Tuesday, January 25, 2011

how do you do?

Welcome to this week's edition of "Sarah tries to write a poem" or "What the hell, Ed?" Ed is my professor. He's amazing. And so are his assignments. I never know what he's going to throw at us at the end of class. And I never know what to write until I've written it. Hence the need to blog first, write later.

Last week's assignment was (supposed to be) a landscape or a still life. No people. So I started my poem with "I am not to let you in" and then wrote about an exhibit I saw at the V&A in 2002 and a bronze sculpture a professor once described to me. It was a Very Odd poem. And it worked. I'm not sure how. I kind of know how. But now. . .

The problem with writing a good poem one week, is that it's harder to write anything the next week. At least for me. Maybe there are other writers who just ride the "awesome" wave and keep writing. I freeze up. Hello, Freeze.

Ed assigned us another landscape. This one he wanted us to research the subject, then write it. (see: C.S. Giscombe) I was fine with this idea until. . . well, until I actually started to write the poem. I have a landscape, I have the research, I just don't. . . no poem. Nada. Words words words. I should be writing a Wikipedia entry. Maybe I should just lineate a Wikipedia entry.

This is not helping. Must write poem. Must. . . stop saying must. And using ellipses.

See you on the other side.

Monday, January 17, 2011

two much, or let your light so shine

Yep, I did that on purpose. Moving on.

I managed to overcommitt myself this week. I have no idea how a would-be hermit does that, but I was up bright and early Saturday morning to make the 1.5 hour trip to the Museum of Science and Industry (check that off my Chicago list), explore the Museum, head north again for 1.5 hours courtesy of the CTA, eat a sandwich, head slightly west to Palindrome Girl's birthday (happy #1!), then south again to see Charity. Not a metaphor. Over five hours on the CTA, many hours with many good people, and I was tired. So the next morning I went to church, came home determined to crash, and baked cupcakes instead for a dessert night hosted by Matt and Mike--or was it Mike and Matt?

Side note: Mike teaches Sunday School. He was trying to get the class started, but couldn't get people to stop talking. I was sitting near the front (gasp!) and he said something to me about it being impossible. So I offered to get class started for him. I'm pretty sure he didn't think I could do it, but I've got the Teacher Voice down. I got everyone's attention, introduced them to Quiet Coyote, and turned the class over to Mike. Who called on someone to offer the opening prayer, and suggested they pray for the Coyote.

All of this would be wonderful to the nth degree if I wasn't so tired (left out the "damn" for you, Maryn) and this cold wasn't making every inch of my body ache like the old woman that I am. It's a delightful cocktail of exhaustion and insomnia--hence the post at quarter to one in the a.m.

But don't cry for me Chicago, Salt Lake, or Seattle. I'm pretty sure that after winter comes spring, and after Monday comes Tuesday. At least, I hope that's how it works. Tomorrow is another day. Or today is another day. Might as well live it.

The Coyote and I will see you then.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


Maybe it will be a Sunday thing. And by "it," I mean blogging. Naturally.

I was all excited to get back into the classroom. As student, not teacher. I still am. Even more excited that it's a workshop. I could listen to Ed Roberson talk all day and all night long. It's never scripted, always brilliant. He was the reason I chose to start NU in the fall instead of the winter--or at least the reason Reg gave me.

This is my third workshop with Ed. He has exactly one flaw. He wants poems on Sunday night. Regardless of what day of the week class is on (Wednesday), he wants poems on Sunday. Sunday is not a good poem-ing day for me. Neither is Saturday, Friday, and Thursday is a maybe. I need time to process and write the assignment. Because the great thing about Ed is that he always gives an assignment that's specific enough to keep conversation in class going, and broad enough that you can do whatever the hell you want and fulfill the assignment. The horrible thing about Ed is that he never knows what next week's assignment will be until Wednesday night. Which means you can't write Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday for class.

Do you see my dilemma?

The goal was actually to write last night, revise tonight, post in one hour to Blackboard. That was before I was asked to fill in for another RS teacher who apparently moved to Idaho. So I prepped a lesson. Or avoided prepping a lesson. Which is only slightly different from avoiding writing a poem. Different Aaron Sorkin series.

The assignment this week is to take inspiration from poems by Albert Mobilio and Terrance Hayes. I've read the poems and nothing is jumping. Except, as I say that, I doubt myself.

From Mobilio:
"denial is // a prisoner's / lyre"
"I'm solo, mesmerized" (both from "Circuit Breaks")

"On this sixth day of windshield strain / rise up without a word // Semi-private, semi-circling thoughts, / the season seaps beneath my hat // A head full of clauses"
"I want to be ready when the cry goes up" (from "Social Struggle")

"My night watch: night watches me"
"My headache passes overhead, / far along & thus we row" (from "Far as Mine Goes")

"Pretend if you can / that it's last August's fairground"
"I'm hearing her sway / in her best-dressed / evasion" (from "We Hold Our Heads High")

"The action just takes you"
"breakage is // a kind of bruise--the air / around me aches." (from "Swing Music")

"I've learned to read the way I write" (from "What the Great Ones Do")

And the best line, maybe of all:
"I'm stealing your poem because it's / almost, nearly entirely mine" (also from "What the Great Ones Do")

P.S. I'm also a fan of Hayes, and I really like Lighthead, which is what our reading came from. Just sayin'.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


I made a semi-conscious decision not to blog until the New Year. The original non-plan was actually to stay away from blogging during my Utah holiday and start up again when I hit Chicago on January 4, but a racing mind and a dose of painkillers that tend to keep me awake (and my first Diet Coke in weeks) have other plans for me.

I think I've said this before, but just in case: I hate New Year's Resolutions. In fact, I hate New Years period. Maybe it's just because the holiday is oversold on every movie ever made, but I've never really had a great or even a good New Year's Eve/New Year's Day. This year I took it to the extreme by forgetting that it was a holiday. I sat around in my pajamas, listened to my sister who had just returned from her in-laws in Alabama, and sometime near midnight I had another pomegranate 7-Up (diet). Happy New Years to me.

So the resolutions. It's just an excuse to make goals that you have no intention of following through on. Resolutions are meant to be broken. Smashed. Trashed. And other rhyming words. Says the cynic who blogs here.

I find myself facing an uncertain 2011. I spent the past few sleepless nights (cheers painkillers!) worrying about the lack of a plan and my complete lack of control over that plan, at least for the next few months.

No New Year's Resolutions. But some New Year's Mile Markers. It's like being on a long hike. You tell yourself you can only go as far as that tree. And when you get to the tree, you can only go as far as the next rise of the road. And when you get to that rise in the road. . . well, usually I take a long break there, and consider turning around. But for the sake of this analogy, we're going to pretend I'm a better hiker.

Mile marker one: Winter Quarter. Last workshop with Ed Roberson. First of my last four classes.

Mile marker two: Hearing back from schools on the PhD apps I sent off into the unknown last week. If it's good news, I should hear in March. If it's bad news. . .

Mile marker three: Spring Quarter. Last workshop with Simone Muench. Thesis with Mary Kinzie. Lit course that will have me reading all the books I usually read when I'm avoiding lit class reading, plus Paradise Lost.

Mile marker four: Graduate from Northwestern on June 17. Circle that on your calendars.

And after that. . . I don't know. In a glass half-full kind of mood, I'm planning road trips and a long summer before jumping back into school. In a glass completely-empty kind of mood, I'm sitting at a computer reviewing spreadsheets and wondering why I'm sitting at a computer. In both glasses, I get to see Seth in July or August, and then it's a blank.

Feel free to fill it in.

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