow, that the students will be advanced, that I want to lead them into the great world of their own art, their own generation, and so I am going to demand that they set up a blog. Each one of them. A weekly assignment about art -- about their art -- or just about art as they understand it. As their understanding enlarges. And I will keep up with them, a little loveletter here which is easier than posting on ab chaos lex.com and which will--may--will--may enlarge my own understanding of the process.

I am looking at my syllabus: Should I post it here? On the web?

My favorite line: Attendance and attitude are key to learning!

As if!

More will be revealed.

Peter called my iPhone snapshot art (and I've been thinking a bit about art)