Friday, December 12, 2008

Isabelle Baladine Howald: Secret of Breath

I think that last post, & its comment stream, demonstrate why I don't really do much teaching-related blogging. It's true I talk about syllabi a fair amount, and course texts, & kvetch about grading, & so forth, but generally speaking my life as a teacher is something that doesn't feature too prominently here. There're obvious reasons for that: perhaps most obviously, I am indeed an employee of Our Fair University, and generally speaking what goes on in the classroom is both a transaction among me, the students, & the course texts and a kind of service rendered by me as a hash slinger in the employ of Our Fair State. More importantly, there's a relationship of trust the one builds up with one's students, an interchange that can be so mutually rewarding & mutually revealing that I'm reluctant to feature it very much on this very public, rather disembodied blogspace. I'm not in the business of denigrating my students – I like them very much, & respect the ways their minds work, & sometimes lament their misplaced priorities or the choices their over-busy lives force upon them: but I'm not going to talk about it here.

On the other hand, when someone pulls a bozo stunt like the one recounted in that last post, it's just plain fair game.
Secret of Breath, Isabelle Baladine Howald, trans. from the French by Eléna Rivera (Burning Deck, 2008)

Vast stretches of white space, one voice in roman type, in dialogue or counterpoint to another in italic. War, displacement; the state of the refugee, which is the common state of 20th-century Europe. War, snow, movement, & the inevitability of a death, which lends an existentialist cast to everything that goes down. Not Celan but Trakl; not so much Bonnefoy as St.-John Perse. (But contemporary French poetry is one of my vast ignorances.)


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