Selasa, 23 September 2008

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis is in town. MSU Jazz Studies Director Rodney Whitaker led a talk at the Wharton Center with him last night. Marsalis was cool and funny, of course, but he was also serious about what it takes to be an artist, what it means to be a jazz artist, what jazz means to this country, and just exactly how children should be supported as they begin to explore our musical language. That man knows how to connect with a crowd.

Minggu, 21 September 2008

The Writing Life, The Divided Life, The Mental Subcontinent

This morning, after blueberry pancakes and coffee, I sat down with The New York Times Magazine and read David Gessner's article, Those Who Write, Teach. Yes, it was about the old divide between academia and art, but one could substitute "teaching" with any job that distracts one from pursuing his art. It's worthwhile reading for those who have struggled with this issue. As Gessner says, "It's hard to throw your whole self into something when that self has another job."

Sabtu, 13 September 2008

Hurricanes, Books

I read this several years ago, before Katrina and certainly before Ike. Maybe it is time to read it again.

I also saw Tom Piazza's new book, City of Refuge, at Schuler's today. Here is what Richard Ford said about it: “People ask me when will Katrina begin to inform our art, when will imagination become essential to tell what the raw facts can't. Well, here's an answer: now. CITY OF REFUGE speaks eloquently into that silence.” Maybe I should read this too.

"So many books, so little time."

New Dimensions

OOOOHHHH....Higgs Particles are all very interesting, but an extra dimension? This could solve a lot of problems: roads will become less congested, air traffic control will become easier. Can we use jet packs? Is it a new frontier? Let's not conquer this one. Let's just let it tantalize us forever.

Brain Green's Op-Ed piece in Friday's New York Times was great. My concerns about the Large Hadron Collider have been quelled. I am reassured that Switzerland will not be swallowed, and I am spending my afternoon with a tape measure, staring at the kitchen table, waiting for the new dimension to reveal itself to me. Tomorrow I will casually mention that my table is 40" wide, 45" long, 30" tall, and 6 3/4" quimoogle. Yes. Quimoogle is the new dimension. I have just named it. For an English major, this is enough.

Rabu, 10 September 2008

Poem Puzzles

It's the second week of what I now call fall, defined entirely by the start of school. I have settled into a routine, which I am now breaking, so one must question whether I can call it a routine if, after 7 days, I am interrupting it. I've been walking Tommy to the bus stop, walking home in the morning sunshine (or rain), sitting down at the kitchen table, and working on poetry. I feel like I am making some progress on poems I started over the summer. When I am working on a poem, I feel such a sense of absorption, and I am aware of a logic and a rhythm to the process. It's like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, though I suppose there is sometimes more than one solution to each poem puzzle. I can feel when lines are fitting together, and I can feel when I need to reshape and reconfigure. I always think that I know when I've put the final piece in, but sometimes I have "false closure," and then I come back to the poem puzzle and take a few pieces out and build different pieces to replace them. When I am done with a jigsaw puzzle, I like to run my hands over it. When I am done with a poem, I read it aloud to myself, which is like running my hands over a puzzle. Last August, when I was hiking along the ridge trail in Nordhouse Dunes, I loved looking at the trees, which were all shaped by the wind. They had distinctive growth patterns and similar twists. I notice that with puzzles. Each 500-piece, 1,000-piece puzzle tends to have one shape that is repeated, with some variation, in many of the pieces. So it is with poems. Something in our work becomes our voice.