Monday, May 28, 2007

Jots & Tittles (Oblivious Division)

My dear friend Mark, the man who inspired me to start this blog in the first place, kindly stopped by to watch that Allen Ginsberg video. It's gotten him thinking about Ginsberg--the stories we tell about him, both biographically (everyone seems to have one) and academically, about his growth and decline, on dit, as a poet. I'll be teaching Howl in a couple of weeks, to end the quarter in my Modern American Poetry grad class; Mark reminds me how pat, how packaged, our accounts of so many poets become. What will be the story, I wonder, about Charles Bernstein? Ron Silliman? Will we all have Harryette Mullen and Jorie Graham anecdotes to swap, someday? (Make one up, Jones: that's an order.) At a poetry reading last week, a former student introduced me to her former boss, who gave me quite a look--evidently there was some kind of story told there! Turns out that she read this blog, or used to, years ago, and liked it. How the time goes by.


On that "time goes by" front, many thoughts tonight. I've let two sweet buys slip past this weekend, over on Ebay: a Mid-Missouri octave mandolin that would have matched my Mid-Mo M-4 perfectly, for about $800; and an American-made cittern for about $500. Tough to pass on either one, and tougher on both, but I've spent so many months now learning to watch and release, watch and release, that it's not as painful as it once was. Am I just getting old? Or is this somehow a side effect of lessons on the mando, which have taught me (if nothing else) how poorly I play it? (Play them: I have three: the Mid-Mo, a Fullerton Gloucester f-style (now sold out, alas! I should have bought two of them, at less than two C-notes apiece), and a chubby, trebly bowlback I picked up last year on summer vacation.) I also just re-tuned my oud, down to an Arabic tuning (CFadgc, low-to-high) since I'm more interested in playing Arabic than Turkish / Ottoman music on it at the moment. There are also some handy on-line video lessons for beginners, which assume that tuning. When I get the time, I'll pursue them. One of these days, though, I'm heading into CBOM country: Cittern, Bouzouki, Octave Mandolin, that is. As someone over at the Mandolin Cafe likes to say, "Just because I can't play them, doesn't mean I can't own them!"


Other than working on "Red-Haired Boy"--by ear, says my teacher, so I have to ignore sites like this--the big investment of time this weekend was putting up a website for my new poetry-teaching venture: How to Teach a Poem (and Learn from One, Too), a year-long series of monthly workshops sponsored by the NEH. (I bought the Fullerton--see above--to celebrate getting that grant.) If you live in Chicago, and teach middle school (6-8), you're eligible to apply!

That and the pool, with my kids. It was a weekend, after all.


Mark seems to be re-reading Michael Moorcock, a Zion's Friction author I missed in my boyhood. Inspired by his reflections, though, I hunted up a book of Spider Robinson stories at the library to read at the pool.

I remember Robinson as a reviewer more than a novelist; he's the one, I think, who introduced me to Neruda's Twenty Love Poems and a Desperate Song in a review from Analog or Galaxy, maybe, back in the 70s. The stories I read this afternoon weren't any great shakes as literature, but they were fun: early stuff, Callahan's Bar stories, with lots of bad puns and quick, hamfisted asides about morality and ethics, like Heinlein somtimes threw.

What stunned me, though, were the other asides, the steady patter about worthy brands of Irish whiskey (Tullamore Dew gets the nod) and bourbon (I. W. Harper), among other tipples. Was it from Robinson that I learned to love Irish Coffee? Or was that from Larry Niven? This from years before I ever took a drink, I swear! One or two of them, anyway.

Instruction and delight.


An aside from Mark about books that are "as embarassing as the songs one danced to in 1984" brought this to mind--

Whatever's up with the (racist) hoo-doo nonsense, I miss the makeup. And the Ovation. How I once wanted that guitar!

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