Tuesday, November 17, 2009

quick one

A hasty post – we've been away for a long weekend, our annual pilgrimage up north to feel cold air & see what's left of the foliage. It wasn't bad, actually: in Maryland & Pennsylvania the maples are still quite spectacular, & there were a few quite lovely ginkgos along the streets in Lancaster. Yes, this was the familial venture into Amish/Mennonite territory. After a day spent with a distant cousin who own a horse farm in Pikesville, MD, we drove up Lancaster-way to spend three days boarding with a charming Mennonite family on their farm (the girls got to milk cows, feed goats & donkeys, pick feed corn, etc.) & venturing out into the odd tangle of pre-modern farm life & hyper-consumerist touristica that is "Amish Country."

Yes, I was skeptical about this vacation from the get-go. But I ended up having a fairly grand time all told. There's something oddly soothing about rolling farmland in all directions, something spiritually calming about having to drive super-gently in order to avoid the black and grey horse-drawn buggies and the young people in 19th-century dress on their scooters. (That's right – the Amish have scooters; no bicycles or skateboards – yet – but scooters.)

While everybody else collapsed into bed every night after a day of buggy-rides, quilt-admiring, & eating heavy Germanic food, I would sit up a while reading The Grand Piano 8 (for my money, the best installment yet – more later on that), Watten's Progress/Under Erasure,* and a nifty history of the Mennonite movement: I haven't lost my taste for Reformation history. And wonderfully enough, the weather back here in St. Peter's Waiting Room was actually tolerable upon our return.

And I got myself a v. cool, broad-brimmed black Amish hat (well, Amish-ish – made in China). Now when the hell does one get to wear such a thing in Florida?

*Yes, I'm gearing up for Watten's visit to Our Fair University this coming Thursday. A formal announcement, for interested locals:

BARRETT WATTEN will be on campus at 5.00 pm, Thursday November 19th at the Schmidt Center Gallery (PA 51), to read from and discuss his poetry and The Grand Piano, the ongoing "collective autobiography" of the Bay Area Language Poets (including Rae Armantrout, Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, and six others).
Watten has been a major figure in American writing for some two decades now. He is the author of over ten volumes of poetry, including most recently:
Progress/Under Erasure (Green Integer, 2004)
Bad History (Atelos, 1998; 2nd printing 2002)
Frame (1971-1990) (Sun & Moon, 1998)
Watten was coeditor with Lyn Hejinian of the ground-breaking Poetics Journal, and has published a large number of essays; his most recent critical collections are The Constructivist Moment: From Materialist Text to Cultural Poetics (Wesleyan UP, 2003), winner of the 2004 René Wellek Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association, and a collection coedited with Cary Noland, Diasporic Avant-Gardes: Experimental Poetics and Cultural Displacement (Palgrave, 2009).

Over the past few years, he and nine other of the original Bay Area Language Writers have been publishing a serial autobiography, The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography, San Francisco 1975-1980, to be complete in ten volumes early next year.

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