We had a bit of snow yesterday. I took pics as I walked home at dusk: Bucknell Hall (the Stadler Center for Poetry) looks all warm and toasty (though it's really all cold and drafty upstairs). No one had walked the railroad tracks yet. So hushed. So lovely. I'm ready for more.
That would be Randy. But today I helped with a project: we have an eclectic collection of cookbooks and pottery on two bookcases in the corner of the kitchen, and this morning Randy decided we should thin down the cookbooks to fit the shelf above the sink. Good idea! We were left with a box of cookbooks to store in the attic until we can yard sale them this spring. We washed all the pottery--and my too-many teapots--and rearranged them. Much nicer. (R's still in the kitchen. I have homework to grade and a lesson plan to finish.)
* * * * * He just found me a spider: a small one, yellow-green, moving fast. I flicked it into a bowl and carried it up to the terrarium. (The aphids are still a problem. I tried a half-strength solution of rubbing alcohol, but it didn't seem to faze them. Maybe I didn't saturate them enough. I decided to continue my pursuit of non-chemical methods.)
* * * * * I may not go to Atlanta for AWP. This has me a little bummed. We were counting on some travel funds that turned out to be about half the amount we expected. I need to go shake some money trees. At least next year's conference (if I'm still doing this sort of thing) will be in New York, only a three-hour drive.
* * * * * Here's another poem that I read in class last week. (I keep a file of "daily poems" to read in class, and another one of "teaching poems.") I realized, as I was reading the "pallbearer" section, that the poem had come to mind because of the "disappearing twin" syndrome that Deirdre and I were chatting about two weeks ago.
THE BEAUTY OF YOUTH
Is reinvention. My son, chameleon-like, is someone else every day — Spiderman in makeshift leggings, Gina Lollabrigida in my red heels. He isn't fixed on gender, on the living or the dead, fictive or real, evil or saintly. I let him be Mussolini for a day. How much harm could he do, with little time, no reinforcements? When he is God he learns it's lonely at the top, and hard to recall all his addled sisters' demands. As Ponce de Leon, he lacks experience, is disinterested in the fountain of youth. One day he is his twin brother. Even I can't tell them apart. The next day he finds a spot on the warm slate floor and barely moves. Who are you? I ask. I'm a pallbearer, he says, missing his twin. He is practicing for his next incarnation: a stone, which he has learned in school can be halved and halved and halved without pain, in rain and heat and still cling to its purest properties.
This weekend I'm reading and thinking about Dorothy Allison's story "River of Names," which I'd never read before, for my intro CW classes. Looking forward to our discussions. Also reading the first batch of applications for the June Seminar. And (and!) I received the first set of proofs for West Branch 60, our 30th anniversary issue. Everything's due on Monday. It's a heavy reading weekend. I think I'll go to the office for part of the day.
* * * * * It finally got cold here. My office window rattles. We've had snow flurries, but nothing's really stuck yet.
* * * * * I'm gradually increasing my daily workout. It's going well: I have more energy, fewer headaches, and a heightened--what to call it?--clarity. My black jeans fit! And I've lost six pounds so far.
* * * * * Continuing my practice of reading a poem each day in class, I started off with one of my favorites:
Robinson Crusoe breaks a plate on his way out, and hesitates over the pieces. The ship begins to sink as he sweeps them up. Sets the table and stands looking at history for the last time. Knowing precision will leak from him however well he learns the weather or vegetation, and despite the cunning of his hands. His mind can survive only among the furniture. Amid the primary colors of the island, he will become a fine thing, perhaps, but a different one.
: Jack Gilbert, Monolithos (1982)
* * * * * Hillary Clinton is in. Are we ready for a woman to lead the country? (I know I am.)
* * * * * [photo: Bucknell at night: Roberts Hall]
Okay. I had never heard of geoducks before. The word is pronounced like "gooey ducks." My friend Deirdre mentioned them today. They're clams. They have huge long necks. They burrow about three feet down and then settle there for, like, a hundred years. And they look like penises. Giant, slimy penises.
Gooey ducks, indeed.
[photo: campus at night - just outside my building]
Congratulations to Jill Allyn Rosser, whose manuscript has just won the New Criterion Poetry Prize! Jill's first book, Bright Moves, won the Morse Poetry Prize; her second book, Misery Prefigured, won the Crab Orchard Award. She's a marvelously accomplished poet--her poem "The Brain of the World" is smart, complex, and memorable, as are many of the images in her work. Not a semester goes by that I don’t read “Lover Release Agreement” and “Patience Is a Virtue” to my students: both are excellent villanelles, contemporary in their setting and tone but with language that makes a conscious nod toward the tradition of the form.
* * * * * My copy of Pebble Lake Reviewarrived yesterday. Nice to see my work in good company. Thanks again, Amanda and crew.
* * * * * We bought an elliptical machine. I've lost four pounds (as of yesterday morning). My goal is to shed enough to create a Mini Me so I can attend twice as many events in New York at next year's AWP. (I'll be the one that does not resemble a pile of chicken fat.)
* * * * * If you have tried to reach me via my campus e-mail, try again with my Gmail. Bucknell's junk filter is still randomly sucking "good" e-mails into detention space, where I may or may not find them.
* * * * * It's dark. It's cold. It's time to go home. Randy's making soup for dinner. I can hardly wait.
Drove down to Harrisburg yesterday morning to pick up Betsy at the train station. I was hoping she'd brought along some good old midwestern snow, but so far there's been none, and temps continue to be freakishly warm. Anywho, B & I had a great chat on the way home (it's only an hour's drive) and stopped for lunch at Mya's, which has been nicely renovated (they had a fire last year). Hope you've been enjoying Betsy's poems this week over at No Tell Motel!
* * * * * Last week, we watched a perfectly tepid Meryl Streep film: Before and After. Flaccid dialogue, lackluster performances from Streep, Liam Neeson, and Alfred Molina--you could almost see them cringe after delivering some of the truly lame lines--and the actor who played the troubled son was utterly annoying. This film came out in 1996. I've sprinkled a few of Meryl Streep's films into my Netflix waitlist--I generally *love* her work--but I can find absolutely nothing in this film to recommend it.
* * * * * My hostaseedlings are up, and coming along well under lights in the attic. They started sprouting about three weeks ago. I still have lots of seed, gathered from our own plants and from a nice stand of giant white-flowered plants on campus near my office building. I started more seeds on the 31st: dwarf columbines and spider plants.
* * * * * The terrarium is overrun by aphids. In November, I planted a few small cuttings of Kenilworth ivy, a beautiful creeping plant that grows in rocky crevices (I always notice it along the base of some of the old buildings in town, for example, and there are always several nice trailing clumps growing out of the mortar between the stones that support the railroad trestle near campus) and sports tiny pale violet blooms. A week or two later, I noticed a couple of aphids. That's all it takes, really: by the time you see 'em, they've got a foothold and some kind of action is necessary. As luck would have it, our chemistry building was swarmed that same week by ladybugs--it was another freakishly warm day in mid-November, and I noticed the ladybugs crawling all over the sidewalk and brick, so I caught two and brought them home.
At first they just sat there in the terrarium, clinging to the nearest leaf and doing pretty much nothing. Next day, I noticed that they were climbing all over the plants, and within a week I couldn't see a single aphid. This got me worrying about what to feed the ladybugs, which seemed to be hitting it off well: Randy actually filmed them making acrobatic ladybug love as they clung to a leaf. (Imagine two humping Volkswagen Beetles.)
It's been almost a month since I last saw them. Maybe they're hibernating? At any rate, the aphids are now in full assault, sucking on every leaf of the Kenilworth ivy, which has spread considerably. I don't think I can let this go much further without using some insecticidal soap. If I could find some other insect predator, I'd go that route first, though. Spiders, maybe? * * * * * [photo: hosta seedlings, three weeks old]
I'm grateful for these quiet days at home: reading, thinking, quilting. Here's the simple Square-in-Square mini quilt top I pieced over the weekend of the 24th: nothing too elaborate, my first attempt at foundation piecing, and though one of the rows is off-center, I still think it's not bad. On Saturday I started piecing a new mini in the "Hourglass" pattern--very tiny pieces, and it's slow work to keep them precisely square, but I did finish two blocks (with eighteen to go) and I'm hoping to complete the whole thing by this weekend. Meanwhile, I spend at least an hour each evening on a long-term project that's a surprise: I'm still hoping to complete it within two years (which translates to this August, so we'll see).
* * * * * It's perhaps interesting to note that I have been to Pickwick Dam, the birthplace of Charles Wright, because Randy grew up not far from there--in Adamsville, Tennessee. We visited R's parents--once--and stayed in a rental cabin.
How odd (I thought then) that a poet should arise from this place, or that Martins Ferry, Ohio should produce a James Wright. I stopped in Martins Ferry once, years ago, and asked at the visitors center if they could direct me to Wright's home. The girl at the counter asked "Who?" Sad, really, because the street on which her building was located was named after him. I pointed this out. "Yeah, I dunno what that's about," she replied vaguely, and off I went in search of the local library, where an enthusiastic middle-aged librarian chatted on and on about Wright and his poetry.
Of course (I know now) the librarian was gay. I wish (now) that I'd recognized this and stayed to chat longer.
* * * * * Thanks, Sebastian, for the surprise phone call!