Monday, October 03, 2005

Did I Miss Anything?


As you've noticed, I vanish sometimes.

Not always for good reasons.

In this case--what? The usual business: classes to prepare, long bad novels, deliciously bad, to read and mull over. Notes on "how to read a sex scene" to compose for my Romance class. (Those still in progress--I'll post them when done.) Oh, and a chronology of that most despised of genres, painstakingly compiled and numbingly delivered to the class the next day, to much rolling of eyes and shaking of heads. Shaking awake, that is.

(I think I knew how to teach at some point, and I'm sure it will come back to me one of these days.)

Ah, no--I'm too hard on myself here, actually. The romance class is looking up, now that I've scuttled a couple of novels. It turns out that you can't talk about two novels a week, even when they're The Boyfriend School and The Sheik. Both of those turn out to be rather curious books, the closer you look: a good lesson for me, as well as for my students. My intro to poetry course lurches from topic to topic, keeping me off my stride, but that was a deliberate move on my part, a stumbling block I set in my own too-clear-sighted path, so that I'd have to read & teach some new work, and I have.

Hits so far? Let's see: I loved my suite of spring poems, starting with "Sumer is i-cumin in" (in Richard Thompson's rollicking measures, thanks to help from Mark), then on to Shakespeare's "Spring" song from Love's Labors Lost, to "Corinna's Going a-Maying," to spring poems by Cummings and Millay. Another hit, at least for me: Dickinson's "Some things that fly there be," which I pitched as a riddle-poem:

Some things that fly there be—
Birds—Hours—the Bumblebee—
Of these no Elegy.

Some things that stay there be—
Grief—Hills—Eternity—
Nor this behooveth me.

There are that resting, rise.
Can I expound the skies?
How still the Riddle lies!

Great fun to tease out the structure of this, especially the witty stereoscopy of that last stanza, which either consoles or wickedly refuses consolation, depending on how you read it. (We had a similar debate over Stevens' "The Snow Man," which I taught in a suite of Winter poems, but might work as a riddle, too.)

Among the misses, I'd list a lecture on Praise Poems (I'm not good with lectures these days), including a first attempt to teach James Schuyler's "Freely Espousing," which I loved, but which left my students (mostly) baffled. Anyone out there teach him effectively? I'm thrilled he's in the Norton, and look forward to teaching him again, but my, my, my, I will need to brush up my Schuyler, as the old song says.

--A quick snoop on Google reveals a handy on-line version of Joe Conte's DLB essay on Schuyler here, and a funky Schuyler lesson plan for International Students of English here, about the poem "February," which I hereby post:

February

A chimney, breathing a little smoke.
The sun, I can't see
making a bit of pink
I can't quite see in the blue.
The pink of five tulips
at five P.M. on the day before March first.
The green of the tulip stems and leaves
like something I can't remember,
finding a jack-in-the-pulpit
a long time ago and far away.
Why it was December then
and the sun was on the sea
by the temples we'd gone to see.
One green wave moved in the violet sea
like the UN building on big evenings,
green and wet
while the sky turns violet.
A few almond trees
had a few flowers, like a few snowflakes
out of the blue looking pink in the light.
A gray hush
in which the boxy trucks roll up Second Avenue
into the sky. They're just
going over the hill.
The green leaves of the tulips on my desk
like grass light on flesh,
and a green-copper steeple
and streaks of cloud beginning to glow.
I can't get over
how it all works in together
like a woman who just came to her window
and stands there filling it
jogging her baby in her arms.
She's so far off. Is it the light
that makes the baby pink?
I can see the little fists
and the rocking-horse motion of her breasts.
It's getting grayer and gold and chilly.
Two dog-sized lions face each other
at corners of a roof.
It's the yellow dust inside the tulips.
It's the shape of a tulip.
It's the water in the drinking glass the tulips are in.
It's a day like any other.

And now, folks, it being nearly 5:00, I'm off to the rest of my life: the wife, the kids, the oud. (Did I mention the oud? Ah, sure, 'tis a thing of beauty, fresh from Haluk Eraydin's workshop in Turkey. Those are pictures of its twin in Australia posted above--I haven't gotten around to snapping my own of it yet.)

"It's a day like any other," except I've posted again, and that's good, good, good. Or, shall we say, g'oud.

4 comments:

Stephanie said...

Hey Prof Selinger-
I'm not creepy or anything, I'm just a big fan of reading other people's blogs. Anyway, I just thought I would say that I named the link to my journal in my instant messenger profile after Schuyler's poem. I loved it!

-stephanie

E. M. Selinger said...

Oh, I'm glad! You have no idea how mystified I get sometimes as to what everyone likes (or hates) in class...

Keep up the feedback, please!
EMS

Anonymous said...

wow that's a great poem. I'll have to go back and read "Freely Espousing" again

I downloaded the mp3 "Sumer is i-cumin in" from Blackboard. I enjoy it a lot but I sincerely think your version of it in class was better.

...Especially because you prononced it with guttural sounds that the English in 650 just HAD to have used. Don't tell me it was otherwise because I will be seriously disappointed. =)

So I suppose I'll write in the evaluation, "Professor can read well and sings excellently too!"

Thanks for updating, and I hope your wrists are alright.

MicOliver said...

She's clearly speaking of Heaven and whether or not she will make it in. From what little I know of Ms. Dickenson, she was a bit narcissistic - which you can see coming through in the paranoia of her poetry, and she was very very dark. Perhaps she had many wicked thoughts or impulses that would have led her to fear being cast into the flames of Hell. That would be an interesting theory to explore.

She certainly was obsessed with death - anyone can see that with a scant look through her poems. Perhaps she was so afraid of death because of her deep fears of what lay beyond.