Friday, April 22, 2005

Hate Hate Hate

After many months of listening to this woman prattle on about being a poet, polluting literary analysis with her irrelevant stories and micromanaging her classroom, I have finally managed to get an A on one of my American Literature papers. My instructor teaches film and creative writing in addition to literature and she wears these interests on her frumpy sleeve. Not a class goes by without some mention of a short experimental film she once made or a literary journal she edited. She worked for the Georgia rag alongside Eudora Welty. Well, her name was next to hers at least. That meant a lot to this woman, so much so that she felt the need to mention it in class as if this information would somehow strengthen our understanding of Ms. Welty’s work.

The biggest offense occurred a few weeks back, when we were discussing the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Jeffers, for those who don’t know, was a California poet. He studied everything under the sun and had more than a few things to say about poetry. And he wrote some damn fine stuff. “Be Angry at the Sun”, “The Purse-Seine” and much more.

“I have a story about Robinson Jeffers,” she said, starting the class off; whetting our appetites for a literary tale. We love stories about artists, often more than their work.

“When I was a student at the Occidental College, I used to sit by a monument to Jeffers and think about how he was a California poet, working against the New York publishing system,” she said. “I thought long and hard about what that meant and decided that I was going to become a California poet myself.”

End of story.

I decided to hold my tongue and not point out that this story had nothing to do with Robinson Jeffers and everything to do with her. At that time I was getting nothing but B’s on her one-page papers (papers in which she askes us to be ambitious and come up with grand thesis statements and arguments that are overreaching for one double spaced typed page) and didn’t want the ground I stood upon to be any more shaky. I held my tongue again when she asked how we liked Mark Doty’s poetry reading. I wanted to tell her that I did not care for poetry readings. I like the printed page more than the spoken word. Listening to a poet read, I usually grow bored and never am able to reread the juicy lines. I am forced to go at their pace and this fosters some sort of resentment within me. And I hate the way poets seem to think it necessary to preface their work with a story or an explanation. If the poem is good, the message will not be lost. Fuck your condescension.

My instructor does love to refer to herself as a poet, so much so I have started counting the references in every lecture. Her record is twelve, but I am confident she’ll top it in the remaining weeks of this semester (two, thank Christ). I suppose if I were to publish something akin to poetry, I too would brag. I would walk around and greet everyone with, “Salutations to you on this crisp afternoon” and casually slip a copy of the Pan-Kansas Review of Unknown Writers on my hapless students. Quote Judy Blume: “Then again, maybe I won’t.”

The problem is that I doubt her work is anything like Jeffers, Eliot, Pound, Plath, Twain, Anderson, Faulkner, Fitzgerald or any of the other writers we are studying. Her claim to bring a unique perspective to teaching literature—because she also creates it—is ludicrous on many levels, but mostly because she actually thinks her poesy equals literature. Cocky, smug, contemptible woman. It is safe to say I despise her. She represents everything that caused me to drop out of college in the first place.

Her liberal arts pretensions are not the only problem, but they don’t help. Her fashion sense is a pastiche of Jane Austin and Cyndi Lauper and she struts her scarecrow frame through the halls of my school with the blind confidence of one who has ascended to a lofty position in a stifled cage. The limits of her life have been addressed and met. She is what she always wanted to be: a poet/filmmaker who teaches (badly) in a mediocre university to the witless who cannot afford or get into the U of C. She’ll never have her name in the anthologies, but so long as some irrelevant poetry magazine picks up her scribblings, she’s happy enough. Well, not quite. She must also make sure everyone knows.

I’ll never be famous. I’ll never be published. I’ll probably turn into the same beast with a different body. A pudgy, middle aged professor making crumbs, writing lousy books that never see the light of day and regurgitating old interpretations of romantic poetry to half-dead kids just trying to fill a requirement. I’ll surely cherish my minor accomplishments and strut around, a legend in my own mind. I’ll attend readings, or worse, give them myself. I’ll share some hack verses with students looking to kiss my ass in the name of a passing grade. I’ll wear ill fitting, mismatched clothes and smoke too much and shoot down any viewpoint that contradicts my own. I’ll buy a condo I cannot afford and send my poorly crafted writing to every two-bit rag in the country. I'll sleep every night under a blanket of doubt and self-loathing.

Then again maybe I won’t.

Maybe I’ll pass this class, take better ones taught by better teachers, write better books and actually try and think about the stuff I am teaching. I’ll stimulate young minds and encourage relevant discussion. I’ll never ask my students self-serving questions. I’ll refrain from self-promotion. I’ll aspire to write the brand of fiction that pleases me, fearless, never touting some trivial victory, never making reference to myself a goddamn poet.

Until then, I’ll be happy with the A my Edith Wharton paper received and pray that I never see this woman again.

Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Nothing else matters aside from this passion,
like crippled dreams along the parade.

Besos y besos contigo,
Siempre, mi diosa.