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outraged by obama’s outrage

April 30th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Mansun: Kleptomania (2004)

My oh my, what whiteness has wrought.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock: yesterday Obama held a press conference in which he “publicly divorced” himself from Reverend Jeremiah Wright or, as one reporter put it, in which he “threw Wright under the bus.” I recognize my blog has not been a hospitable place for those of you who disagree with my reading of this pickle. I understand, for example, that the MSM believe that people in “rural North Carolina” are not smart enough to understand that the equation, Obama = Wright, is a false one. I understand that many reporters believe that Obama “is facing the biggest crisis of his 16-month campaign” because of Wright’s remarks. I very much understand the rhetorical and political necessities of a campaign in postmodernity. I get it, I promise.

What I don’t get, however, is what it is that Wright said the day before yesterday that qualifies as “outrageous.” According to Obama:

At a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that’s enough . . . . That’s a show of disrespect to me. It is also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do in this campaign.

A fair series of statements if Wright said something offensive, but: what exactly did Wright say that merited such a rigorous and angry repudiation? What did Wright argue that merits such outrage? I listened to the speeches, I read the transcripts. I also believe I have some grasp on my government’s atrocities (Indian removal, slavery, Japanese internment, Jim Crow, etc.).

I urge everyone to watch the reports and read the papers closely for the next week: only one story that I have encountered thus far specifies what exactly Wright said that is worthy of outrage. Obama did say that one remark he vehemently disagreed with was the (presumed) suggestion that the U.S. government is “involved in AIDS” to target the African American population: “But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS … there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced.” I cannot find, however, a place where Wright made such a proposition on Moyers’ show, at the National Press Club, or at his talk with the NAACP.

One is tempted to misquote Queen Gertrude here, but I’ll avoid that complication for a plain observation: Obama is, first, objecting to the affective tradition of black vernacular (he described Wright’s talking as a “performance” and “spectacle,” two very important key terms). If he does get the nomination, expect there to be pressure for him to denounce hip-hop wholesale too. He is objecting to a radical emotiveness, in a sense, no so much meaning or something said in the semiotic order; his “outrage” is aimed at the fun and intentionally fanatical flight up and down the paradigmatic axis, the associative and poetic, the lyrical. Surely I’m not the only one who smells the irony of Obama’s condemnation.

Second, Obama is outraged that the Rev. Wright spoke at all. It would seem so too are the pundits in the MSM. The message is very clearly, “why didn’t this guy just shut-up and go away?” The suggestion that Wright—who has done nothing wrong or said nothing that is in point of fact offensive—must shut-up is outrageous to me.

Three more observations: publicity is its own beast, although strangely, we feed it routinely. Those who would muffle Wright are the same who court the megaphone. Publicity is fed, but it cannot be controlled. I must think about this more, but Clinton’s chief strategist and fuck-up Penn comes to mind . . . .

Second: Obama’s political desperation yesterday and his crumbling beneath the pressure has me changing my mind. I found his over-the-top outrage at Wright (ok, let me clarify: I found the MSM reporting his outrage over-the-top and something like an amplification; fuck Tim Russert who said this was the most remarkable break-up in “fourty years of Presidential politics”) detestable, insincere. Frankly: I am not for Clinton or Obama anymore. I’m firmly anti-McCain, and this shall remain my position on the democratic nomination.

Third: Wright for President! Who’s with me?

america’s chickens, or, more wright trouble

April 29th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Ikon: On the Edge Forever (2001)

Right before I went to bed last night I watched Nightline, once a staple in my television diet but something I promptly rejected when the show went from talk to tabloid (a Disney move, of course). I’ve actually started watching the show because the lead story is usually something akin to hard news (I stress something akin). Last night I saw a story that made me so mad I had to take a sleeping aid.

As some of you know, Jeremiah Wright has recently decided to make public appearances to both explain his decontextualized remarks and defend his church’s congregation, who rightly feel they have been mistreated by the MSM. He first appeared on Bill Moyer’s Journal last week ( video is here and a transcript is here). I would encourage the rhetorically-minded to watch the interview for two things especially: (a) the defense of African American vernacular in terms of the “tradition of the Black Church” (synecdoche); and (b) the full contextualization of that fiery sermon that was turned into so many fragments, recontextualized, and recirculated (what my friend Matt McGlone terms “contexomy”). The “America’s Chickens Have Come Home to Roost” sermon, for lack of a better title, is powerfully moving and Moyers shows a long hunk of it. It would be great to get a transcript of this sermon not only for teaching purposes, but for a nascent essay I have brewing backstage.

Part two of Wright’s publicity campaign was a frank and fun talk at the National Press Club in DC, where it is obvious he was very well received (Jerz pointed me to C-Span’s website, where you can view his remarks in their entirety—go to the bottom of the page and select the appropriate drop-down menu). Again, Wright delivered the thesis he advanced on Moyers’ show, but with more humor and force: “This [news coverage] is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright . . . . It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.” And there you have it: you idiots don’t understand the black vernacular tradition, and you’re reporting on it without any history, with a sense of political amnesia (e.g., how King’s oratory was truly received in his time), and with no background whatsoever.

Last evening Nightline, however, ignored what Wright actually said and chose, instead, to argue that “Wright’s tour couldn’t come at a much worse time for Obama.” WTF? Why? Because they “risk offending white voters.” What offends white voters is misreporting Wright’s comments and insinuating the man is an anti-patriot and racist, for which there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Quite the contrary: if you watch the “America’s Chickens” sermon, what you find is a compassionate man who is deeply patriotic and therefore outraged by our government’s list of atrocities against humanity. The sermon brings tears and remorse, and it says nothing about white people. As I continued to watch Nightline I as simply astonished: the report, delivered by some Brit (!) and apparently written by Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press, uses Wright’s appearances to argue that his sharing his views and mind is hurting Obama’s campaign. Having listened to Wright’s remarks, I would argue Wright’s remarks only hurt the Obama campaign if the MSM frame it as doing so, and that’s precisely what the Nightline piece did. I think I share Murph’s outrage now at ABC and would agree that the company does seem to be biased as far as candidates are concerned.

I generally disregard paranoia-speak. And while I am supporting Obama myself, I will again assert I will stand behind whomever ends up being the nominee. I despair, however, that ABC’s reporting has become so biased and downright stupid. If Wright is making the case that White America does not understand the tradition of the Black Church or its signifyin’ hermeneutics and homiletics, why isn’t that getting researched and reported on? Because, of course, the more interesting story is scandal—and the MSM are creating it. “Yeah, Josh,” you say, “same as it ever was.” Well, I know that this is nothing new. The increasingly and explicitly bald way in which the MSM is creating (political) realities, however, is astonishing and angering.

More soapboxing on Rev. Wright here and here.

shaman-rama ding dong

April 27th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Madonna: Hard Candy (2008)

My resolution for the new year has been to do things that I would otherwise not ordinarily do. This decision includes many things, some of which should remain secret, as well as responding positively to invitations I normally would turn down. The first thing I did this year that is “not me” was poetry: at the urging of friends who are or who regularly write poetry, I did a poetry workshop for the semester. It was a lot of fun, but I readily acknowledge I did not discover my inner muse. I discovered I like complexity and that my poetry is “intense”—not quite the level of Vogon, so at least my poetic self is somewhat humane.

Quite spontaneously, an acquaintance invited me to join a shamanistic journey work circle. I remembered my resolution and said, “I’d LOVE to!” I will not go into the details of everything I learned today, just the gist: I’m learning “core shamanism,” which is sort of a no-frills, no drugs version that is solely about the “journey.” Today’s five hour session was about the “lower world,” one of three in this cosmology. The lower world is mostly occupied by non-human animals and is pure and harmonious. So is the upper world, except it is usually peopled by spiritual guides and is “ethereal.” The “middle world,” where you and I mostly subsist, is where the shit is, as well as some good stuff unavailable in the upper and lower worlds (so, yeah, it ain’t Platonic). In core shamanism, you travel below and above and, if very experienced, can muck around a bit in the middle-spiritual world. In today’s session we descended to the lower world.

I must admit I was pegged immediately as a “non-believer” and chided a bit for that, but for the most part I kept an open mind and I think when I left today folks were “cool” with me. I must also admit my “spirituality” is pretty hippy-dippy-pantheism-agonistic-if-god-exists-its-beyond-my-capacity-to-deal . . . uh, I’m a Mason. But today’s experience was different for every one in the room, and that’s “reality”—an experience with frames. We actually got into a little constructivism talk today, which I appreciated. Since my therapist likes to pull out a little guided meditation every now and again, the “journeying” wasn’t foreign at all.

So what did I learn today? Well, no surprise here: I learned that my “power animal,” the spirit assigned to me at birth to guide me through my life’s journey, is a goat. I met him in a rather mundane place (a farm) and after he pooped and said, “here’s your medicine” he looked me in the eye, seemed to grin, and then said, “you need to eat more.”

“Uh, I think I’ve been eating a bit too much lately,” I says.

“Stop cooking for other people.”

reviewer profiling

April 25th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: The Surreal Life (season 3/2003)

Yesterday I finished reviewing my tenth essay as a peer reviewer for the academic year. Given that I reviewed twice this many last year, I see this as a huge improvement to my quality of (academic) life. Nevertheless, as I was reviewing my second article for the day, I couldn’t help but think of my presentation tomorrow: a talk to our grads on the “revise and resubmit” that will include a humorous profiling of reviewerly types. What type am I? My talk will begin with a description of what happens in the review process (replete with some screen shots of the manuscript reviewing program many of our journals utilize). I’ll then briefly discuss the dreaded “rejection” and what it means. Finally, I’ll turn to a discussion of what to do when one gets a “revise and resubmit” from an editor.

As I noted, part of my discussion will involve (folk) psychological profiling, which I hope is both useful and a little entertaining. How does one make sense of the personality behind a review? Can one “profile” reviewers to help her in the revision process? I think so. I’d like to share some of the personality profiles I’ve developed to make sense of the reviewers of my own work. Obviously the easiest are the extremes; it gets harder when one has a reviewer that is, er, not extreme.

First, one’s profiling depends on whether or not the blind reviewer is “inside” or “outside” the field, and by “field” I mean Communication Studies. Owing to a host of historically-rooted anxieties, in general reviewers from within the field are prone to a general insecurity that permeates the field, which can result in overly zealous reviews, sometimes a bit of show-boating. Now, I recognize because I like to muck around in theoretical mud, there may be more showboating in my reviews than is normal. Nevertheless, I do think reviewers inside the field are harder to please than reviewers in related fields. That said, here’s some personality profiles particular to communication studies that I’ve encountered:

The Naysayer: Nothing of quality or interest has ever been published in the field, and your essay is no exception. Communication Studies is a sub-par and parasite field, and your essay continues this horrible, alien existence. The Naysayer wanted to be a philosopher or studied comparative literature, but reluctantly took a position in Communication Studies out of necessity. S/he is bitter about being in Comm, and will take it out on you—especially if you take up concepts from high theory or philosophy.

The Gusher: If you’re lucky enough to get a gusher, you’ll recognize him by the very brief but highly complimentary review. This reviewer is often someone you cite in your essay approvingly, or at the very least someone who strongly identifies with your line of research. Alternately, the gusher thinks your essay is “good enough” and would just like your essay to go away. This kind of reviewer is rare; sometimes they admit who they are and offer to buy you a drink at the next conference. The Gusher is typically either a narcissist or deeply hysterical. Don’t worry about this reviewer for a revision; he or she is pleased and anything you do will make him or her happy.

The Assassin: If you’re unlucky enough to get an assassin, you’ll recognize her by the way in which absolutely nothing is redeeming about your essay. In fact, the assassin will insist your work is the worst thing she has ever read and is embarrassed for the field that you submitted it in the first place. The assassin will accuse your work of “destroying the field.” The assassin doesn’t like anything that crosses her desk. The assassin is usually male, older, and white and particularly hostile to a feminist or queer anything. Editors keep these people on their boards to quickly kill off a manuscript they want killed off. You will not be invited to revise and resubmit if you get an assassin, so you should totally ignore what they say about your work.

The Turf Pisser: This reviewer is convinced no one reads such-and-so a theorist (Burke, Lacan, Barthes, and so on) better then they do. Although they have probably only read one work by the theorist, they are convinced they hold the Skeleton key and that you have approached the wrong Door of Understanding. This reviewer asserts a given theorist must be read as they read them, and that you are an embarrassment to Such-and-So studies. Of course, the Turf Pisser is deeply insecure and is using the review as an opportunity to Show Boat. If you get a Turf Pisser, acknowledgement of the validity of their perspective will go a long way to getting your review accepted. In your response letter, stroke this reviewer and thank them profusely for correcting your gaffs. If you can figure out who this person is, cite their work in your revision. Whatever you do, do not challenge the Turf Pisser’s authority.

The Empath: This reviewer is super rare. This person finds potential in your essay, strokes you on the things you do well, and has very helpful suggestions for fixing the things you don’t do well. This person is usually older and imagines you are either a graduate student or beginning junior scholar and sees reviewing as an opportunity to help you—and the field—along. Basically, the Empath is like the late Janice Hocker Rushing: she was raised in a strong supportive family, has amazing, supportive colleagues, and sees the good in everyone. Crap: how I miss Janice!

Well, I’m think I’m getting weary and need to prep for school today (meeting after meeting, topped of with shots for Birthday Boy DJ Smokehouse Brown). I’d love to hear of other reviewer profiles that I might share with students today!

unwriterly week (so let’s party)

April 23rd, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Stephen Duffy & the Lilac Time: Keep Moving (2003)

I am having one of those dreadful working weeks: I have a list of six things that need to be written, but somehow I have managed to twitter to hump day with nary a sentence. Part of the inability to write has to do with winding-down: after all that traveling, it’s just hard to sit still and focus. I garden. I work out (hello again, free weights; hello again, murmuring soreness). I run errands. I create new recipes with the slow cooker. But writing, oh writing: I cannot seem to muster any mustard. I might have move it to the coffee shop to force myself through to writing.

The most pressing project: finish the essay with Dana on The Secret. She’s given me some incredible notes on the DVD; I need to do my part. Today if I can eek out a paragraph I will not feel so guilty.

Meanwhile, after dithering over whether or not I should continue my now ten-year tradition of throwing a Walpurgisnacht/May Day party, I’ve gone ahead and decided to do it. I’ve not been to a party since Valentines . . . a party would be good. Dancing would be good. So: party at my place on May 3rd, nine-ish. If you can be here, you’re more than welcome. Please dance and don’t forget to tip the DJ . . . .


April 20th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Stereolab: Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements (1993)

I just saw a commercial in which a weary woman in a business suit says, “I’ve not had a vacation since the third grade.” I resemble that sentiment. I’m finally home for about a four-week stretch after many travels. This semester is the first time I’ve had off (including summers) for over ten years, and so I semi-deliberately tried to cram all my traveling wishes into 2008: Tempe and Phoenix, Denton and Fort Worth, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Washington DC, New York, State College and College Station. Next up is Seattle for RSA, then Atlanta to visit the family, then Chapel Hill to hang with some friends, then a month off before a visit to Madison, Wisconsin in September, Fayetteville, Arkansas in October, and San Diego for the National Communication Association meeting in November. (I still want to go to Six Flags in Dallas . . . who wants to join me this summer?) By the time the religious holiday season is upon us, I will have been to thirteen different places. I normally do not consider myself someone who enjoys travel, but because most of these visits were for fun (with a little bit of research on the side), it’s been quite enjoyable.

One of the things that enabled me to travel was “talking”: if I could get a buddy at a university to host me as a speaker for this or that event, then I could find reimbursement for traveling one way or another. I also decided to do a bunch of guest talks thinking that I’d be going up for tenure in the fall, and in general it looks nice when you’ve been invited to share your work with another department. So here’s a related question: how many times can one give a certain pre-packaged talk before ethically it needs to be hung-up and put away? When is a talk warmed-over? When, in other words, should one retire an old talk and create a new one?

The talk I’ve been giving for almost a year and a half is titled variously “For the Love of Communication” or “For the Love of Rhetoric,” depending on the audience. The talk actually started here in 2005, on the blog, as a series of sketches for an essay I wanted to write (and yes, DB, the sketch did begin as I was going through a particularly painful break-up). It became a talk for a pro-seminar for entering graduates here at UT, and then metamorphosed into a keynote address for UNT’s annual spring conference. I subsequently delivered shorter versions at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, at Arizona State University, Penn State, and two days ago, Texas A&M. Insofar as the essay upon which the talk is based will be published in The Quarterly Journal of Speech in about three weeks, the talk is effectively retired. I must admit it’s a bit sad to let the talk die: it offended people so badly they left the room in a huff; it had people laughing so hard at Denton I didn’t have to buy my drinks the whole weekend; it divided audiences. It was a fun talk to give. But, I think publication is its proper death knell.

My colleague Mark Knapp disagrees. At lunch last week he said often when one is invited to give a talk, folks want to hear what they are familiar with. He said he and Frank Dance often gave talks from published material that was years-old. Nothing unethical about that, he said. The same jokes were told over and over, but they were still funny. “People want to hear the author deliver the argument.” Hmm.

So what do folks think? I was operating under the assumption that once a talk is published as an essay, it should be retired. I still think that’s the right way to go about it. Any other opinions?

Also, one thing this year’s travels has taught me is the importance of having a talk in your pocket. Once you’re out of graduate school for about five or six years—that is, around the tenure years—you and your buddies are in a position to finagle for visits. Right now I’m scheming to get some of my buddies to come and talk to my class this fall. I have schemed with other buddies to come and talk to their classes. The problem with all this “free” visiting is that you gotta have something to share. Since I’m retiring the “love talk,” this summer I have to develop another talk to share. I think I will try and develop my EVP/backmasking essay into a talk, ’cause it has a high show-and-tell factor (that essay has been accepted for publication too, though, so any talk developed from it will also have a pretty short run).

The “love talk,” incidentally, was retired at Texas A&M at a nicely attended colloquy. In general I think it went old kinderhook. I’m not terribly smart on my feet, I must admit, but most of the questions I had at least half-baked answers to assuage. What was more fun, though, was the visit with buddies at A&M and all that this entailed! Jenn M. and Yogita toured me the Carter family plot, a sort of hidden paean to the “largest slave owner in Texas” prior to the Civil War. The shrine was admittedly bizarre, right down to the “evolutionary” depiction of progressive travel (note the most advanced mode of travel is a Winnebago!) and the odd “is he a slave or not?” and penis-less sculpture-in-the-weeds. Gallery of the tour is here.

Happy Hour after the talk was fun, but nothing beats an evening rounded out at the local VFW in Bryan singing country-western karaoke! Since I was retiring the love talk, I actually sang a duet of “Islands in the Stream” with Tracy. It was quite embarrassing and thoroughly terrible (and I was much too sober). One of Christopher’s philosopher buddies, dude named William, did the most effing’ brilliant version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” I have ever heard! At evening’s end I wanted his autograph and developed a guy-crush. This macho dude with a ponytail wearing a biker outfit literally got on his knees and bowed after that rendition of Steve Perry greatnes. All of this in smoky VFW with drunk bubbas and bubbettes woo-hooing and having a grand ol’ time. Triumpantly, she reminded me that this is Jenn’s world. It was an awesome finish to a semester of travels. (Gallery here.)

bluff your way as an academic

April 17th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts I-IV (2008)

My advisor is fond of saying that all academic departments began with the following statement: “in the beginning there was the error.” I also think we should add another statement as the one which sustains a department: “our field is in danger of erasure,” or alternately, “Such-and-So threatens the field” (e.g., “cultural studies,” “sloppy operatinalization,” “high theory,””inattention to pedagogy,” “Dilip Gaonkar”). As I was responding to comments on a previous post, I think I am ready to add a third statement to the academic enterprise: “It’s more complicated than that!” Now, I have finally happened upon a trinity of academic bromides that we can teach to any aspiring academic:

  • In the beginning there was the error.
  • Our field is in danger of erasure.
  • It’s more complicated than that.

“In the beginning there was the error” is a sort of retrojected mythic moment; it has always-already been there. It will remain. It will be restated. There is little we can do about this moment of utterance, as it was a necessary moment. Elsewhere I have written about the perils of the apocalyptic, sustaining statement too: “our field is in danger” seems monotonous and often becomes a principle way in which people and their ideas get rejected or excluded. I find “our field is in danger” both necessary to encourage certain actions and dangerous because of its built-in exclusions. “Our field is in danger!” is the utterance of contracting, what must be said in order to collect others into some sort of pact or agreement. Therein is the danger with the second.

But what of this third statement, “it’s more complicated than that?” The phrase is usually the opening gambit of most essays in the academic humanities, and this morning I joked we could probably rechristen most departments as “The Department of It’s More Complicated Than That” and function just as well. Yet I think the phrase sometimes becomes the tool of abuse, and more recently, the key technique of the academic troll.

As some of you know, a troll is Internet slang for someone who baits or attempts to get an emotional rise among folks in an online community. My colleague Dana Cloud gets troll emails all the time (and amazingly, sometimes she can bring ’em around). In general, the online rule is “don’t feed the troll.” The reason you ignore or don’t respond to the troll is because they don’t shut-up, keep coming back, and so on.

The issues with academic trolling are more difficult to discern. Here’s the set up: I post something on my blog that is designed to be provocative. Someone posts the (obvious) response: “But Josh, it’s more complicated than that.” Well, of course the issue I blog about is always going to be more complicated than any blog argument would allow. “Simplification” is, indeed, the function of argument in general and blogs, owing to time commitments, space limitations, and so forth, further constrain what is possible to argue. That said, when does the comment, “but it’s more complicated than that” become less of an invitation to discussion and more of a taunt? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting twist on what academic are trained to do: assert something is more complex than the status quo understanding, and then explain why.

I reckon the obvious tip-off is tone. For example, (not to single you out Ken, but . . . ) Ken Rufo often makes the “but it’s more complicated than that” claim in respect to my posts, and it comes off as a sincere wiliness to engage. The recent comment by Thorkild, however, begins: ” Aren’t you capable of making the disconnect between academic theorizing and lived experience?” The tone is accusatory, even if that tone was unintentional. I reckon tone is the tip-off, the way to distinguish between trolling and engagement.

Regardless, I suppose as someone who enjoys pushing buttons I should be used to “but it’s more complicated than that” by now. It’s only fair, right? Even so, at times I think this third phrase of the Academic Trinity is also used as a lazy way to troll, in both the classroom and on blogs. Whenever I took classes in the cultural studies department as a grad student, invariably some snot-nosed cultural study boy (you know, the ones that don’t bathe and wear ratty t-shirts or plaid, or who assume you’re too stupid to understand unstable irony as a way to make digs on the unsuspecting) . . . where was I? Oh yeah, inevitably some guy would chime in, “but, it’s more complicated than that because . . . X.” It was always a show for the instructor in that department, a one-up fest such that the discussion rather resembled the content-less argumentation of policy debate than a struggle for understanding. I mean, I think we should always assume everything is much more complex than the way we re-present any one thing. Such is the nature of language. Saying “it’s more complicated than that” is redundant, in a way.

I reckon the bottom line is this: if we wrote a book titled, Bluff Your Way as an Academic, chapter three would be titled, “But, It’s More Complicated Than That.”

on teaching rhetorical criticism, again

April 15th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Neva Dinova: The Hate Yourself Change (2005)

And so continues a two-year-old conversation on teaching rhetorical criticism.

For decades Rod Hart taught the “Basic Rhetorical Criticism” seminar for graduate students here at the University of Texas at Austin. Now that Rod is the dean, the responsibility for teaching this most important of classes has fallen to Dana Cloud and me. I shall be teaching this course for the first time ever in the fall, and I’m more than a bit nervous about it. I’m nervous, in part, because I want to teach it as well as I was taught—and this requires assigning a lot of writing. I’m also just nervous because it’s a new prep for me.

The first rhetorical criticism seminar I had at the University of Minnesota was with Karlyn Kohrs Campbell. We read a ton of things in addition to writing a bunch of mini-papers that we combined to form a major term-paper at the end. Four of us took the class together (three of us ended up publishing our seminar papers from the class). Karlyn commented copiously on every mini-paper and the final paper. I want to do that for my students as well, but unfortunately, expectations for enrollment are three to four times that of my experience. I simply cannot grade everything with that many students.

What I’ve decided to do is have the students also write the mini-papers, but then to provide feedback for each other. I will read the final two papers they submit. This will still require a ton of grading, however, I will only have to teach this class every other year (Dana and I alternate teaching it). I’m hopeful, however, that by continuing the “intensive” tradition a number of students will end up with publishable work.

Speaking of publishable work: I got a great idea from Rachel Smith that I’m going to use in this course. A number of folks teach the course with a sort of conference at the end, and students are asked to “respond” to their peers as if at a conference. Instead, we’re going to run class like a journal: students will “submit” a draft of their final essay for review, which will then be “blind reviewed” by classmates. Then, I’ll summarize the reviews in a cover letter and for the final project, students will have to “revise and resubmit” their essays, replete with the all-important cover letter response. I think ending this class this way will help to take a little of the mystery out of the publication process.

Anyhoo, I’ll be tinkering on the syllabus all summer, but I did upload a draft for anyone interested (and I’d love some comments/feedback as well). The tentative syllabus is in PDF format here.

concluding poetry workshop

April 13th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Donna Summer: Bad Girls (1979)


guided meditation

Guided meditation doesn’t work, but

Bob Dylan does better and, but,

Berrigan likes big butts (he rarely lies)

and makes Anne’s ass into open pages, a yawing

that Kerouac would

not say “no”

to later, neither.

Interior scroll with fish:

So swabbing, it empties the time, like

spirits of ammonia up in me,

the creep.


a week of confrontations

On the road, nary a scroll in the pocket

just plastic and, presumably a cast-iron affect.

1. Golden Chick, not woman, and

transfat slurps; free wifi

my ass.

2. Plane turbulence, plane clothes

extra underwear for the outhouses

of rhetoric.

3. Hair-died recovery; borrowed bed and

space; she should clean up after

the cats.

4. Shit; pants slink low, zip that

shit but don’t get crunk. Why,

“hello there!”

6. Balls, blue commotion in this

tired lie, thank you Mr.

Linkletter, we’re still not getting laid.

5. Anxious, getting there for

five hundred miles , punching

the brakes, I just don’t do

7. Students, in a closed room who fancy

a barrel in the mouth might

be happiness

Like misogyny, the mother slang.


barbeque queen

beep beep comes the barbeque queen

lifting spirits, groceries into chariots

procuring lanyards, bouncing bad news

out the window.

raiding bins of basmati backstage, for

bleating little beaks and

bankrupt bellies

Unboobing the traps,

burring faces in her bosom.

“Eat! Eat!” she brays and we

blast back: “Love! Love!”


April 11th, 2008 by slewfoot

Ok, I know my sense of humor is not shared by everyone. Even so, I cannot help myself: this is heelarious.