A History / For One

July 24, 2009 at 8:21 pm | Posted in collage, poetry | 2 Comments

Readers of this blog (with relatively long memories) may be interested to learn that I have just finished teaching a class on sacrifice, something I started to think seriously about two and a half years ago. I proposed the class over a year ago, and have been offered two chances to teach it since then, both of which I had to turn down because of other, more attractive teaching offers. This summer my number came up again and I was thrilled to finally get a chance to do it. The class went wonderfully, and my students were shockingly good, but teaching what’s supposed to be a ten-week course in a five-week summer session ate up all of my dissertating time. I taught the last class two days ago, finished grading their second-to-last papers yesterday, and found myself this morning facing a one-day-long chunk of potential dissertating time — because the drafts of their final papers start coming in tomorrow.

And I rebelled. “One day,” I said to myself, “is barely enough time to reacquaint myself with my notes and get back into the headspace of even thinking about this chapter. And then tomorrow I’ll have to start reading drafts again. I can’t possibly do real work today.” So instead I wrote a poem, using the same collage method I used on the one I posted in March. (In fact, it’s made from leftover words from the previous and certainly better poem, which is part of why there are so few concrete images here — I used up all the good ones on my first effort.) I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that collage really might be where my poetic voice lies. It’s just so damn hard to say anything in this post-ironic day and age. This blog is painfully sincere a lot of the time, and I’m always sort of amazed that nobody makes fun of me for it — my theory is that my entries are so long & academic that only people who genuinely care about me and/or what I have to say even make it to the end of most of them. (Hint: the end is always where it gets sappy.) But even though I’m (almost) capable of maintaining a blog that is very sincere about literature, I quail before the idea of writing a poem that says something about myself in anything like a straightforward manner. It’s not that I have burning feelings that I am afraid of putting into words, either — I’m not sure that I’ve experienced that particular kind of angst since I was about twenty years old. Rather, what excites me about poetry these days is the idea of letting the words tell their own stories — of hunting those stories out, sifting among fragments and letting them cohere and settle until they find a shape that I can call a poem.

All of that is basically to say that I utterly disown any gothy melodrama that the poem below may exude. The words, it was their idea.


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