Thursday, May 04, 2006

Back Again!

Hello, everyone. Sorry about the long absence again--I've been busy over at the Big Jewish Blog, as some of you have clicked over and seen, and have been putting most of my off-campus efforts into (drum-roll, please) RomanceScholar, my new listserv for academics interested in popular romance fiction. Unlike my poetry-teacher Yahoo group, which has gone quiet for a while (gee, are school-teachers busy people?), RomanceScholar seems to be a lively bunch. Swing by, if you have an interest; if you don't, and you're a graduate student or college professor, think about joining the Say Something Wonderful Yahoo group and sparking things up a little!

Especially, come to think of it, if you have ANY IDEAS AT ALL about teaching Gertrude Stein. Tried again two nights ago--the bunch of Tender Buttons and the scrap of Lifting Belly in the Rothenberg / Joris Poems for the Millennium anthology, vol. 1. We did well enough, but I'm so out of sympathy with the texts themselves that I begin to wonder whether I should just stop teaching them entirely. If you're out there, and you love to teach Stein, please weigh in and give me some suggestions.

The problems I had teaching Stein put in sharp relief the great pleasure I have had teaching an entirely new poet for me this quarter: the medieval Sufi poet Ibn 'Arabi, in the marvellous translations of Michael Sells. Stations of Desire, the book is called; between its introduction, and a couple of Sells's shorter pieces on apophatic (negative) theology in Sufi thought, I had just enough in my head to go into class and tell the kids we were going to try to figure out a few of these poems, working collectively, and see what we could learn there. My goodness it was fun! The way these poems flicker between human and sacred love--the ways they layer these, compellingly, bringing all of the emotional variety of the former to play in their version of the latter--just a joy. I'm blogging from work, and my copy is at home, but I'll post a sample soon.

As long as we're ending on a happy note, let me give a quick mention to a writers' workshop that sounds wonderful to me--the kind of thing I don't get to go to myself, but love to spread the word about to others. It's called the "Spoleto Writers' Workshop," and as the name suggests, it's in Spoleto, a hilltown in Umbria, Italy. From the people I know who have gone, it's an intimate sort of workshop: you produce new work every day, experiment with a variety of genres (though the poets work closely on poetry, mostly), and generally have a wonderful experience. It's been going on about a dozen years, so they must be doing something right! Anyway, this summer's faculty are the novelist and poet Rosellen Brown, poet Dorianne Laux (who wrote one of my favorite poems, "The Thief," and novelist and playwright James Magnuson. It runs from July 19-August 2; you can find details here.