Summer Grades, and the Drinking’s Easy

At lunchtime squirting and stirring the purple energy concentrate into the ice water from breakfast, having woken up too early thanks to the housebroken though leaky diapered beagle pup (we suffer his rare condition despite the studies that say the surgery’s so expensive and unreliable you might as well put the dog down), I feel the first kick of that mindset so treasured among chronic graders of papers: the wired, heady resolve to blast through the payload–a mere near-week after the deadline–while knowing dead-certain this effort will last the weekend–and then, bless it, starts two weeks of summer camp for the littlun. By which point who knows, maybe I’ll have dispatched the assignments and can throw my highlighted rubrics at every single discussion post just a day or two late while receiving definitely fewer than a dozen student inquiries about asterisks in their gradebooks and then BAM–I can write another blog post and practice German. “Die Welt ist voller Widerspruch.”


So what was this lice infestation about? Recognizing that you’re never safe, not even on summer break. 

Word GermsĀ 

What is essential in the weeks to come is that I establish the context of my poetry (which is prose) as outside the gates of self-censorship and well within academic precedent: I did indeed study both modernism and German, just not so much together as I intend to do now. But I’m 7 years out of grad school and so will approach the study just as I did before grad school, independently pursuing a haunted aesthetic of irony and hope–for alternate worlds and literary forms. How glad I am that I opened up NYbooks’s website tonight and landed on a review of Marjorie Perloff’s Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire. The Kindle sample is fantastic, promising precisely what I need to read right this minute…


There must be some reason it’s so rare I sit through my recorded drumming sessions in search of bites for my blog. Because I’ve already had that experience and don’t feel it’s necessary to relive it. It won’t be anything like what I experienced; it’ll be a shoddy representation. You weren’t in my head in that moment, you didn’t hear it as I did. Which isn’t to say it will suck, but it won’t pop. It’ll just be fast and spastic but mostly unsurprising; recorded drums without a live audience or video have this thing to overcome: the speedy humdrum. That is far from the issue with the experience itself, where I throw out so many beats and fills in such a short space and then repeat the exercise in a new and more radical combination than the previous, until I am cruising on endorphins and realize I’m running out of ideas even if I still am energized–and so it is just that, exercise. Might as well hop on a treadmill. So if it’s that, then ramp up the speed and spend all the energy, wind down until clever again. Likely I’ll forget that trajectory when I listen to the recording weeks, months later. I won’t know what’s going on because I’m not actively listening anymore, I’m grading, so with all the witless thrashing I might as well have just, yes, jumped on a treadmill. (There is one in the next room, after all, plus a rowing machine and a stepping machine that I think I paid 80 bucks for: thanks, Craigslist, for providing this house with decent equipment that we reject in favor of what they’ve got at the gym 15 minutes down the rushed and harried road to Columbia, at a gym we pay a fortune to guilt ourselves into staying more or less constant with.) But what’s missing from this scene are the days when I do not record: they are, in fact, vital. Never play an instrument only to be recorded; it causes that old conflict of interest of ends and means and what justifies what. One day, I will listen regularly to these tracks with discretion and compassion. I will cut and paste the moments and internalize the injunction I so frequently make while editing: Stop hitting things every few minutes or measures, it makes for an easier cut! Hell, sniff out the decay of that giant ride cymbal, that betrayer of all interstitial subtly, announcing the connectedness of every single moment–nothing was planned or executed with a view towards permanence, was it, it was all for the fleeting ephemeral. And if I don’t make good on that promise to keep it episodic, I have these moments that might not be easily extracted but which all speak of spontaneous playful rage. Everything, in short, that I have just described, is a virtue. None of this is cause for regret. Except the diction.