Mood: Medium-high exhaustion, moderate caffeination
Location: The Orifice (the one at Work, not the Bed), overly air-conditioned and clotted with boxes still unpacked since my sabbatical during Fall 2007.
Listening to: WFUV online (Bob Marley and the Wailers, Beck, the NYC metro traffic report, Elton John, Neil Finn, my darlings Death Cab for Cutie)
Fashion Tip: Ultra low sling back toe covers (2 for $5 at Payless) make it possible to wear slingbacks without stockings, and with relative impunity.
Key Term of the Day: Commonplace Book
This morning in one of my Creative Nonfiction classes I brought up this concept, prompted by our discussion of journal-writing experiences. I explained that this was a special kind of journal made up entirely of quotations that the journal-keeper found inspiring. And I admitted that I had started a commonplace book a decade ago--in a lovely blank book with creamy pages, bound in leather splashed with gold leaf, purchased by a friend in Russia--but had not written in more than half a dozen pages. I silently resolved to hunt it up and start again.
Afterwards I realized, however, that I knew very little about the history of this literary genre. so I did what any smart person does when they need quick research (though I would never let my students know this): Go to Wikipedia. Apparently, the tradition began in the 15th Century, and many classic commonplace books still exist in museums, rare book rooms, and valuable private collections. They've been kept by politicians, artists, clerics, and just plain folks in addition to literary types. Wiki even notes that several characters in the Lemony Snicket series keep commonplace books--perhaps an explanation for the scattered nods of recognition around the class when I mentioned the term this morning.
In more recent years, several of these collections have been commercially published--W. H. Auden's A Certain World and Commonplace Book by E.M. Forster and Philip Gardner are just two examples. The Auden is arranged alphabetically by topics the poet assigned quite idiosyncratically--examples from the Cs include "Calvin" (as in John), "Castration Complex," "Camps, Concentration," "Chef, Life of a," and "Chiasmus." It's sadly out of print, but I have in my possession a crumbling paperback from the collection of FIT's Gladys Marcus Library. According to the Foreword (which has just floated free of the decrepit binding and landed on the floor), WHA considered it "a map of my planet" and hoped that, in addition to pleasant reading, some of the entries might "disturb a reader as much as they disturb me."
This quirky collection has, in fact, pleased and disturbed me so much that I've kept it way beyond the semester-long checkout time granted to faculty (I even got a "bill" for the "overdue fines" by email--fortunately, one of said Creative Nonfiction students is our Circulation Manager). Like the I Ching, it provides wisdom for every occasion. I cannot resist splitting the binding just a bit more to give this nugget from Chekhov (under the heading "Marriage"): "If you are afraid of loneliness, don't marry." Ahem.
Daily Confession: OK, I'll just get this out of the way: I have never had a poem published in a Best American Poetry anthology. I'm a committed fan--I've begged, borrowed, or bookstore-surreptitiously-devoured (if not owned outright) nearly every book in the series. I've used the book, and/or poems therefrom, in numerous classes I've taught, recommended them to friends. My hardback copy of The Best American Erotic Poems is on my nightstand (as is only fitting). But, although the Editors of this blog are have generously published one of the poems that Denise Duhamel and I wrote for our collaborative ABBA series, my moment of classic BAPitude has yet to arrive.
What, you may ask, am I doing here? (No Admiral Stockdale jokes, please. Presidential politics are verboten.) Again, it is due to the generous spirit and democratic sweep of this blog and its progenitors. I am a poet. I have a blog, on which I sometimes write about poetry. Some people know about it (maybe you, Dear Reader?). And the BAPsters have, apparently, read it and thought I might be a good candidate. I was thrilled, of course. Then nervous. Then as the date approached, terrified. Having followed the blog as a reader, I knew what tall stillettos, heavy Doc Martens, and elegant wing-tips I had to fill. But I think it's going OK so far. Now that I have the technical issues under control and have figured out how to save posts as drafts, I just might make them glad they asked me. And as for the anthology, it's good to have something to strive for, right?
Next on the Agenda: Reading Barack Obama's poetry elsewhere on this blog, and prepping for my 9 a.m. Poetry Writing class tomorrow, then hitting the subway home (perhaps with notebook in hand). G'night, all!