Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Little Cold, School, and Thoughts on Some Poets

Tuesday, September 11, 2012—Long Beach, CA

I’m not feeling too hot. Last Friday I felt a cold coming on and it’s been with me ever since. It’s a mild one, though, just bad enough to irritate me, but not bad enough to really slow me down. I’m not surprised I’ve gotten sick. It’s pretty typical for teachers to get colds at the beginning of the fall semester, especially those who haven’t taught summer school. Suddenly being exposed to tons of new people also means that one is being exposed to tons of new microbes. Actually I’m surprised that teachers don’t get sick more often—schools are meeting places for so many different types of people, who come from so many different places, jobs, etc., that campuses are essentially a gathering place for all the illnesses going on in a region. This creates the situation where teachers probably develop more extensive immunities than the general population, but we also get sick more often than most people, just because we’re exposed to so much more—even our gnarly immune systems can’t handle it all.

Speaking of school, I’m having a pretty decent semester so far. I’m ahead of the game, which is nice (the last couple of semesters I’ve been playing extremely stressful games of catch up). I also like my classes; I’ve got a good bunch of students who really seem to be into things. Still, I’m under-employed, which is a drag. My schedule is a bit problematic too, in that it involves a lot of time commuting. I’ve been saying some pretty disparaging things about teaching here, but I’m deciding that I should be a bit more grateful. Though my life’s not where I want it to be, I do have it better than most of the people I know. I basically enjoy my job and on most days I feel like I’m making at least a little difference in the world. There are definitely worse day jobs than mine …

As usual when school kicks into high gear, there hasn’t been too much time for anything else. H— came in from Claremont the other day and we went out for breakfast. That was really nice; we hadn’t seen each other for a long time and it was nice to get caught up. I’ve also been entertaining myself with my fantasy football team and listening to a lot of Angels games (they’re a frustrating team, though—they have so much talent, yet they’ve yet to really gel as a group). I’m keeping up with my Greek studies too, (though I’m not putting as much time into that as I would like). The writing has tapered off a bit, but that’s mostly because I’m not sure exactly what I want to do with the latest Backwaters book—the novel’s main conflict has not made itself apparent to me yet—so I’m just chipping away at it here and there.

On the subject of writing … As I mentioned a couple entries back, I wish I could write poetry these days—my writing life is so much poorer when that’s not happening. I did try reading some poetry recently, Penguin’s reader of Romantic poetry. I couldn’t get too far into it, though. That’s not an era, a group that really moves me much, though I do like some Blake, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats. My main problem with the Romantics is that I can’t shake the feeling that their metaphysical bent is a bit of a dodge—I feel that so often their swooning is unhealthy, is a way to avoid confronting the material reality of their days. Reading these folks, though, does make me realize how desperately the Western world needed Walt Whitman to come along. He really was the great broom of Western poetry, sweeping so much of what went before him away. Does Whitman negate Shelley or Keats’ Grecian urn. Of course not. But he does render Longfellow, Bryant, and many other lessor poets unreadable (In my opinion, of course)—he shows how of their time they were, how trapped in their time they are. Still I admit, there is much to laud with the Romantics, their dedication to their art, if nothing else. I also admit one’s taste has a lot do to with this. For example, I really enjoy the Decadents and even the Pre-Raphaelites, both of whom many people loathe.

Though I’m not writing poetry, I did recently unearth and revise and retitle an older poem of mine (from 1995—it’s now called “Suburban Installation”). I’d always liked the piece but I never quite knew what to do with it. With these minor alterations, though, I’m understanding it better. I’m choosing to see this as a good sign, a sign that I’m coming back to poetry, slowly, to at least a small extent …

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