Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Inspiration is in short supply today: there's nothing I even want to read, let alone write. Which is a shame since I'm working in the bookstore today, surrounded by books, notebook at the ready. The news is distracting—is this Najaf thing going to turn into the equivalent of blowing up the Temple Mount? (In some ways my views of Middle East politics are still guided by the not half-bad analysis performed by Tom Robbins in his 1995 novel Skiny Legs and All.) And although I still want to see Kerry elected, his strategy of hewing to the mainstream and refusing to make any big gestures—like, say, denouncing the war he's still on record as supporting—depresses me. It's like we, the liberal base of the Democratic party, are being winked at: just go along for now and I'll take care of you when I'm elected. But if he doesn't verbalize a commitment to the left, it doesn't exist. The phrase "rightward drift of the country" irritates me so much. Is it really true? Who decides these things? Is there really a progressive tradition in this country or are we just living in the increasingly tattered remnants of a New Deal that represents a mere deviation in the history and policies of a nation whose national motto up to that point was, and now seems to be again, "I've Got Mine, Jack"? Faugh. It doesn't help that Ithaca, island of liberalism in a working-class Republican (that ought to be an oxymoron, damnit) region, has been re-invaded by students who radiate oblivousness, entitlement, and raw destructive force (in their parents' SUVs, in the broken bottles on the sidewalk). We're our own Little Baghdad, invaded by ourselves.

So it's hard, as ever, to concentrate on the dissertation, though I did do some actual thinking about it yesterday for the first time in weeks. Also read Rosmarie Waldrop's wonderful essay "Alarums and Excursions" in The Politics of Poetic Form. One of the most lucid statements proponing experimental poetry that I've ever come across. I wish I had known about it in time to have my creative writing students read it last year.

Still feeling a desire to do something with narrative, eventually. But not like a fiction narrative with characters and backstory and all that. More like the way a dance can be narrative—the way any two people on a stage have a relationship just because they're on the stage together. Or how any one person alone on the stage has a relationship with themselves and their movements and the audience. First, though, I'd like to finish Severance Songs. How to do it? Just pick a number and stop there? Or do all those sonnets need some kind of frame—some prose, somewhere? What if I gave them all titles? Lots to ponder, little time or space to do the pondering in.

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