I'm off to the American Literature Association conference in San Francisco next week. I don't think this is a conference I've ever been to, at least as a participant (I seem to vaguely recall dropping by one of their meetings in Baltimore a million years ago, for what reason I can't imagine). Am I remembering rightly, or is this the association set up in explicit opposition to the MLA's rampant theory-binge of the 1980s (still ongoing, happily)? At any rate, I'm on a tightly organized panel about biographical approaches to 20th-century poets, along with biographers of Kenneth Rexroth & Denise Levertov. It should be fun; not an awful lot of alt-poetry types there, but I'm sure I'll run down a fair number of people I know (feel free to drop a line – let's do lunch, or coffee). And after all, it's San Francisco, for heaven's sake. How can one not have a good time?
My biggest regret is that our panel seems to be scheduled opposite a panel of homages to the late Burt Hatlen, which I'd dearly love to attend, if only to show my gratitude to the big man.
Another symptom of middle-aged drain-circling: back pain, not debilitating, not even really chronic, but occasional & irritating. I suspect it has something to do with sitting reading & writing 8 or 10 hours a day in ergonomically disastrous chairs. But I've always been fascinated by the phenomenon of the "stand-up" desk, used – as manufacturers will tell you endlessly, by Thomas Jefferson, Goethe, Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, all the way down to those contemporary luminaries Philip Roth & Donald Rumsfeld. You can google all the purported health benefits (posture, energy levels, etc); the one that struck me – aside from the overwhelming reports of decreased back stress – was a base metabolic benefit of 60 extra calories burned per hour – just by standing. Which doesn't sound like much, but that's 240 calories every 4 hours – extrapolate it out.
I wasn't about to pay the outrageous prices the whole desk-thingies are fetching online these days, nor did I want to shell out $70 or more for a plain old tabletop lectern. (I did consider stealing one from a classroom in Our Fair University, but when I reflected how difficult it's been to get one to teach at lately...) So I cleaned the cobwebs off my hunter-gatherer-manly-arts-of-tinkering-with-power-tools skills, and you can see the results above: yes, my very own homemade (from nothing more than scraps of lumber hanging about the house & environs) tabletop lectern, complete with broad working surface & that little "lip" do-jobber at the bottom to keep your pen from rolling off. Once the spar varnish dries – I was gonna jump right in to using it, but reflected that if I wanted to paint up there, it'd be impossible to get the splatters off untreated wood – I expect to be well on the road to a slimmer, better-postured, dashing poet-scholar me. I'll keep you posted.