I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small

for those wonderful people out there in the dark

29 March 2007

Poetry Thursday: Joseph Cornell



Hooray for Poetry Thursday. This week's task was to write a poem in reflection of an artwork. This made me go back through some old pieces, and I was tempted to draw out a poem inspired by Edward Hopper, but then I came across this lyric that played off of Joseph Cornell.

Can't reproduce the Joseph Cornell shadowboxes that my poem touches upon (of the title box, The Pink Palace, but also of other boxes), but if you know his work, it's not difficult to see how his boxes operate as poems: disassociative images caught in an odd little space.


The Pink Palace

Here is an art
good enough to carry:
a Joseph Cornell
box. Take a photostat
of a Newport mansion,
wash it pink, cut
news-clips of a woman's
face, litter her face
as pieces of snow on
the mansion's grounds,
arrange some sticks
for trees, a background
mirror to flush
the depth and to catch
the looker looking.
And forget to name
the artwork, load
the elements in a blue
black box, a container
of surreal, stupid air,
confetti light, hardware,
and a woman's face
forming a drift. I wish
I had that pink
palace, that box
large enough
to house its want.

25 March 2007

You Like Me, You Really Like Me!

I won the Literary Artist of the Year Award at the Angels of the Arts Awards sponsored by the The Lee County Alliance for the Arts. Yes, I am pinching myself to see if it weren't a dream, but no, I have my acrylic angel wings right next to my happy MacBook.

Actually, it is a pretty cool local recognition, and the celebration was warm and fun, a time for the good folks of Lee County to celebrate the arts. Jeanne Bochette won the big Lifetime Achievement Award--she's run a dance studio in Fort Myers over the last 58 years! And Berne Davis, who has helped save one of the best buildings in Fort Myers for an arts center, won the arts benefactor of the year award. It was also nice to see so many locals really decked out, and Kathleen Moye, the public relations director for the Alliance, did a terrific job in making the evening so successful.

Unfortunately, my Gerri was up for Arts Journalist for the year, which she didn't win--a local morning news show host won that laurel. Oh well.

My acceptance speech? I thanked the Alliance and Will Prather (rogue Democrat and owner of dinner theater which was the site of the evening festivities), mentioned how I was honored to be among all the nominees and how each was my own angel of the arts, recited Whitman's famous quote about great poetry needing great audiences, explained that great art required the imaginative gifts of great audiences, and finally how this award honored me and emboldened me to continue writing poetry worthy of this audience before me. It was along those lines, but no more than five sentences, seriously. Now, I'd say a word or two more if I were at the National Book Awards, and the Nobel? Heck, I'd be screaming a fit or two about American political slogans about freedom and liberty.

Alas, as I told my son, I can now die content, fully at peace. He wanted to know if that also meant I would no longer suffer stomach issues. Only if . . . .

11 March 2007

Patti Smith and Daylight Savings Time

I live with someone who doesn't believe in Daylight Savings Time--she's the Arizona of our Republic.

It's not that I believe in DST, though I'm usually for things that Benjamin Franklin proposed, but I dutifully follow its dictates. I suppose I like the changing of the time, messing up with all our clocks and watches. My Ger, though, she still abides by Standard Time. Purist.

And tomorrow night, our mutual heroine (and I even don't know her views on DST) Patti Smith is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She represented to me all that was cool about the idea of living in NYC, being a Manhattan punk-bohemian--with Sam Shepard, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others. I suppose I was too young to get into the Washington Square folk scene of the early sixties, and the glam rockers were cool but inaccessible to me (sorry Lou Reed, New York Dolls).

Maybe I pine for the pre-Guiliani, pre-Disney Manhattan, or at least my idea of it: dirty, hard-edged, difficult, and rude. Oh yes, I love my 1950s Best of Everything and my 1920s Cotton Club fantasies of NYC, my admittedly romantic ideas of the city. But the little tough guy writer me wants those early 1970s Manhattan, the start of CBGB and all those kids looking to outdo the tired old Beats and New York School of poetry. Anyway, for me growing up in Idaho, Patti Smith's great album Horses was all about the most elemental and elementary in her hard, untrained voice and in her harder lyrics.

06 March 2007

Column Is Up

My first Poetry Thursday column is up. I've happily committed to write a monthly piece for the Poetry Thursday community.

Does that mean more space on my blog for discussion of Boise State football? Should I start all over with the secret aim to have the least read blog in the blogosphere? Instead of poetry and Boise State football (which has gotten way too big since the amazing Bronco victory at the Fiesta Bowl), I'll need to couple up two really incompatable but equally inconsequetnial subjects . . . . Suggestions?

04 March 2007

Speaking of Money . . . .

Since my last post was about Poetry magazine and the $200 million Lilly legacy, I thought I should write of more recent happenings with me and money.

I just learned this week that my university's Peer Review Committee has just approved my promotion to a full professorship--I'm currently an associate professor--which means a nice 12% salary increase and the satisfaction of topping out in my professorial career.

The review process for promotion is rather an onerous task, all about putting on the hairshirt, self-flagellating before the Peer Review Committee, your Chair, the Dean, the Provost, and the Board of Trustees, essentially saying that you're somehow worthy of promotion, but only if you can receive their blessing and approval first. All of this behavior, however, starts when you're a graduate student, busting your butt to get through comprehensive and qualifying exams, just to prove that your worthy to start on a dissertation, and then going through the dissertation and defending it and waiting for the approval of the thesis committee.

Then you have to humble yourself through the job process, sending out scores and scores of job applications, go through the meat market known as the MLA Convention, and if you're lucky, lucky, lucky, you may land a tenure-track job, or at least a full-time temporary position, or you are left to be among the chattel of adjunct labor. Then once you get the tenure-line job, you spend your six years trying to get your dissertation published and procuring the favor of all your superiors and keeping quiet about any injustice you witness, all for the sake of receiving tenure and becoming an associate professor.

Thus, by the time you're an associate professor, you have been well conditioned to be a subservient, humble, and entirely beholden member of your university.

For me, the process to become a full professor required that I produce a "Promotion Portfolio," all built around my annual reports: a compilation of annual self-assessments, syllabi, student evaluations, teaching observations, letters of support, publications, and service records. I then wrote a narrative which thread my record, accomplishments, and self-reflection together, all with an eye on the master script, the Promotion Criteria. Yes, I wanted to distinguish myself, but it's a distinguishment that must still fit a prescribed model. My promotion, above all, must confirm the validity of that master script, and it must affirm the fact that I cut myself to fit the fashion of my beloved home institution.

So what's before me? A likely stint as a Division Chair? My first (and perhaps only) sabbatical? And then twelve or fifteen more years as the Old Man of the department? And finally, if I meet the requirements, a retirement with the title of professor emeritus?

Oh, it's hardly this dreary at all (and any career path can be so dissected), but there's a dreariness to it all the same, if I'm to be honest, a point where I wanted this approval of grown-ups so very badly, that began in Mrs. Bevington's Kindergarten. So I'll cap this year with one of my last big gold stars, the favored student one more time.