Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Immersed in a seemingly plumbless sea of final papers, portfolios, and exams to be graded, I note that blogging activity has slackened on many of the sites run by other folks in the academy. I seem to learn something new pedagogically every semester, and without straying into Say Something Wonderful territory, here’s a few of this Spring’s lessons:
–Never teach Kathy Acker’s Empire of the Senseless in only one week (not my fault, I got sick, nevertheless…)
–Don’t try to explain Marx, Ernest Mandel, and Fredric Jameson on the postmodern in half a class period
–Stop quoting Adorno in the undergraduate poetry workshop

[“all musical characters are really quotations. Alexandrinism is the principle of art that has attained self awareness…” TWA, Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford UP, 1998) 6]

My friend the mailman brings good cheer: A letter from an old family friend back home in Tennessee, enclosing a clipping from the hometown newspaper that features the Postal Service’s new stamp in honor of the first United States Poet Laureate, Robert Penn Warren. “Red” Warren was born about ten miles from where I did most of my growing up. (My family home is just across the river from the farmhouse where Allen Tate and Caroline Gordon lived some years; and for serious literary connections, I believe Herman Melville once lectured in my hometown.) I note the background of the stamp features a scene from All the King’s Men, one of RPW’s novels, rather than anything from his poems. Once upon a time I could read “The Ballad of Billy Potts,” but life seems too short anymore.

Even better: Two new books from Norman Finkelstein: Powers: Track Three (Spuyten Duyvil), the final volume of Finkelstein’s long poem Track, which has been issuing forth for some years now; and An Assembly (Dos Madres), a lovely chapbook of rather earlier and more baroque poems following Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language. Finkelstein promises that this is merely a teaser, with more to come. I’ll be watching.

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