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happy birthday, gloria steinem. I wish you didn’t matter.

Gloria Steinem spoke at my college graduation back in 1986. At the time, as a graduate of a woman’s college, I thought to myself “oh good lord, her. Couldn’t they find someone more relevant?”  It was the era of “divest now” and “free Mandela;” we’d just spent four years at a single-sex college where “gender issues” were as pervasive as the scent of the clove cigarettes many of us smoked. Yes, …

in defense of poetry, with apologies to Percy Shelley

I spent about six weeks this semester teaching and talking about poetry with my students.  Almost to a person, they started the term with “eh…I don’t much like poetry,” and “I don’t get poetry,” and “what the hell is poetry even about, anyway?” All reasonable questions, I guess, for students who have grown up in a world where they almost never encounter poetry, other than in song lyrics or spoken-word …

in which teaching becomes a metaphor. or something.

Next week I am teaching Virginia Woolf’s brilliant and amazing essay A Room of One’s Own. So on my list of “to do” for the weekend is this note, jotted down while I was in a meeting: “find a way in to Room.” Indeed. Of course, what I meant (I think) was that I need to figure out how to help my students tackle this long essay. But the metaphor? …

if your dinner guests don’t behave, does that make you an ineffective hostess? (from the archives)

One story: this semester, I teach two sections of the same class. One class meets at 930AM and has sixteen students, all of whom are native English speakers.  The students are lively (probably stoked on the morning coffee); they seem to keep up with the reading. The second section meets at 2PM and has twenty-six students, seven of whom are non-native English speakers. It’s a less talkative class and I …

blocked

I came back from summer vacation revving with ideas about writing projects. My mind bubbled with book proposals, blog posts, novel revisions, pitches for magazine articles.  Words and ideas tumbled around in my head like socks in the spin cycle. I was on fire, people, on fire. A Russian composer – Shostakovich, maybe – said you should write everything down because the brain is a fragile vessel (especially if you …