Monday, November 26, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 70 (home stretch edition)

Home stretch of the semester now, so quick hits today.

Patsies win. NYT thinks they look vulnerable, because they didn't win by 40 points; I'd counter that yesterday suggests they can win even on an off-day, with Moss double- and triple-covered. And, that Belichek and Brady would both be very competent combat commanders, because they just do not fuckin' panic.

Managed to culture-jam Black Friday--e.g., didn't buy anything.

It's only in the class-days between Thanksgiving and Finals that you see kids actually studying. But it's kind of encouraging to see some of the iPodded Paris-Hilton-sunglassed kids sitting and studying with a technology as archaic as flashcards. Because there's still a place for the intellectual sharpening that flat fucking memory provides.

Celtic Ensemble shaping up--and just in time: Thursday begins the run of Madrigal Dinners, Celtic Christmas comes up in just about 2 weeks. Program is pretty extensive: focuses upon Galician dance music (and dances) and songs, but also includes some evergreens that are in the group's book every semester: Cotswold Morris dances, and a Breton an-dro avec klem. They've had a hard job this semester, with me largely absent, and assistants running rehearsals. Thankfully, my girls have done a great job of keeping the players and dancers focused and moving forward. Next semester should actually be a relief for all parties.

Recently finished a new (to me) biography of Robert Graves, one of the great poetic lunatics of the 20th century and, specifically through the medium of his "historical grammar of poetic myth" The White Goddess, an influence on not only poets but also Anglo-Celtic folkies and neo-pagan types. It's a sprawling awkward book, informed by Graves's encyclopedic reading of North European and Mediterranean myth, but it's not scholarly. He's wrong about 'most any factual stuff, and his interpretations of images, pottery, names, and archaic alphabets are almost completely erroneous--but as a handbook/blueprint that lets us watch the poetic trance in action, it's unmatched. Miranda Seymour's biography is far better-informed because of her much more extensive and complete access to family, personal papers, and unpublished material--and by the death of that consummate neurotic/messianic Laura Riding, the first and scariest of Graves's poetic muses, who in any era except post-WWI would have been recognized as the self-hypnotizing charlatan that she was. Seymour effectively links Graves's life--and his psychological masochism, his sense that a true Romantic poet needed to suffer in order to create--to the horror he encountered on the Western Front and the guilt that he carried for the rest of his life. The biography is thus reminiscent of John Garth's Tolkien biography, which makes much the same case.

Graves, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and the early Chinese poets Du Fu and Han Shan, are the heroes of my own poetic firmament. Here's a poem in honor of Graves, the season, and a sense of place:

A Centering Calm

At the turning of the year
Sky closes in – gray and dank
Cold sharpens
Leaves fall

Geese call and circle
Seeking the stubble fields
Orion wheels and looks to the South
Dreaming of warmer climes
The Morning Star shines low and bright to the East

Mammals seek warmth, light, heat;
The rocks darken, trees rattle
Grass grows lank and dry

The boundary between heat and cold, light and dark,
Bends thin and fragile:
The thickness of a bed sheet, a window pane, the tender epidermis
As sentient beings turn inward,
And the heart, as the season shifts,
Contracts and conserves:

A centering calm emerges.

The old year fades.
Now playing: Dick Gaughan - Revolution

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