Monday, March 29, 2010

Living in the early to mid-90s dance party

I got to go out dancing this weekend for the first time in nearly a year. It was a marvellously good time: it was a dance for the local pride group. (Colloquially known as "the Big Gay Dance" to me and my sister.) The DJ was not quite to my taste, but she did track down the B52s' "Rock Lobster", leading to much hilarity as Mat took the dance floor. (Also: that song is much, much longer than I remember it being. And there's an alarm clock sound in it.)

There was also a drag show on Friday to raise money for the AIDS Committee, which was also a good time, but I am afraid that I must accept that I can no longer go out two nights in a row. (If, indeed, I ever could.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I've lost that lovin' feeling

If you've seen my mojo, could you let me know where it is?

Yesterday started out quite well. I drove M to work, came home, scrubbed out the bathtub, cleaned up the counter, and reorganized the craft room. And then I was done--I didn't want to do any of the other twelve things that I could do, didn't want to do any of the dozens of things that I needed to do, and wound up just taking a nap on the couch while watching something idiotic on TV. It might even have been reality TV, that's how idiotic it was.

I frogged three projects that had been languishing for several months; I had finished a long time work in progress earlier in the week, and knitting it was such a dreadful experience that I think it might have killed knitting for me for a while. I've cast on about 6 other things over the last few days, only one of which has come to any kind of fruition (and this after I started with one set of needle, finished 3/4s of the hat, realized it would fit a beachball, and started over with a smaller needle, bringing me two full sizes below the recommended needle).

I hope I can get it figured out soon--I've got stuff to do. It's only been three months since Christmas, and I haven't even started my mom's sweater yet.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Reflections on the State of Poetry

We devoted the first six weeks of Intro to English Studies II to the study of poetry, and rounded out our consideration with a look at two Canadian poets and poems, both of which examine the role of poetry in the twentieth century. (The poems in question are A.M. Klein's "Portrait of the Poet as Landscape" and Irving Layton's "Whatever Else Poetry is Freedom".) Both seek to examine the state of poetry, particularly in Canada, with very different results. Klein rages against the obsolescence of poetry, which he describes as being like the fletcher's craft, where Layton paints the poet as a fool or buffoon.

For our last seminar, we asked the students to respond to Layton and Klein, to reflect on what they thought the state of poetry was, and on the role that poetry should play in English Studies at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. My students don't know what to make of poetry. They don't think it's dead, per se, but they don't know what to do with it. An educated person should know poetry, they agree. And music is poetry, but only sometimes. Only if it is real, or genuine, or has meaning behind it. They're reluctant to tell me how meaning is created--they just know. If meaning is conflated with authenticity, I ask, does that mean that Real Poetry must also be authentic to be meaningful? They're not sure, but a few of them wonder if that's why they don't like some of what we've studied. It doesn't mean anything to them.

They stare at me blankly when I tell them that I like poetry, that I even own books (plural!) of it. I hope that some of them leave this year with an understanding that poetry does something. That it makes you feel. Just like music can, only you have to work harder for ir.

I read a piece that a fourth year student submitted to our Creative Writing Exhibition. It was actually a prose piece, but it spoke of finding TS Eliot, and finding friends. One of the things that I miss most about undergrad si discovering poetry for the first time. I don't remember starting university with any particular love for poetry, but I do remember what it felt like to read some of those poems for the first time, the tiny frisson of excitement in my abdomen.

The poem I remember most from my first year of university is Wallace Steven's "Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird." I know that we read other things--"Goblin Market", some Atwood, some Auden--but it is Stevens that sticks in my mind, it is Stevens who made me think This Is Poetry for the first time. The poem does everything that it does so simply, but so well, while so actively defying linear interpretation. It was unlike anything I'd ever read before.

The next year was the British Literature survey year, which brought even more poetry: "Dover Beach," "The Waste Land," "Dulce Et Decorum Est", "The Pomegranate."

And into third year: "Sed Non Satiata," "The Lady's Dressing Room," "Brebeuf and his Brethren". Oh, and Prufrock.


In a lot of ways, Prufrock is why I'm in English Studies. I'm not an Eliot scholar, nor even a poetry specialist, but Prufrock was a revelation to me. When I read it for the first time, it was the apex of everything that I was learning to love about poetry; for me, it manages to be both alpha and omega. Every time I write, I am not as good as Prufrock, but every time I write I have that summit to strive for.

As a teacher, I want to be the person who introduces someone to his or her Prufrock. I want to see someone realize that poetry is not in fact dead, or archaic; I want to see someone realize that poetry has both meaning and life, that there is somewhere to go from here.

Whatever else, poetry is freedom. (Words Layton's, but the comma is mine.) Writing poetry is freedom, but so is reading it.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Knitting history

While visiting my parents this past weekend, I recovered a piece of my family's knitting history: the duck vest. This was made for me by my mother or one of my grandmothers. (Mum isn't sure which; she thinks that it was her, or she thinks that she has the pattern for it somewhere.) It's made in a dreadful acrylic, of course (it was the 80s) but is really quite sweet otherwise (in a hideous 80s sort of way). There was an elephant vest to match, which featured an i-cord trunk on the front and a tail on the back.


Confessions of a Sleep Deprived Mind

To begin, I have to confess that I love awards shows. Yes, I know they are terrible and boring and generic and never as good as they were in the past. I know all these things to be true, but I still like to watch them. As I grow older, I find myself having to admit to more than a passing interest in fashion (which is something I would never have expected of myself, as I tend to dress like a bag lady who was given a shopping spree at Old Navy), so the costume aspect of it plays into my interest. I like the speeches, too. I used to love the musical segment of the Oscars--I still have fond memories of seeing Elliott Smith perform--and was quite disappointed to see that go by the wayside, even though we apparently still had time for James Taylor to wheeze his way through a Beatles song in spectacular MOR fashion.

Actually, the whole show was disappointing. Whither Chris Rock?

Monday, March 01, 2010

The morning after

I've borrowed the image above from because it is awesome. The IOC has such a weird relationship with women's sports and women in sports, and I think that they need to think very carefully about how they intend to handle that.