On Monday the fall quarter finally ended, and I can say that while I'm glad that it's over, I enjoyed teaching my two classes tremendously. The graduate fiction workshop comprised a small, talented group of writers, full of insight and dedication, whom I hope to work with again in the future (two will be graduating soon but several are beginning or midway through their MA/MFA studies). The undergraduate honors seminar brought together 17 of the most gifted creative writing students who've been in the program over the last few years. I still marvel at the accomplishment of these student writers, at the reach and depth of their projects, at how hard they worked and how far they got in the quarter's 11 weeks, and cannot wait to resume working with all of them when January arrives. All of my other university work--committee, etc.--continues on through the break, so I can only slow down a little, but I'm nevertheless looking forward to the next few weeks and time away from the campus. I have a number of personal projects underway, and a couple weeks isn't enough time to do much of anything, but even a little mental relaxation should be a tonic.
Since I've been offline a bit, I initially missed the uproar over President Elect Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation. I think it's indefensible, really, and all the PR in the world, even jointly coordinated with sympathetic gay rights groups, isn't going to make up for the fact that Obama selected this hateful person in the first place. WHY? And seriously, out of all the evangelical ministers of note out there, was Warren, who is a Prop 8 supporter, who is against reproductive rights, who has sung the praises of the Syrian regime and who was recently on TV suggesting in good Christian fashion that disagreeable foreign leaders should be assassinated, the best that Obama could find? I mean, didn't he learn anything after his appearance at this man's church during the election season? I understand his desire to reach out to those with opposing views and his aim of transcending the partisan divide (which I think is going to be difficult, at least in terms of the Republican establishment and its media enablers and allies), but why pick this man and this event?
On the other, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies's pick for the inaugural poet is stellar: Elizabeth Alexander!!!!!!!! (She's the fifth poet to read at an inauguration: the others were Robert Frost in 1961, James Dickey in 1977, Maya Angelou in 1993, and Miller Williams in 1997.) On a hunch the other day I told C that she would probably be the pick, and she is a superb choice on so many levels: she's one of the nation's leading poets under 50 and a member of Obama's generation, she's a native Washingtonian, she's grappled with many of the issues of our era in her poetry, and she knows the Obamas personally from their common time at the University of Chicago. I must add that I think the world of her and her work. And she was one of the original Cave Canem faculty members, and one of my favorite workshop leaders ever. She was also one of the first poets to read at the Dark Room ("Omni Albert Murray, Omni Omni, Albert Murray") in 1988, which is when I first heard, read and fell in love with her work. Elizabeth talks about Obamapoetics here (h/t to Amanda Johnston!), and her reaction to her selection here.
I was very happy to see that California Democratic Hilda Solis would be the new Secretary of Labor. I still think there's a dearth of women in the new Cabinet, but Solis is a dynamic Congressperson with a long history of involvement in the labor struggle.
And speaking of the Cabinet, what happened to Adolfo Carrión Jr.? He told Yale students he was getting hooked up, and then...qué pasó?
On another note, I have been following the news about the brutal December 3 hate crime attack in Brooklyn on two Ecuadorian immigrants, Jose and his brother Romel Sucuzhañay, on the news and on blogs like Blabbeando. While Romel Sucuzhanay was able to get away, the attackers left his brother near death. Last Saturday, Jose Sucuzhañay died. Police have yet to find and arrest the three alleged attackers, who originally were said to have yelled anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs, though that account was later revised. A previous anti-Latino attack on Long Island, where a group of teenagers stabbed immigrant Marcelo Lucero to death. As the Daily News article above notes, the earlier murder provoked protests from New York to Latin America.
I'll end there; these posts are harder to put up than ever. I think my brain is shrinking or something; just toggling between this main screen and the hyperlinked posts seems to be a lot harder than it used to. Oh well--I hope to get back to a regular posting schedule when I return from a little trip. Hope is the operative word....