Thursday, June 08, 2017

3. Divided

Feeling strangely divided this late morning. After a few days of intense stretching exercises—many of them suggested by FB friends, some of them picked up from various physical therapy sites on the internet—my “ache” is amazingly diminished. By no means gone, but much better; I can now sleep on whichever side I find most congenial, at least.
I started the day by registering and reserving a hotel room for the Orono conference at the end of next month. I’d been heading into this with nothing but enthusiasm: I’ve been to I believe three previous “decades” conferences there, and found all of them wonderful, energizing events. Indeed, the first one I went to—the “1930s” conference, back in 1993—was a kind of blast-off moment in my academic life. Upper Limit Music: The Writing of Louis Zukofsky came out of that conference, as did many friendships that I still value.
But last night I had a dream about this coming conference, a strange and surreal dream (as my dreams so often are), clearly inflected by what I’ve been reading (NK Jemisin’s excellent fantasy novel The Kingdom of Gods) but also shot through with various run-of-the-mill self-doubts and diffidences. I won’t go into the details—they were remarkably crystalline, but very strange and disturbing—but they’ve left me with a very bad feeling looking forward to the end of the month. Then again, I suspect that bad feeling will only last a few hours.
On the other hand—since we’re speaking “divided”—I’m midway through a briefish prose piece that has me filled with unalloyed excitement. The last couple months have been very good in terms of intellectual work: First I completed a long-form review that had been bedeviling me for probably half a year (and the work I was reviewing had been lowering over me for far longer); writing the thing was agony and deep research, but I’m pretty proud of the finished product. Then I turned out another piece, a shorter review, which proved to be nothing but delight from start to finish. And now I’m in the midst of a piece which combines poetics, literary history, literary sociology, and Victorian stuff. The words don’t flow from my pen—it’s never a matter of “flow” with me, but painful coaxing—but the ideas are coming together in wonderful constellations. I can’t wait to get back to my desk.

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