Thursday, June 12, 2014

A New Poet Laureate

And so, we have a new Poet Laureate:  Charles Wright.  I confess to being unfamiliar with his work.  I'm fairly sure I've come across his name as I've scanned the poetry shelves and anthologies in the past 20 years. 

How unlike when Natasha Trethewey, outgoing Poet Laureate, was named.  I felt a soaring happiness.  I knew her work and loved it; I had seen her read to an audience of community college students.  She had a long question and answer session at the end of a long reading, and she took all of those students so seriously.  She radiated generosity.

It's no wonder that I haven't heard much about Wright; he's older, 79, and seems to be somewhat reclusive.  I loved this line at the end of an article about him in The Washington Post:  "For now, our next poet laureate is off to Montana for three months. His house there doesn’t have a phone, but there’s an answering machine in a shed about 10 miles away. He checks it twice a week."

I have been feeling pressure to get a smart phone; then I can tweet and text and be even more in touch than I am right now.  I love this alternate example of how to live a literary life. 

Yes, I find myself longing for space and quiet--yet when I get a stretch of quiet, I look to fill up the silence.  Hmmmm.

What would it feel like to have that quiet space carved out and then to get the call that you've been selected to be Poet Laureate?  Yes, my dream job, to be Poet Laureate of the U.S.--my improbable dream is to get that phone call.

But for now, I carry on in my regular job.  Yesterday was a day filled with lots of discussion of education and theory and practice--how to give our students what they need, from the time of admission to the time of job searching.  It's not the same kind of conversation as the ones I'd have as U.S. Poet Laureate, but the topic interests me nevertheless.

I thought of the job of college teacher yesterday as the news trickled in of Eric Cantor's defeat--to a regular college professor.  Not only that, the contender for the house seat also teaches at Randolph-Macon College.  What an interesting season that college is about to have.  I confess that I'm both mildly jealous and also happy not to be in that kind of spotlight.

The work of the school has to go on, after all.  No matter who is running for office, there's assessment work to be done and accreditation records to be kept and all the various classroom issues to keep in order.

But before I plunge back into that, there are poems to be written in the pre-dawn of the work day.  The narrative arc of our new Poet Laureate shows that this kind of daily work, accumulated over a long life, can be just as important as the Byrons of the poetry world, who write their important work and blaze off this planet early.

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