Summer Reading / Writing / Blogging / Teaching / Weeding

I seem to lose my obsessive need to share my opinions in the summer, at least in blog format. No doubt my wife & colleagues wish I would take up this outlet more often, sparing them my incisive, delightful opinions about this & that. From time to time over the last few years I have tried to focus the blog on a few subjects in order to do justice to them, but it's no use. What intelligence I have is miscellaneous. And this format allows for miscellany. I might have written more here over the last few weeks, but my online course took more energy than I had anticipated. Apparently, there is some limit to the amount of time I am willing to spend in front of a computer. Combined with a couple of projects around the house & serving on a search committee, I guess I have been busy, though since I wasn't meeting classes in the usual way, I didn't really feel busy. And I just haven't had the heart to write about politics or the bloody war. I read the news & follow a couple of political blogs, but my powers of analysis fail in the face of the whirlwind of idiocy there described. Truly, Americans are living through a shitstorm of dangerous stupidity. The course I have been teaching online, Understanding Vietnam, officially comes to an end tonight at midnight, though students have until Tuesday to take the final exam & turn in their essays. About halfway through the course, I started a little essay about my experience up to that point, but I let it peter out & never posted it because I had such an inconclusive sense of what I was doing & how my students were getting along. I have a (somewhat) better sense of that now & will go back to that piece & give it another try. The short version: I liked some things about teaching online & disliked others; I think students got their money's worth (to put it in vulgar terms), but I am not happy with the density of the information flowing in either direction. We (dean, chair, faculty, technical folk) will have to address issues of both pedagogy & technology if we're going make an educational success of our online courses. My department is in the process of hiring a junior faculty member in Literature / Cultural Studies & I have been serving on the search committee. I can't say the duty has been onerous, but it has taken up a fair amount of time. (Not nearly as much time for me as for my colleague who is chairing the committee & has had to schedule visits, make dinner reservations & fill out affirmative action paperwork.) We had a very strong pool of candidates & last week our two finalists came in to give presentations, get endlessly interviewed, go out to dinner, & all the rest. I was impressed with both; each gave a presentation that engaged my full attention & stimulated my imagination. Each would make a fine colleague. Tomorrow morning, the faculty of the department gather to make a decision. I hope we get our first choice, whichever person we settle on, but we are in the lucky position of having an equally qualified backup. It will come down to our evaluation of what specific contributions the person can make to our curriculum, I think. Consequently, I ain't been blogging much. Instead of writing here -- or anywhere, really -- I have retreated into Summer Reading. Last summer, I read almost all one million pages of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, though I ran out of interest about two hundred pages shy of the end of the last book. What is it about summer & fictional series? This year, I have picked up the Patrick O'Brian sea novels that star Lucky Jack Aubrey & his sidekick Dr. Stephen Maturin & their adventures in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. I adopt a light tone here because this isn't the sort of thing I would have expected to find myself reading. But O'Brian, like Robinson, creates a detailed fictional world & psychologically plausible characters. I've read three of the twenty books & probably have energy gor a couple more. Then there is the fact that the fall term starts in about six weeks. I'm actually pretty well-prepared, having taught my scheduled courses many times before, but the academic calender focuses the mind of the professor. The mind of the poet remains somewhat unfocused, though I have been scratching out some drafts I think may have promise. Still some more time for that this summer, I hope, between putting down flooring in the dining room & pulling weeds in the jungle we refer to as our yard. The deer have cropped the hostas back to stalks. We hear loons at dawn.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

1 thought on “Summer Reading / Writing / Blogging / Teaching / Weeding”

  1. SUMMER

    It wishes someone would tear it away
    from its empty life yet it’s never
    felt more confidently calm these two
    competing fantasies it entertains

    back from the coast strolling
    to see what’s grown or gone
    chaos heading out for everywhere
    hungry tendril clouds the same

    and not to be missed its museum
    of small rooms ‘just as it left them’
    the flood drift wall of drought

    only pensive watering long longed-for
    can soothe can pile up against
    such skinny stars.

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