Sunday, March 18, 2007

Back from the (Blogging) Dead

It's been nearly a month since I last posted, but it feels like a year. The last three weeks have coincided with the final stretch of one of the toughest quarters I've ever had, a marathon of reading (with one graduate and two undergraduate fiction workshops, and more reading, since I had honors students in several genres, and still more reading, since we were hiring in two areas, I was on an admissions committee, etc., to the extent that I got one of my severe multiday headaches a week or so ago, right after classes ended, and had to return to wearing my glasses whenever I get close to a text or computer screen). But tomorrow marks the last hurdle or so, because grades will be due and I'll be done (at least for a week or so). I've taught three classes in a quarter before (though as far as I remember they weren't all fiction reading and writing classes), but I'd never had so many administrative duties to juggle on top of everything else. I've been making my way slowly through the 40 or so final revisions (and some tardy exercises, annotations, and so forth) for days now.

With each successive quarter, I realize more and more than 10 weeks is simply not enough time* for undergraduate fiction writing courses in which students are expected to read several stories by published writers each week, produce 4-5 exercises, and complete two short stories (even though a revision of only one is required by the end of the quarter), and how remarkable our students' productiveness really is. But you work with the constraints you have, and I thought all three workshop classes went well, though both the students (especially the undergraduates) and I were exhausted by early March. A number of the manuscripts show real progress, underlining yet again for me what all the grueling work, by my students and me, has ultimately been for. I'll definitely appreciate this break more than in previous years....

*A few years ago, I was admitted to and participated in a year-long university teaching improvement program, and the lengths of instruction periods did arise. I cannot remember the exact figures, but I think it took students something like 4-5 weeks even to begin to fully grasp the materials they'd been taught, and so 13-15 week terms (i.e., semesters) were probably closer to the optimal length.


Here are a few pictures from the last three weeks. I was able to get to a few events, including the "Out of Sight: New World Slavery and the Visual Imagination" conference that my colleagues Huey Copeland and Krista Thompson organized with Wayne Modest, Director of Museums at the Institute of Jamaica, a few weeks ago; an exhibit at the Around the Coyote Gallery featuring one of Audiologo's sound pieces; a Cave Canem 10th Anniversary weekend event at Notre Dame University in South Bend; and Toni Asante Lightfoot's reading from her manuscript in progress at Naïeveté Studios. I didn't get any photos of Yvette Christiansë's reading at the university, nor of talks by Jean Franco and Edwin Hill, which were also highlights, but if I find the time to blog about them, I will.

Poet Heather McHugh, who was visiting poet-in-residence for the spring quarter

At Around the Coyote Gallery in Chicago, for the GeoPhonoBox opening

Audiologo's piece, "Interior Chorus/Chorography for the ATL" (2007)

Another piece, featuring sounds from the Golden Gate bridge

Audiologo, Mendi and Keith listening to sound pieces

The university library's exhibit focusing on 50 years of African independence

A vitrine featuring the invitations for the inauguration of Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana gained its independence from Britain in 1957)

Keith and Mendi Obadike presenting their work at the "Out of Sight: Slavery and Visual Culture" conference

Other participants listening to Keith (at right): from left: Keith Piper, Fred Wilson, unidentified person, Barnor Hesse

The final panel at the "Out of Sight: Slavery and Visual Culture" conference, from left: Keith and Mendi Obadike, Hank Willis, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, the student discussant, and Barnor Hesse

I-90, heading south towards downtown Chicago (I had a giant bolt in my rear tire and had to pull over shortly after taking this photo), as I was driving to South Bend

Cornelius Eady, co-founder of Cave Canem, welcoming everyone to the mini 10th Anniversary program he hosted at the University of Notre Dame

Arnold Rampersad, who delivered a marvelous, informal keynote talk

Toi Derricotte, Cave Canem co-founder, introducing Rampersad

Rampersad delivering his keynote

Some of the extraordinary Cave Canem poets: from left, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Ross Gay, and A. Van Jordan

At the legacy panel: interviewer Ivy Wilson, and Cave Canem co-founders Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady

At Naïeveté Studios in Chicago, Toni Asante Lightfoot reading from her manuscript-in-progress on Moms Mabley (as people say, she had "been in the lab"!)

In New York City, the rising real estate prices have driven out one of my favorite spots, TLA Video (this is also where I first met poet and publisher Zach Barocas)

And more casualties: for decades the spot for affordable and distinctive shoes, 8th Street in general has been feeling the effects of rising real estate values. Many of the shoe stores are being pushed out, for who-knows-what--more Starbuckses and CVSes and McDonaldses?....


  1. Welcome back from the dead. My own resurrection has me marveling that Jesus only took three days.

    Obviously, I haven't been listening when I teach about hubris.

  2. hey john:

    on the downswing of completing students grades for the first term of the second semester...and its rough. was up ALL NIGHT on sunday doing grades, doing last minute grading, etc. i didnt go into work today because i didnt finish until 6:30am (!!!!!!!) i should be done tonite grades are due tomorrow.

    so i know how you feel...enjoy your upcoming vacation!

  3. Keguro, are you back to blogging, or just writing and thinking and creating for your own private delectation?

    Ryan, good luck! Grading is often harder than teaching, I think, especially if you don't use a set rubric.

    Bill, yes, the stress...though three courses in and of themselves could work fine together. Three fiction writing courses, however, entails more eyepower than Superman could muster....

  4. I'm back to blogging--to writing, actually. It seems I can't disconnect academic work from other stuff.

    If you get a chance, my "latest" (though dated) effort is in the new Wasafiri. I'm told self-promotion is not a bad thing.

  5. John, thanks for showing my work, and the humorous photo of us bent over the audio art. It was great to see you, and so glad you survived until Spring Break. I had to work through mine, but on the seventh day I'm resting (little nod to Keguro's comment on hubris).