I should make myself a cup of tea before starting this. Wait, okay? Okay I’m back. I also looked at some stuff on Facebook before starting in again. Considered a game of Bejeweled Blitz but powered through the craving and here I am, just where I want to be, leaning into the mouth of this gun-metal pipe to tell some things to your much endeared conch shell ear, elsewhere likewise pressed against. Coo-coo you, are you home? I’m here.
This hilariously named period we now inhabit, the Spring Semester, I have returned to my what’s the matter Alma Columbia to teach a poetry seminar which I invented for them and offered among a spectrum of courses all the others of which I have taught before, but not this one. It’s Poets and Their letters. This poet got the letters p, h, and d there, and it is an freak storm of the heart to be back there now, across the quad from the history department, talking about Keats and watching College Walk Philip with snow. Fill up.
Also, I’ve been teaching Keats a long time now (and he’s still mistaking Cortez for Balboa!), sneaking him into the curriculum through 14 years as a history professor (tenured by the time I left, my friends. remember, if your going to leave a sure thing paycheck, do it right before the economy collapses) and then hot and heavy each of the five years teaching poetry at the New School MFA program, but never before had I thought to say Read the six great odes at home and come in and we’ll talk about them as if they were the rich felt petals of one six-petalled flower – nurtured by the man whose name was writ on water. Let’s read the six as if they were all that was left you from a bygone parent whom you lost so young you can barely remember the odor of home.
So we did, in this order: “To Autumn” we read together on day one, to rev their motors, then yesterday in class: "Ode on Melancholy," "Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode to Psyche," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and "Ode on Indolence.”
I’d also had them read at home, btw, and not for nothin’: “On First Looking into Chapman's Homer” “When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be” “This Living Hand” and “Why Did I Laugh Tonight.” These we didn’t yet get to in class but I think they steep the scene of the odes as a flower in a swamp-deep green that helps it to be seen.
Your hot breath discovers my face and says, Nu, Hecht, was there something to learn?
Jew ever notice we call the diminuative a “little pisher” and the long in the tooth an “alta cocker?” Five thousand years of culture and everybody’s in the bathroom. Well, it was a long drive.
Anyway, right, what I learned from the odic bloom. Well, endings are good too, even though they break your heart, they are voluptuous and full and also, face it, half the time they’re all we’ve got. Also, deep pain and deep pleasure seem to come together, and it is hard to squash a grape for the juice by just the strength of your tongue, but you won’t die of thirst while you're trying. Next, timeless feelings and the fanciful imagination are both great escapes from the nettled woes of life, but they are both just shy of fully and steadily convincing, they waver out of sight and into hearing. Next, to hell with writing about love or war, I build a temple in my brain to liturgize the life of the mind. Finally, not to give those two hunks of perfection a shortened shrift, but if it's simple, it's simple. Kiss and stop working.
So, look, the Poetry Brothel is going to do an offsite show at the AWP (the Associated Writers and Writer’s Programs big annual conference, in DC this time, this weekend) and John and I are going to go down and be part of it, I pervertedly as myself, stage named The Professor, and my husband as Jack Chance, the MC. Click "events" here. Or do a search for it or me on this long busy page AWP .
It’s at The Gibson, 2009 14th Street NW, Washington, DC, Thursday night 8pm to 1 am, and costs fifteen bucks, but, you know, bring more. Show up and I will oracularly privatize your omens in exchange for a skinflint’s hint of some government mint. Also, possibly on Thursday afternoon and certainly on Friday morning to evening I shall be hanging around the lobby and bar saying hi to poets who say hi to me. Be that poet. I shall be me. Free talisman to anyone who works the poe-verb tintinnabulation into their meetin' greetin' me. Serious as a dog star, I will have talismen in my pocket and will be happy to see you.
Okay, as always, Do not kill yourself. Listen to Peggy Lee, when she’s done with romancin’ (If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancin’. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball. If that’s all. There is.)
Oh, ps, my big book Doubt: A History, which made me the minor famous atheist that I am today, is being translated again, this time into Arabic! Eep. Well, ya got one life, might as well mix it up a little. Je t’embrasse.
Also, you should rent Examined Life from Netflix, it's by Astra Taylor who I linked you to last post talking about unschooling, it's a great movie on philosophy. Seriously, check out this piece of it here. Starts with Cornel West quoting Yeats. You're gonna love it.