Thursday, January 25, 2007

In the mind of the beholder

Oh, tired. That second cup of coffee better do it for me. It's bad enough to get up in the six o'clock dark to walk the dog, but when you wake up an hour earlier -- I heard John's "grandfather clock" chime and could swear it chimed six times, but it must have been five -- well, I lay there wondering if I hadn't set the alarm. I am too nearsighted to see a clock without my glasses, and putting on my glasses … Okay, enough of this.

Yesterday was my first class (teaching) at SF State. I'm teaching not poetry, but a course in the Technical and Professional Writers Program. The first hurdles were tough: getting an ID card and email account and so forth -- and getting this all in the name I use now vs. the name I used as a graduate student. But I've cleared most of those hurdles, and yesterday was the class. Hooboy. I won't say I was awful, but, if I had a buck for every time I said "uh," I could retire and write. So, okay, I guess it will get easier, and I do have a lot of real world experience to impart, but let me say that last night, when I was back home to John's hug and a large glass of wine, it was an immense relief. And now there are just fifteen more classes to go.

Meantime, my contract writing job has gone dormant, which means ouch …

The other day, I sat in my car, eating a tuna sandwich and listening to the public radio while waiting until it was time for my appointment with the TPW director. I was listening to a program discussing the death of -- no, not poetry! -- classical music. The whole discussion was word-for-word identical to those we've all heard bemoaning the lack of audience and respect for poetry. They even had Dana Gioia there (who, by the way, never brought up poetry, though he talked about the necessity of maintaining public school programs for music, journalism, and theatre). Well, they also brought on the prize-winning composer John Corigliano. And he changed the tack of the discussion a bit.

He started talking about how necessary it was for radio to broadcast and people to attend concerts for new music, "classical" compositions by modern composers. This was because of the important "adventure of of learning what you think of what you are listening to." (I hope I got that quote right.) By making critical judgments for oneself, he maintained, one particpated in the art experience. He said he wasn't saying not to listen to the old masters, but that you lacked this experience when listening to a performance of their work. You could listen for all sorts of things in the performance, but you accept that Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and so forth are great.

This rang all sorts of bells with me. For one thing, I remember growing up in NYC and attending fine arts films when I was a teenager. (Yeah, I actually watched movies then, before I was hypersensitive to them.) And I remember once or twice leaving the movie with my friends who would like something and I wouldn't or I would like something that they wouldn't, and what a thrill it was, to think about the reasons and to have an opinion. It was all new then!

I love this part of reading new poetry too, of reading something -- one reason I like tackling poems one at a time, instead of book-wise too -- and savoring it in my mouth and hearing it in my mind and deciding for myself what I think ot it. It brings up that whole idea of different people being ready for art at different times too. But the experience of art for oneself. Think about it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

From the Spaceship

I switched over to the new Blogger and am trying to post again. As I said in my comment below, I’ve been combing through old stuff in my mother’s house, including some of my old records from high school. Surrealistic Pillow, Cheap Thrills, Blonde on Blonde. One that brought back memories was Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. I actually saw Miles play several of the pieces from Bitches Brew at the Monterey Jazz Festival (in 1969?), and, unbelievably, I saw him with my mother.

All this music and recording also reminded me of the wonderful Ralph J. Gleason, jazz (and later rock) critic for the San Francisco Chronicle for many years. I found Gleason’s liner notes for the original Bitches Brew. Here’s an excerpt:

it will never be the same again now, after in a silent way and after BITCHES BREW. listen to this. how can it ever be the same? i don’t mean you can’t listen to ben. how silly. we can always listen to ben play funny valentine, until the end of the world it will be beautiful and how can anything be more beautiful than hodges playing passion flower? he never made a mistake in 40 years. it’s not more beautiful, just different. a new beauty. a different beauty. the other beauty is still beauty. this is new and right now it has the edge of newness and that snapping fire you sense when you go out there from the spaceship where nobody has ever gone before.

Today this attitude feels to me like a breath of fresh air: celebrating the electricity of new art without denying the beauty of the old. Isn’t this the only honest attitude to have? I would love to hear someone praise cutting-edge experimental poetry and at the same time say, “How can anything be more beautiful than Keats’ ‘To Autumn’?” I would love to hear someone praise James Wright and at the same time praise the snapping fire of contemporary experiments with language. Isn’t anything else just posturing and hypocrisy?

Post post

I'll be brief: I went through with the dental torture that I've put off since November. I guess my dentist is very persuasive. She let me know that the choice was: bad now or really bad some time down the road. I'm a real wuss, though, and even having a good excuse for ice cream this evening did not remotely make this fun.

Well, back to the ice pack -- peas and carrots, carrots and peas. Wish the ibuprofren would kick in.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Just noticed

Um, so we're on the new Blogger now, and it's just like the old Blogger. Little different, but not much. But I just realized we've lost our team list on the right here ----> and instead, my picture is smilin' at you. But only until I figure out how to get our team list back. So don't worry.

This is the scoop: "Team members who have not yet switched to the new version will still see the blog on their dashboards, but it will be grayed out and inaccessible. Once those members move their own accounts to the new version of Blogger, they will be able to access the blog as before."

Let's work on this ...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Whoohoo! We're back in business!

Yes, I haven't fallen off the planet, but was having publishing problems, as is evident below. I finally figured it out about ten minutes ago (will spare you the details).

And no, for all that, there's not much news. Maybe I'll think of something by the time I get back from walking the dog.

Testing (again)

Been trying to publish, without success, for about 5 days now. Will this work?

Let's see if this works ...

Been having a lot of trouble republishing the blog. Last night, I switched to the new Blogger in hopes it would help, and well it didn't. But let's try it this morning.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New post, same as the old post

Anyone know where I got that title from? No matter. It would only prove how old I am. My point is, I don't really have much to say, but it's been more than a week since someone posted here, and there's nothing as boring as a stagnant blog.

I thought seriously of changing to the new Blogger template, but I thought better of it. I will, eventually, just have too many things on my mind right now. Not that I'm very busy ... Okay, FedEx just delivered a template I needed, so I actually have something to do. Sort of. But mostly, two jobs on hold (bills not on hold, unfortunately). My teaching job at SFSU to start in two weeks. My other teaching job at CCCE to start in two months. Lots of po biz deadlines coming up. I NEED TO GET ORGANIZED!

But where to start? When my son used to freak out about disorganization, I would tell him it doesn't matter where you start. Start anywhere. I also would say not to get overwhelmed about the magnitude of the problem. I need a mom, that's what! Alas.

What I really need is not nagging but to stop the nagging feeling that it doesn't matter. I need something good to happen. I've been holding myself up, like a suspension bridge, too long.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Parties are over, new year's begun

Must remember to go out and get New Year's cards. It's not premeditated, my sending cards so late, but it's happened for years now. There's just all this other crap to do by a certain date and now, well, theoretically, I have 363 days to write and send them. Okay, I've also been waiting to do a family photo for the cards. With a family of *3* -- now 4 -- and a photographer in the family, you'd think that wouldn't be a problem, but then you don't know how things happen around here. If I'm going to insist on the photos, I may need 363 days ....

It was hard getting up this morning in the dark, hard getting back into my typical weekday routine of throwing on my clothes and taking the dog out, continuing my dreams while I sleepwalk, just as long as I don't get doggie or self run over. But I'm not sorry the holiday routine is over. I'm tired of parties. My body is tired of living on cheese and crackers; I need to get back to my three times a week working out; I have a mountain of laundry, an empty bank account, and anxiety dreams. And I'm all out of small talk.

Yesterday, at a party, a probably very well-meaning person asked me what kind of poetry I wrote. Well, Robert was at the same party and he introduced us as poets. I had to assure the questioner that no, we didn't make our livings writing sonnets. But to the question of kind, I had no answer. Robert started to answer for me, and I didn't agree with his taxonomy. I went off in search of wine to help my answer. But then it seemed easier to avoid the question entirely, to stick to the easier party topics like neighborhoods and schools and college applications -- for which everyone has opinions.

Well, then, hoping that Robert isn't mad at me for copping out, I thought I would post the question here. I'm hoping it's at least a few months before I'm in party mode again and have to have an answer. But what answers do you have for that question (what kind of poetry do you write?)? How much do assume your questioner knows or doesn't know? Do they just want to hear whether you use rhyme? Would you give the same answer to all questioners, or do you tailor it? I often give the short, snotty answer, "my kind." But I know that doesn't mean anything. Is that insulting to the questioner? Tell me what you think!

BTW, I never kept last year's resolution to read through my entire poetry shelves from A-Z. In fact, I never got out of the Bs. So this year, like the perpetual dieter who always swears to lose X number of pounds and can't keep to it, I'm going to generalize my goals. So, I will read more (poetry). And God help me, this year, I'm going to have my book accepted.