One of my favorite blog posts has been Balance, in which I made erasure poems from my students’ final projects at the end of last spring semester. I found myself thinking about it a lot last week, at the end of a rigorous fall semester and in the thick of grading final papers. I was itching to erase!
Grading can be so serious, and this has felt especially true the last few weeks. Taking these pieces of writing that have been wrapped up in layers of bullet-pointed requirements, comment bubbles of feedback, and ppt slides of prompts and pitfalls, and cutting through it all with a laser beam focus on a few words and phrases, playing with it all in the face of so much seriousness–this is more than some fun preoccupation, this is
Oh gosh, what is it? Do I really have to think this hard right now? Ok, ok. An act of rebellion, maybe? A necessary measure to preserve sanity? A rescue mission?
Whatever it is, I confess it felt more urgent last week when I was still grading–maybe because of the seriousness of grading or maybe out of a desire to procrastinate. And maybe those things aren’t so separate. At any rate, I did finally get around to these after the grades were in, which seems somehow less than satisfactory. I wonder what I would have come up with if I’d thrown on the brakes in the middle of all that work to erase. Then again, maybe the promise of erasure helped me get through my work.
These strike me as wintry and peaceful, as calm in their uniqueness as snowflakes.
Do any of you teachers and students out there want to join me? Is there anyone out there, regardless of jobish label, who wants to take the texts in their lives back from all seriousness? Send me your photos or poems, and I will publish them on this blog of mine.
This last day of September was a windy one, and more of fall’s fledgling foliage made its meandering way to the sidewalks, streets, and grassy margins of Arlington. I was walking to a cafe to do some grading and found myself picking up leaves from the ground. I’d been thinking about a project from my childhood in which fall leaves were pressed between sheets of wax paper with an iron and then hung in the window. In fact, I’d thought of it several times in the last week and assumed it would probably stay just a thought since there’s grading and dishes and a dozen other more sensible things to do than iron leaves and wax paper. But . . .
Call it the kid in me, or the one-time art major who collected found objects from dumpster detritus, or the poet who rebels against the hegemony of analysis that is grading–some me in me heard the call of a yellow spade-shaped leaf and answered. One leaf in hand, it was easy to keep going. In fact, it was hard to stop, though ardently ignoring every passer-by seemed an important part of leaf picking along 10th street. After all, this is no Amherst, Mass, no Taos, New Mexico, no Portland, Oregon. This is D.C.–a place for getting things done and being somebody. What frivolity–this staring at the ground, this tarrying on the way to work, this collecting colors–colors!
Back at home a few hours later, the ironing did not go so well. I could only get one composition to stick. The internet only helped me surmise that the project had never been quite what I remembered.
Then I went for a run down to the Netherlands Carillon. I sat on the base of the tower and looked out at the Lincoln and Washington Memorials blazing white against the blue sky. And then a bald eagle flew overhead and circled and bobbed and seemed to be surfing the wind, and I thought, so someone else is enjoying some frivolity today. Then I second-guessed myself. Maybe the eagle had been struggling with the wind. Maybe it had been knocked of course. But then, doesn’t frivolity look just like that?
Recent events remind me of a text/image research project I did a million years ago: The Local Confederate Monument on the Battle Field of the Public Sphere. This was for the American Studies website at the University of Virginia, where I was a grad student. If it looks like it was created when the internet was new and I didn’t yet know how to edit, that’s because it was.
Rocket finned, red moon petaled and many mouthed,
bursts bursting bursts, begonia, your hearts and spades
and chicken feet flying saucer me. Your artichoke blood
bake sugar sprinkled tender leather paper lantern me,
pink lip and baby finger tip me, begonia.
“But these descriptions pull upon the other definition of what it is to describe a thing, i.e., to mark out or draw.”
I’m so grateful for the insights of master interdisciplinarian Carolyn Ogburn. Check out Carolyn’s review of Reading Girl on her website along with her fantastic interviews, essays, poems, and articles.
Source: Review: Reading Girl, by Elizabeth Paul
Thank goodness for deadlines, or this post wouldn’t have happened. At the same time, thank goodness for time and space. Freedom and limitations both help me be creative. As this busy time of the academic year reaches its peak, I look forward to the counterpoint of summer. After a weekend of grading final projects, I make erasures from the projects’ first pages, and balance is restored.
in this condition
we want to find an all-purpose
abundant of methods
not a review of categories
a clear understanding
in the field
qualified level staff
confronted a big human
in the cloud
in the cloud
at nanometer scale
it wildly applies
it randomly interferes