Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Betweens

The betweens.
What I tend to teach.
Each to each.

---

Every book teaches me how to read it;
Every student teaches me how to teach.
Humility helps, but you still have to turn the pages.

___

I stood at the front of the room,
So they called me the teacher.
So many students so willing.
I guess I started to teach.

I used to wear a tie
I used to wear Tommy Bahama
I took a page from Yeats
Now I teach naked
Not literally naked
(Yeats wasn't really naked,
But it was a good good line.)
Metaphorically so
On my best days

--doggerel to mark a long day at school and in the commute

Revision due Thursday.

Byronic Opposition


Byron's expressions of the heroic saliently focused on opposition figures--the Trojan view, Priam's sons, a Turkish infidel and his sons, a cripple--to express that heroism, a thought I missed or misplaced from back in the days I was working on that dissertation.

(How odd, especially given that my intended and partially-unexamined title read "With a Trojan's Eye."  I knew Byron was more cosmopolitan, more liberal, of mind and heart than many have given him credit for, but I wasn't quite digesting all that I'd been consuming, reading hugely as I was, and so . . . .)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Dear Lord Byron . . . Postscript


Friend:  What was it? Do you know now?

Me:  I wanted to be able to say that I knew what Byron thought and felt and meant in any given moment and any given text, but since I didn't mean to write the next biography all of that did not serve me well. I failed to digest much of what I was consuming and I didn't know how to stop except by teaching other people.

Me:  Though, you know, there were times when I did know. But that was mysticism and not academically allowed.

Friend: Matt, so the obsession was mastery--and you achieved it, just not in the exact way you envisioned.

Me:  Mastery is an illusion, but I once believed in that illusion.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Dear Lord Byron . . . .

I've been teaching some books about specific obsessions, and in order for my students to understand that I was not judging or maligning the authors for their obsessions, I made a bit of a joke about understanding obsession myself, about being obsessed.  I mentioned my nine years in graduate school and detailed how I'd not only read and annotated all that Lord Byron had written, published or not published, but also had read and annotated the thirteen volumes of his letters that we have and had read and annotated the letters sent to him and had even started reading and annotating all that Byron himself had read . . . in chronological order.

(And that's not counting the bookcase or two full of literary scholarship on Lord Byron and English Romanticism and European history and heroism I also read and annotated.)

What started out as a joke became a little more serious: I do understand obsession.

I survived mine, but not everyone does.


Missing the Muses


Salt water;
clay;
blank pages and time;
a new album to spark my own lyrics to titles and tunes;
and a good book of poetry or prose to knock me off my feet a bit.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Strange Clay




Fishfolk, werefish, not quite sure.
2015 clay-play.

Graves: "Mermaid, Dragon, Fiend"


MERMAID, DRAGON, FIEND

In my childhood rumors ran
Of a world beyond our door—
Terrors to the life of man
That the highroad held in store.

Of mermaids' doleful game
In deep water I heard tell,
Of lofty dragons belching flame,
Of the hornèd fiend of Hell.

Tales like these were too absurd
For my laughter-loving ear:
Soon I mocked at all I heard,
Though with cause indeed for fear.

Now I know the mermaid kin
I find them bound by natural laws:
They have neither tail nor fin,
But are deadlier for that cause.

Dragons have no darting tongues,
Teeth saw-edged, nor rattling scales;
No fire issues from their lungs,
No black poison from their tails:

For they are creatures of dark air,
Unsubstantial tossing forms,
Thunderclaps of man's despair
In mid-whirl of mental storms.

And there's a true and only fiend
Worse than prophets prophesy,
Whose full powers to hurt are screened
Lest the race of man should die.

Ever in vain will courage plot
The dragon's death, in coat of proof;
Or love abjure the mermaid grot;
Or faith denounce the cloven hoof.

Mermaids will not be denied
The last bubbles of our shame,
The Dragon flaunts an unpierced hide,
The true fiend governs in God's name.

--ROBERT GRAVES