Showing posts with label Writer-Encounters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writer-Encounters. Show all posts

Monday, April 01, 2024

Ick and Yay

ICK: Something Engie mentioned in yesterday's comments made me wonder how I know of John Ruskin. It's almost all second-hand (save a few anthologized passages here and there), and from knowing people like William Morris, Tolstoy, and Gandhi revered him. I knew he was radical and sort of a socialist precursor and that he was a friend of the working class because Ruskin College in Oxford offers adult education. (Ruskin was an art prof at Oxford, Ruskin College is not part of the Oxford system, however.) I thought I'd read his Wiki to learn more... there were no big surprises except about his statement, "I like my girls from ten to sixteen" and learning he'd asked women whom he'd met when they were preteens to marry him. What is it with Victorians and the fetishization of prepubescents? That's already ruined Alice (Lewis Carroll) and Little Nell (Dickens) for me. And hurt who knows how many children in real life?

Pic: YAY for yesterday's egg hunt: Huck, Nu, At, and Max. 

I... we all.. missed Scout so much. We were so, so lucky to have him last year.  This was Max's first, and I hide puppy treats in the eggs as well, so he really got into this new game. 

This year the easiest clue rhymed "...arboreal" with "...Scout's memorial." They had a tough time with " could"/ "...birthday dogwood" (the dogwood tree my dear friends got me for my birthday). They didn't get it even after I explained it. "DOG WHAT? DOG WOOD?" They kept asking me. How do they not know what a dogwood is? Should I have taught them better? It made me laugh so much because they sounded so clueless! They're so sweet for still being all in about the egg hunt though.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Poetry Hour: Mosab Abu Toha

I tuned into the Mosab Abu Toha event for an hour or so during a convenient break between classes and meetings. 

It was an amazing outpouring of solidarity and poetry. He read from Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear and talked about the new sounds he could add to his titular poem.

Pic: A friend grabbed a screenshot of me in a tile right next to Toha's. Something to treasure.

Friday, March 15, 2024


Pic: I prepped copies of poems to hand out at the Gaza panel on Monday. 

I felt so rich in poetry after I collated this collection to pass on to the organizers. 

I had visions of myself just standing in the hallway shoving poetry under classroom doors, putting them on bulletin boards,  and throwing fistfuls of paper into the air so it would rain poetry... like Regina George distributing copies from the "Burn Book" in Mean Girls, but more meaningful.

I hope I do a good job at the event on Monday. And I'm excited for Mosab Abu Toha's event on Tuesday--to which I have online tickets.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

seeing red

Lysne Beckwith Tait, founder of Helping Women Period, presented to my WGS students today. She also set up a "menstrual products petting zoo" in class for people to check out. As she rightly pointed out, when menstrual cups, discs, and undies are in packaging, it is difficult to figure out if one would be comfortable using them.

I absolutely love the story of the growth of the organization--it started out after a conversation with friends and now influences, advocates, and educates--it was instrumental in repealing our tampon tax last year, for instance. Lysne's book Instigator: Creating Change Without Being the Loudest Voice in the Room comes out later this year, and I can't wait!

Pic: Saying goodbye to Lysne in the parking lot. Of course, the Helping Women Period van is red. Mid-cycle red.

Friday, February 23, 2024

other lives

I've been immersing myself in a ton of fiction lately--anything to take my mind off the news. It has been pretty eclectic. I started the week with a reread of Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49--I have a faint memory of reading it for an undergrad American Litt. class. I wonder if I skimmed it, and how many of the references I got back then. It's stuck in my memory as a book with several weird sexual situations. 

I've since moved on to what I took to be a romance set in Havana (free on my Kindle). I thought I'd be irritated with its anti-revolutionary stance since the first chapter was about some Batista cronies fleeing, but it actually goes back and forth in time and among various classes quite well. 

Next up is going to be Curtis Sittenfeld's Romantic Comedy, which I found at the thrift store for a dollar and forty-nine cents when I went looking for old vases. I've always enjoyed Sittenfeld but recently she mentioned someone I know in her acknowledgments and that has cemented her standing in my reading lists forever.

I'm also watching shows I used to watch in the 90s (Frasier, Felicity); they're kind of calming and help me fall asleep. 

Pic: I was looking forward to taking pictures of the moon this evening, but it's suddenly quite cloudy.

Here's a picture of a squirrel looking straight at me instead. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024


I like the way the kids are using "mid" to describe things that are stuck in the middle to mediocre range. Here's my mid list for today.

*    Another day of freezing rain and grey skies... but not quite as cold and there was a fair bit of a thaw too.

*    I won't have my car back for five weeks (they have to order a part from Germany)... but they gave me a newer model as a loaner.

*    I headed to the gas station for the first time in years (Bluey is all electric). It felt spend-y to fork over 50$ for gas... but I found a lucky penny.

*    Last semester, I grandly agreed to give a talk in January 2024... and now it IS January 2024 and my talk is on Friday.  Thankfully, I was able to use my writing group time to get some slides done... but it did mean that I didn't get any new writing done.

*    I love, love, love teaching... but I'm on two search committees (SIX campus interviews--four more to go), three committees that meet every week for a total of four hours, on deadline for two career reviews, on deadline for recommendation letters for people's grad school applications, on deadline for rewriting our land acknowledgment, making final arrangements for two different guest speakers to visit campus (PBK and Women's History Month), arranging travel for the student honorary convention, vetting papers and programming the WGS portion of the MASAL conference, CASA report due next week... And the list for the next month goes on and on. Each of these things is important and has its own bulleted to-dos, and by itself, each would be something I enjoy doing. But cumulatively, having them all clustered together like this, feels overwhelming. One day at a time, I guess.

Pic: I cropped out guests' faces since I didn't ask people if I could post. But now the focus is on the happy plates (everyone is in the clean-plate club!) from our dinner party on Monday. There were two writers with new books out at the table (Sophfronia Scott and Jan Shoemaker) and I enjoyed introducing them to each other and felt a little bit like I was hosting a salon. Bonus peek of Nu at extreme right. I'm the black blob next to the blue-purple sweater (Big A) at the head of the table. Huck and Max are underfoot. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

chapter by chapter

At came in to work with me today because they needed to see their old pediatrician, had the lunch I'd packed for them, and then took a nap in my office while I went to class and committee meetings. 

It felt like all the times when I'd bring the kids to work when their school was called off or when they were sick. My office is still filled with so many of the cards and posters they made back then. Their childhood--and my youth--went by so quickly... I miss the little At, the Baby Nu, the young me.

I am sad and worried about these chapter endings and the ones to come. I take faith in that Catherine Newman article I've read a zillion times and know things will be even better. But would I magic myself back to the old days? A hundred times yes. 

But also, is it okay to admit that there's a part of me that is excited for the next chapter? The simple pleasures of writing/walking/seeing friends whenever I want?

Pic: At curled up and fast asleep on my tiny office sofa. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

meandering into meaning

Just finished up a reread of E.M. Forster's A Room with a View--what a lovely novel! I loved it just as hard as I did decades ago. A Room with a View is particularly lovely in the way it describes the Honeychurch family--loving, rambunctious, quirky--it reminded me of the reason I loved Tom Lake recently.

It also brought up a lot of memories about how "a room with a view" was my personal shorthand for an office of my own with a window--because as a graduate student and then as an adjunct I always shared an office with colleagues. And my first solo office was a windowless cell. So when I got to my current office, its sliver of a window was a realization of a long-time dream/hope/yearning; the kind comments on yesterday's post reminded me how much I prize it. (Although the view is mostly of a parking lot, the window is street-facing on one of our main academic buildings, and I leverage it to put up signs about issues that matter to me.)

It also felt particularly cute that yesterday I met a student named Lucy--like the protagonist of A Room with a View--in one of my classes. And then yesterday, out of the blue, the only other student I've ever had named Lucy, wrote to say they now live in Lansing and would like to get together for coffee. I also met someone recently whose name is Adela (a very unusual name and a primary character in another Forster novel)... I'm beginning to feel a bit like I'm being given clues and signs I haven't figured out yet.

Pic: Saving this very British picture for when I need a snortle. It's a mock cover of a children's series I devoured when I was a kid. Here are some of the original covers showing the various adventurous things the "Five" would usually be up to (scroll down).

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

bright spots

First day of classes. I love the energy. Every term I decide I'm going to be cool about it, but like clockwork I end up loving these people (so much). 
I spent 12 hours on campus today, so it's a good thing I was able to decompress in my office (even if only for a handful of minutes at a time taking care of my now very twinge-y back and legs). 
Our search committee met a wonderful slate of candidates all of whom could be excellent directors of our writing center (choosing between them is going to be so tough though). 
We finally got enough snow for it to stick around and look wintry (I almost wiped out at the exit to work which hadn't been plowed; thank heavens for 4WD). 
Pic: I'm so thrilled by the resilience of my office plants who were ignored all winter break but appear to have thrived (one geranium even decided to bloom)!

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Slow Learner launch

Today was a long day at work, made a bit longer by checking in with people who are attending the MLA. But I got home at a reasonable hour, and after feeding my pack their dinner, I was so happy and honored to attend the book launch for Jan Shoemaker's new book of essays, Slow Learner. 

First, I picked up L--who had introduced me to Jan--and then we picked up the copies I'd preordered, and found a place to sit. The space was jam-packed and they ended up having to add more seating. Jan, who used to teach English at a local high school, read a pandemic piece titled "Caper." It was characteristically hilarious and suspenseful and I can't wait to read the rest.

The following is from an old essay I found on the internet called "Where the Water Is". It gives some idea of how Jan uses wit in ways that are sharp and searching.

"One of the uncomfortable things about living with a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s is that it makes you confront your own character flaws. Just when you thought it more or less clear from all the times you’ve sent money to public radio and boycotted Wal-Mart that you were the incarnation of Albert Schweitzer, or Gandhi, or both, you find out you’re really just a slightly bitchier version of Martha Stewart. Your well of compassion and patience, which was never very deep to begin with, is now just an empty cistern."

Pic: Jan at the lectern at the Slow Learner launch today.  

Sunday, December 31, 2023

1 2 3 1 2 3

As the internet has it, today is 123123 (12/31/23--only in the US with our weird month-before-date practice, but still); pretty cute.

I'm very dissatisfied that I haven't done my weekend chores (caretaking plants, vacuuming) going into the new year, but c'est la vie. Nu came over to gently hug me when I was worrying about this and said: "Don't worry, mama! You'll get it done, you always do." I had thought they were going to offer to help me, (LOL) but this is sweet too. 

Also, health is SUCH a privilege. My standards really dropped yesterday. Although Nu was having a sleepover, I didn't make food, check linens, etc. I couldn't. It helped that the guest was celiac and carries their own food, but still.

At 9:00 pm today, I'm headed off to the NYE write-in with the lovely Pooja Makhijani and crew. My plans are to finish the annual New Year's Day poem and work on a couple of projects. 

There's some lingering and irrational sadness today because of all the strange and unsettling dreams from yesterday. But all told, still a good day. I'm glad to have recovered. Grateful for people who light lamps for me when my light flickers. Grateful for family, friends, kindness, and decency in this hurting world. Oh, how I wish Scout were here with me every day. I'm grateful to Max for making me laugh every day.  I am absolutely stunned by the moments of beauty and grace life continues to bring. I hope all of it and justice too will come to all of us. "Ring out the thousand wars of old / Ring in the thousand years of peace."

Pic: I'm in love with this dead branch absolutely bejeweled with moss (from a soggy walk with Max and Huck).

Friday, December 08, 2023

"praying for peace/living with love"

The world is so beautiful and the world is so terrifying. Over 17,000 people have been killed by bombs and gunfire in the past eight weeks... It's so strange how I still go about as if everything is ok... Although my country vetoed a humanitarian ceasefire yet again. 

I think of the children holding a press conference in English--a language foreign to them--to beg the world not to bomb them. And yet, over 7000 Gazan children have been killed in just these two months; many thousands more are maimed and injured for life. I think in particular about the mother holding her lifeless baby saying she took 580 IVF injections to have him; the tender searchers in the rubble after every airstrike. I think of how many hospitals, schools, and homes have been bombed, the patients, medical staff, students, teachers, and families in them evanesced. No poem can contain my grief. Nothing can calm my disbelief that this is happening so publicly... so blatantly.

Sunny Singh, who has always been so kind to me and my students lost a friend today--he was a fellow teacher of English and a poet. His name was Refaat al-Aareer. In a better world I might have met him some day at a reading or a conference or in someone's home. And he is just one of thousands who is gone suddenly and too soon with their hopes and dreams still pending. This is a poem he wrote last week:

If I must die

you must live to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child,
somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven
in the eye awaiting his
dad who left in a blaze-
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh not even to himself-
sees the kite,
my kite you made,
flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale

Pic: Baker Woods with RS yesterday. She asked me if it would look bad if she celebrated Hanukkah with all that is going on. I told her we'd be lighting lamps with Nu (Big A's great grandparents were Jewish and there is a family menorah/hanukkiah). I'm glad we have celebrations. I want us to put away our bombs and celebrate life. (I saw the words I used for the title of this post on a church's marquee this morning on my way to work.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

“The Drifting”

I was so sad today to learn that Lynn Rather, a wonderful human and poet, has passed on to another plane. I met Lynn only once--we were billed together at a reading--but she made a strong impression of strength, sass, and cigarette smoke. AK and DD were good friends with her and with her at the end.

from “The Drifting” by Lynn Rather

on nights like this I think
I have not loved enough,
I have not given as much as I could.

snow blows and drifts across fields.
that is what it does.

the wind roars and then is gone.
that is what it does.

they give themselves utterly, and move on.
Pic: The pretty, pretty snow persisted today. I took this from an upstairs window--I'd just stepped out of my room, and my heart lifted on seeing Nu and Max playing outside.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

"Oops, I did it again!"

I just finished Deepa Varadarajan's Late Bloomers the book Nicole inadvertently recommended. It's not terrific, but it is about South Indians in the U.S., and I kept reading out of curiosity.  It's about people in their 50s dating other people after having been married to each other for 30+ years.

Coincidentally, an older colleague of Big A's is going through a divorce at 60+ and I was surprised to hear Big A say that perhaps after 60 people should just stay put in their relationships. I find that disturbing--surely people should be free to start over at any point in their lives? Why should someone live another 30 potential years with someone they don't like?

And then, oops! Straight on the heels of finishing one book about South Indians, I started Abraham Verghese's Covenant of Water and am loving the intensely South Indian location and poetics of it all. There was a moment where a character helps a vendor lift the wicker basket off their head and land it on the ground--and that gesture seemed to tug at some memory of seeing that... in a movie? My grandmother's house? I think the writing is beautiful and the story compelling... but honestly, maybe I like it so much because there are flashes of the city I grew up in? And there's an elephant! What more could I want?

Pic: Big A, Huck (lounging near me), and Max (longing for me). 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

a personal pause

In retrospect, I was unraveling a bit last week. I found Chiconky's advice, in particular the bit about how, "You don't have to bear witness to everything to hold sacred what is happening" so incredibly comforting. That coupled with my need to focus on making sure Big A had the best 50th celebration I could give him really helped me pause the spiral.

So a personal pause. In the lead up to Big A's birthday, I also bypassed the whole navaratri business/busy-ness, and instead of a multi-day celebration where I dressed everyone in saris, we did nothing... and I missed all the visits to other people's golus because we were away this weekend. There's always next year!

And we usually decorate for Halloween in the week after Big A's birthday, but I think I might just skip it this year because I'm off to a conference in a couple of days (and I don't like looking at scary things anyway!).

Pic: Big A and I walked over to the Wharton for a David Sedaris reading and it was delightful. (The weather was such a balmy 72 degrees.)  It was a full house. I kept thinking how much Nicole enjoys Sedaris and wished she could have been there too! Sedaris is a terrific reader and my favorite bit was a new piece where Sedaris reworked a banal Chat GPT essay written in "his" style, amping up the banality and incongruity.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

fall (in love)

George Eliot just made an appearance in the Zadie Smith novel I'm reading!

It's so cool because I know how much Smith loves 19th century novels, and her new novel is set in the 19th century and I was just thinking it that it read a bit like a George Eliot and suddenly there was George Eliot herself. Just a cameo for now, but who knows... I'm just over halfway through.

In any case it reminded me of this lovely quote by Eliot that is so perfect for this cloudy, moody, and perfectly fall day: "Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." (from Letter to Miss Lewis, Oct. 1, 1841)

Early this morning, I did a handful of tough (for me) things I'd been ignoring (set a new timeline for the book, queried a weird credit card charge, fixed an IT snag on Canvas, addressed a difficulty with a coworker) and the rest of the day fell into a more predictable and productive pattern.

Pic: A mess of vines in dramatic fall colors from a short walk today.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

company song*

the glasses fall
they bleed their wine 
our stories agree
on paths of memory

we're at last call 
see banter and comfort 
touch everyone
and as we're nearly done 

I thank you, all
you aimed for music 
told the song
of where we may belong 

*Note: A ditty Nu helped me make as we put away last night's party. 

Pic: A handsome frog sunning himself at our pond. No kisses or crown needed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

"The News"

Five poems by my wonderful friend Jan are on hand-carved plaques at Beal Botanical Garden to celebrate the sesquicentennial.

"The News" 
The prairie dock rockets
toward the sun.
Its leaves are
as large as a page of the New
York Times. But though their
 business is boosting
circulation, their news is all
 about life.

Pic: "The News" by Jan Shoemaker at Beal Botanical Garden. Early morning trip with L. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

bring me a higher... ed

I did not expect to see an article about ex-BIL, who teaches at the U of Toronto, in The Chronicle of Higher Ed. The story suggests he lost a job offer because graduate students at UCLA did not like that he expressed skepticism about DEI statements. It actually seems quite clear from the students' letter that the problem was not about his skepticism about DEI statements, but rather the implication that the way forward is to get rid of DEI statements instead of holding admin responsible for fulfilling them.* I think students were absolutely right to insist that since he specializes in morality and social values, “considerations of identity cannot accurately be disentangled from the study of prejudice and moral behavior”, and that his indifference to DEI initiatives therefore constituted fair grounds for not hiring him."  There are people who would absolutely lose their shit if you so much as thought they were racist or sexist, but at the same time strongly believe that racism and sexism happened in the long-ago past or only happen in other countries. If you're someone who aims for progress, they can be an incredible source of distraction and frustration. It makes sense not to invite people who are likely to take you back to a previous status quo when you mean to move forward. Thinking about all of this is particularly devastating today--on a day when the Supreme Court has just struck down affirmative action.

And in more bad news: "Three people were stabbed in a gender studies class at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday afternoon, including the class professor, whose identity the attacker confirmed before stabbing him." Of course, if this were the US, it would have been guns and not knives. And of course it is eerily reminiscent the Montreal Polytechnique massacre. And of course family and friends and colleagues have been expressing concern to/for me as I teach gender studies too. 

*Because admin sometimes does use the crafting or existence of institutional diversity statements as a virtue-signal. But statements are progress when compared to previous erasure and silence, and they can be used to hold college communities accountable.  

Pic: Apropos of nothing in this post, our clematis has been glorious for weeks this year.


Wednesday, June 07, 2023

now and then

I loved Nicole and NGS saying that yesterday's Wordle was a sign from Scout (in the comments). Scout was fairly illiterate in his earthly life, but I like the idea of a lettered Scout in the afterlife... he did have a terrific vocabulary of 100+ and was always very intelligent... Like we always had to take luggage out to the car when he was in the yard because he knew suitcases meant a separation.

My writer friend DL lost their family's Sophie this week, and they wrote the most moving and FUNNY eulogy. I love this last line so much: "In lieu of flowers, the family requests you go outside and give a good sniff to your friends and loved ones." Hug-laugh-sob.

Out in the world, my NYC friends are posting apocalyptic air quality pictures, and even we had hazy skies and an angry red sun long after sunrise this morning . It's only June and already wildfires are shifting into the 'uncontrollable' category.

Pic: Goslings, so fuzzy-wuzzy, along The Red Cedar while Big A protected me from the pugnacious parents.

the other one

I keep feeling like I'm missing  something. Part of it is the usual anxiety of final grading and checking my sums a million times as I&#...