Monday, March 10, 2008

Home Stretch

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the last day of the winter quarter here at DePaul. It's been a hard one: too many projects, too many students, the classes new or revised almost beyond recognition. As always, I end the term with a profound sense of failure, of missed opportunities, but oh, friends, I am happy to be done.


One highlight of the last week: the new issue of Parnassus: Poetry in Review is out! It's a splendid collection, this 30th anniversary volume. 700 pages, more or less, featuring--let me cut & paste from the website--

Eric Ormsby on La Fontaine
Mark Polizzotti on Surrealism
Eric Murphy Selinger on Latino and Latina Poetry
Cathy Park Hong on Asian-American Poetry
Mark Scroggins on Ronald Johnson
Daniel Albright on Shakespeare's Songs
Gordon Rogoff on Verdi's "Falstaff"
Joy Ladin on Yona Wallach
Wes Davis on Karl Kirchwey
Tom Sleigh Moosehunting with Robert Duncan
Shusha Guppy on the Persian epic poem the Shahmaneh
William Logan on Robert Frost
Roger Gilbert on First and Second Books
Leonard Barkan on Ekphrastic Poems
Paul West The Shadow Factory (Memoir)
Matthew Gurewitsch on Das Nibelungenlied, Wagner's Theatre, and The Ring Cycle
Adam L. Dressler on The Homeric Hymns
Willard Spiegelman on Robert Fagles's translation of The Aenied
Stuart Klawans on Argentine Film Director Fabian Bielinsky
Richard Wilbur's translation of Act I of Pierre Corneille's "The Liar" (Le Menteur)
Jeremy Axelrod's The Kings Are Boring: Courtney Queeney
Mark Halliday on Kenneth Koch
It's lovely to be listed so near the top there, and my piece will be up on line in the next few weeks. (I'll let you know when that happens.) Here's the opening paragraph, just to whet your appetite:

Call me Cabeza de Vaca. Like my namesake, washed ashore near Galveston five centuries ago, I find myself hoofing it across terrain I’d planned to rule. I still hanker to hoist the flag of reading for pleasure—the Castle with Bookmark Rampant—over Hispanic American poetry. But the time I’ve spent with a coastal shelf of anthologies and collections has left me feeling less the conquistador and more the castaway. To read page after page, book after book, of verse con sabor latino is to sense temblors, tiny shifts in what Eliot might call the “whole existing order” of American poetry, whether that order previously began with Bradstreet, Wheatley, Whitman, or Anonymous Poet of Pick-Your-Native-Nation. Like Eliot’s “mind of Europe,” the “mind of the Americas” changes, is changing, making room as we speak for the tejana erotica of former Houston cop Sarah Cortez, the hip-hop décimas of Urayoán Noel, and the Morocco-Rican improvisations of Victor Hernandez Cruz.

To some readers, those floricanto blossoms and their roots will seem as familiar as salsa—the music or the condiment, as you prefer. For gringos of a certain age, however, it can be hard to navigate the traditions we loosely group as “Latino poetry” without some sort of Baedeker...
That guidebook, of course, is what I then try to provide.


The real treat for me in this issue, though, lies at the end of Mark Scroggins' piece on Ronald Johnson. There's a wee addendum, the kind I use to thank the academy for funding me, but this one strikes a more personal note:
"Fifteen years of talking about Ronald Johnson with Eric Murphy Selinger have left me unsure as to whom I should attribute any given Johnsonian insight. No doubt the good ones are Eric's."
Mark and I met through Johnson's work: he came to a talk I gave at the MLA on Johnson and Palmer (later published, and available here) and struck up a conversation afterwards. When we exchanged addresses, it turned out we lived about 10 minutes away from one another: my first taste of Johnsonian Kismet. I was living on the other side of the country from my graduate program, grinding out a dissertation chapter by chapter in a new city, with family but no colleagues, no comrades in academic arms, no friends. Meeting Mark saved my intellectual life, and his friendship kept me going through the hard times of the job search, and later ones, too, particularly after my father's death. When it comes to Ron's work, I too don't know where his ideas leave off and mine begin. We're the Lennon & McCartney of RJ studies, or maybe the Strummer & Jones.

Speaking of which, Mark, here's one you might enjoy: