Friday, September 30, 2016

September 30, 2016

Weeks now the sewer-and-road men have closed the street, opened the street, ruined the street, shoddily repaired the street; now great machines run up and down poxing it with little holes and making the traffic pile up on either side, while a little man in an orange vest at the edge of my lawn screams into a communicator. You want to walk out and say, calmly, “that’s enough, now,” and make them all go away.
Rose late this morning, past 7:30, rushed to school without ablutions, discovered I had forgotten the DVD I meant to play for class, turned around, drove home, used the toilet, got the DVD, returned, and had time to chat with Sam for a moment even yet before class began. The DVD was Genius, a quite good view of Thomas Wolfe and Max Perkins in New York. It made me weep with my face turned away from the room.
Email from a student to the administration thanking me for being “understanding and professional” as she was going through problems in her life. Glad that it evens out a little bit.
A week from now The Birth of Color will have premiered at the Kicelli and I will have been in Hungary for a full day and more.

September 29, 2016

The question of what to do an a day off was solved when the packing cartons from nurseries began to pile up. Turned into one of the great gardening days of my life. Weeding projects cleared out the front plots, and into the ground when two kind of flowering maple, five peonies, one exotic arisaema. Out of the ground came almost endless clumps of violet. It’s hard to think of violet as a weed, but when you see it closing ranks over every inch of clear ground . . .  and I’ve made the east sloop down to the woods a violet garden, so it’s not as if it is actual enmity. Then Antonio arrived top cut the grass and atomize the piles of weeds I had left lying around.
Much singing last night and this weekend. Too much, though one might say “no” and one doesn’t.
Apparent firm interest in publishing Peniel. Around that I shall tiptoe as one in a mine field.
Hung Elderflowers in the dining room, and it looks classy and elegant.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

September 28, 2016

Confabulation of owls in my great pine in the night, liquid and eerie music.
Planted yellow crocus.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September 27, 2016

Blessed rain in the night.

My furious student, renews her attacks, demands an audience with my chairman and a vice-chancellor, where she is rebuffed. I want to say “finally” rebuffed, but it is difficult to know where fury will stop. The VC even took the “offending” email to the university attorney to see if there was anything even vaguely protestable. Of course not. She left a sticky note on my door overnight saying “Why Are U Still Teaching Here?”  She got a member of student government to say that my email was “unprofessional,” an analysis pretty hilarious coming from a sophomore. The note–the one and only communication from me to her, amid a see of vituperations coming from her-- said nothing but the truth in the politest possible terms, with an offer of help and support according to her decision, so I’ve been baffled by the whole affair. I’ve been baffled by the hesitation of the system to tell her to shut up and go away, since it was clear from the first she had no grounds for complaint but that vague and inadmssable morass “hurt feelings.” Perhaps w have gone too far in insuring power to the “powerless”; reversal of injustice is not redress of injustice. This is going to go down in history as the time I made a student drop my class, when in fact no such thing happened and, it turns out, cannot happen. Except in rare cases (rarer than this one) only a student can remove herself from a class, which is what she did. Oh well. It’s the small things. . . .
Coffee with Alex, who is in the full flame of young artist-hood and a pleasure to be with.
Andrew visiting my class last night, being eloquent and exuberant.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25, 2016

Rose in darkness and walked under a fragment of moon and brilliant stars, lovely except for one who so longs for rain. I had the city to myself. A cat talked to me from the school parking lot, but he seemed fat and happy and I walked on, so solitary that for the most part I walked in the middle of the street. What I noticed was that I felt miraculously well, the aches and stiffnesses that made me murmur “ouch!” at almost every movement gone. The bit of gardening I did yesterday loosened me up? The steroid Dr. Hicks gave me for gout but which I took last night because of the pain? If the latter–if either, now that I think of it–I am saved. It is still night outside.

I have wonderful poems that I forgot I had written, I’ll bet 200 which have never seen the light of day.

Woke dreaming that I was grading comprehensives, which means I should probably do that in truth some time today.

Prairie Wolf Review takes two poems.

I have been telling people the wrong title for the show I’m “producing.” Bruce sent me an outline. Not electrifing positive, but not a dud.

(Music, lyrics and book by Dave Malloy, directed by Rachel Chavkin. Performances begin at the Imperial Theatre on October 18th)
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (a.k.a The Great Comet) is one of my most cherished discoveries of the past few seasons. The show is by triple-threat author Dave Malloy, and it’s a stunner. Based on one mere thread of the literary tapestry that is Tolstoy’s War and Peace, The Great Comet has a score that artfully weaves in Russian musical idioms into what is an otherwise contemporary score. The show features just a tad too much narration (telling versus showing) for my personal taste, but overall the musical is rich and rewarding. I’m a tad concerned that Malloy’s more recent musical efforts have been alternately baffling (Ghost Quartet) and inert (Preludes), but The Great Comet is thankfully a strong piece in its own right. The big question for the Broadway version is whether Josh Groban, who will be making his Broadway debut as Pierre, has the acting chops for the role. He’s an odd fit: Pierre is grizzled and dyspeptic, two adjectives it would be hard to apply to Mr. Groban. Even so, I’m quite intrigued to see how the show, which was done in an immersive ballroom setting Off-Broadway, will translate to a proscenium stage. Based on the recent American Repertory Theater staging of the show, the show should make the transfer quite handily. Plus, there’s a stunning new song for Pierre that isn’t on the Off-Broadway cast recording, a brooding atmospheric solo called “Dust and Ashes,” which may well have been added to beef up the role for Groban, but it’s a strong song nonetheless, one that adds to the already rich fabric of The Great Comet.

It is apparently a version of War and Peace and had a life off Broadway. Interesting how I get into these things knowing nothing about them. 

Played the original cast album on Spotify. Hmm. “Triple threat Dave Malloy” made an error I could have spared him at the outset– exhausting references to the whole text of War and Peace, when he should have taken the moment of his show as though that’s all there was. Constant jokes about the characters’ many names. I wouldn’t have invested had I heard it first, but it might not be a disaster: the degree to which I and the Great Public differ in our theatrical tastes is legendary. 

4:30. Thunderstorm. Blessed.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

September 24, 2016

Rehearsal for the bishop’s installation. Almost wept with frustration going, though it was all right once I was there.
Planted iris against the fence, then mulched the spot, like covering a sleeping child with a blanket. The dirt was dust. It looked like a movie of people digging graves in the Wild West.
Got together the collection Me with a White Rose in My Hand. Worked hard at writing. Thirsty and exhausted now. Through the study window the northern sky looks green.

September 23, 2016

Cool of evening. I spent the last hour watering slow, thorough, aiming the hose until pools gathered under the leaves, determined that if the sky was not going to do its duty I would. The swamp hibiscus had collapsed on the ground for lack of water. The small red one in front is lifting itself up even now. I expect that great white in back to be erect again by morning.
Wonderful reading last night in the Reuter’s Center, Wiley-organized. I wasn’t a fan of the book being read from, but I was of the great crowd gathered for the sake of literature,
Z claims to have held his breath four minutes this morning, based on exercises developed by a man called “The Ice Man,” because he can endure low temperatures and climb Everest in his shorts and the like. I don’t know that I need to hold my breath for four minutes, but there must be some general good to be derived from such an achievement.
The last sky behind a few bunched-up clouds is cruel and fiery azure.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

September 22, 2016

Autumn. I do not want to think of it.

Howling of sirens. Somebody has trouble already at this hour of the morning.

The sewer men opened my driveway and installed a little structure way down there, covered it up with dirt, if not yet with pavement. They were actually as unobtrusive as you can be in an enterprise involving jack hammers and bulldozers. I surveyed the hole for a minute, and was disappointed that it was pretty much red clay all the way down, no strata, no fossils, one astonished root.

Niggardly film of rain a few days back, but I must go back to nightly watering. I think I’ve lost half of what I planted this year, between the maniac gardeners and the drought that assailed everything before it had time to root.
Wells Fargo in trouble for opening accounts that customers didn’t authorize. Years ago I myself got a call from the banker who’d helped us through dad’s crises, and she asked if she could open a savings account with my money, in my name, for if she did she’d get a bonus. I said sure. The account lasted five days, and then she reverted it to what it was before. What if they had all asked? What if they said, “If you let me do this, it will not affect you, and I can have a little extra”? How many would have turned them down? My dad did, but he was himself. 

Wednesday ended badly. Unspecifically ill, or rather miraculously run-down, I stayed home and spent the evening reading Virginia Woolf.

TIAA-CREF lady here yesterday to help me through plans for retirement. It’s a lot of bother, though not as much bother as it might be. She admired my garden. It occurred to me that David should have power of attorney, being both young enough certainly to survive me, and on my side.

Defiant reaction from my student at the suggestion that she should drop my course. She threatened to tell all sorts of authorities, not knowing that they had already been informed through the elaborate, and very much student-favoring, process. Her determination to “do better” is sad, because she cannot; the problem was never application, which she has, but native competence, which she does not have. In a normal lecture-style class this could be accommodated, but in a workshop her every anxious and wide-of-the-mark contribution veers everyone off course. She should not have been admitted, but I can’t blame admissions because admittance from a community college is–alas!–automatic. I try to put myself in her place. She is used to fighting for herself, and that is admirable, but it has also gotten her to a place well beyond her abilities, maybe past the point where sheer defiance can avail. K said she probably got through community college with a series of “accommodations.” Here is where that faults of that policy begin to tell. I can see physical accommodations for bright, disabled students, but sometimes we are asked to allow compensation for the lack of intellectual ability. Should that be part of a university’s mission? Should a diploma not be a kind of seal of guarantee, saying “This Person Can Do the Work”? I must say that when I’ve been handed a note for special accommodations from a student, they have never actually needed them, and did just fine. In this case, there was no letter for accommodation. She is trying to bull through on her own. What is the right thing? Luckily, many are in on the decision.  She may hate me now and want on her own to put distance between us.

Sunnyspot says ticket sales for The Great Comet are outstanding already. Fingers crossed.

Continued escalation on the part of the student. She wants me to be punished. She pretends to be ill and never to be “able to get over it.” Her parents are outraged and wonder what sort of institution they have committed their precious one to. She resents that I have “won” and wants some sort of punishment for me to even things out. She wasted our time in the class, and continues to waste it now that she is out. I allowed the possibility that this may be a message from the Universe, in which I was to divine comparison to my problems with the Boy. But for it to be comparable, the student would have had to be the best student in class, whom I resented because her writing was better than mine. But, to an onlooker, the situations may be comparable in the degree of possible redress. I can’t imagine who is going to listen seriously to her; certainly nobody listened seriously to me.

September 20, 2016

Still nursing my back.
Still having problems with my “special needs” student. It is a resignation of the responsibility of the administration not to provide her with facilities and personnel pertinent to her situation. Or not to have the courage not to admit her. She does not belong in my class. She does not belong in college. Her presence is ruinous, consuming, unfair to the others. Don’t know whom to speak with. Don’t know how to get past what I assume will be the party line about inclusiveness.  Don’t know for sure whether I’m being a concerned pedagogue or an asshole.

Monday, September 19, 2016

September 19, 2016

Little bulldozers devour the pavement in front of my house. One of them digs into the strip of grass between my holly wall and the street. I go out and ask “Did you lose something?” and the big handsome sewer guy smiles and says they’re looking for the phone cables, etc, which should be, and miraculously are, right there. No danger to my hollies after all, but I think losing the end of the drive cannot be avoided. They put the barriers every which way to keep from limiting access to my drive, and I’m grateful.
I rather like bulldozers, when I think of it.
Sicut cervus Sunday morning. Music could have stopped at Palestrina and been perfect.
Paradise Lost at 8 AM.  Though I tried manfully to stave it off, but burst into tears reading the last twenty lines or so of Book 12. I think the point was made. One student said she rode somewhere with her mother and spent the whole time talking about Paradise Lost.
Tired and buzzing with electric intensity at the same time. I don’t remember this.
Photos online of my niece Beka looking stunning at her wedding.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

September 17, 2016

Heroic gardening led to a painful back that Z only partially alleviated. Limited what I did today to what could be done standing straight or sitting down, nothing in between. Good day at the studio, though, with several visitors and gratifying progress in several projects.
Stopped for gas, noting that gas stations everywhere were jammed because of a pipeline break in Alabama. Don’t know if there is no gas really, or there is no gas because everyone feared there would be none and so bought it up. The Prius has a full tank. The truck is empty, because A and M borrowed it to move his brother back to his apartment, and A said, “I really meant to fill it up afterwards, but all the pumps were empty.” Of course. I got my Prius fill-up at the Shell station behind a woman who was taking up two pumps because she wasn’t thinking, and who went in to shop and get coffee before she pumped her gas, with fourteen cars lined up behind her. You figure out why murders happen.
The garden I planted at the Phil Mechanic is aflame with orange canna. I pulled at some of the weeds, but they were too firmly established for the casual application I was in the mood for.
Edward Albee is dead. He is a famous person with whom I had a couple of casual and one really awful formal conversation. He was great company so long as we were talking about his plays, which I was actually glad to do. He hated my play in Valdez, loved my play in Houston. I think he felt he had to hate the one in Valdez, or lose his reputation for liking plays only by handsome young men. I have thought about him a great deal. To me he was a false standard that I had, somehow, to find a way to true. I have been in several– five or six or more-- of his works as an actor. I do not think he was a great playwright, or even a very good one, but he did have a remarkable, almost supernatural talent for making people take crabbiness and smart-alecky-ness and self-gratification for a kind of greatness. And I think he knew this, and that cunning smile of his was pleasure at getting away with it for fifty years. He was a very smart man and he made that look like he was writing good plays. But I do miss him. More than I would have imagined. A wall I leaned against, that I could find my location by, is gone.

September 15, 2016

Boiling cauldron of a day. Activities & emotions. I did, after all, sell off equities and buy into The Great Comet of 1912. The way to do it and the will to do it came like an inspiration in the middle of the night. The budget is 13 million dollars, so I won’t be going down alone, if I go down. Bruce thinks I’m going to be able to come to parties and receptions every couple of days in New York.
Strenuous gardening under the lordly sun. Just coming to terms with the volume of mulch necessary to do the mulching I’ll find necessary. The frog yikes in his pond, and I am happy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September 14, 2016

Distant thunder, which I take to be a feint. I drag the hose from plot to plot, promising to keep my flowery friends alive until the sky comes to its senses.
Yike says the frog arcing into the pool. He alone has sufficient water.
Strange combination in recent days of electric excitement and exhaustion. I wonder if the hemoglobin is low again, or perhaps the excitement brings its own shadow with it. It has been months– no, years-- since I had so many balls in the air. Or any balls to speak of at all. At JB’s invitation I sent four plays to him in New York. On one hand, it is a victory already, for the plays are good and if he is going to choose any serious work, it will be them. On the other hand, I send them just as they want me to invest in The Great Comet with Josh Groban, which I would do if I could put my hands on $25,000, which of course I cannot. When I went to look at my investments toward that end, the market was down 200 points and my portfolio a sea of red. So, here’s hoping it’s not meant to be reciprocal. Like a driver skidding on ice, I lean back, take my foot off the brake and let it unfold.
Good, participatory classes, even so early in the morning.

September 13, 2016

    L reassembles the shower doors. The house, it turns out, is out of plumb.

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016

Classes (where they were writing exams, and I therefore wild with impatience), then home to water the collapsing gardens. My rain-dance tonight in the dark of the garden. Read Mann while they wrote, and was inspired to start a story not utterly unlike his.
Steeltoe Review takes “In the Dark Field,” a redoing of my Dollywood piece. First time I sent it out revised. A kind of luck continues.
Final take-away of the BH contretemps: Don’t underestimate the malice of a little man.

September 11, 2016

The Anniversary. Thomas preached this morning, and remembered watching the destruction of the Towers from a bus station in Honduras. I think the Towers and Islam are a little like myself and the yellow jackets. Once stung, the enemy becomes implacable, even cruelty able to look like justice and protection.
    You should not have stung.
    But it was our only way to fight back.
    You should not have stung. I cannot sleep until the nest is rooted out.
The cleaning lady finally managed to demolish the shower apparatus, doing so in such a way that it fell apart, finally, at the ghost of a touch, when I was inside of it, naked, prancing around trying to keep fifty pounds of plate glass from shattering. Managed it, but only just. Warned a dozen time not to touch the outer glass panel, she tried to pull it shut, loosening all the fittings, so when I walked into it, it was balanced on a film of air. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 10, 2016

Throwing food into the mouths of golden fish while my turtle and my frog played in the shallows. Watering, watering, watering, determined to lose nothing until the rains return.
Went to the studio. Spent the first several minutes peeling used condoms off the floor and windowsill, moving canvases and furniture to see where further examples might have been flung. L has been using my studio, more or less carelessly, for a couple of years, but this is the first time I realized he had turned it–as my neighbors hinted he had–into a bathhouse. Painted some afterwards, but the spirit was out of it. Facebooked him and demanded the keys back. He owned it all and supplied a majestic apology, so the issue is closed.
Sketched some in pencil, which I almost never do. Remembered why. 

September 9, 2016

Days like paintings of days, still and blue, clouds like paintings of clouds nearly still at the horizons.
The swamp hibiscus that the gardeners destroyed are in bloom. Their undestroyed cousins are in bloom too, so perhaps they lost no time at all growing back up from wounded nubs. But, like all who have lost, I would prefer them as they were going to be.

Friday, September 9, 2016

September 8, 2016

Watered the garden, though it’s largely a gesture to keep the poor things alive through another day of blazing clear dry air. I like the dry clear air, but I can go to the spigot on my own and drink.
Two frogs, I think, one considerably larger than the other. He can make it easy from the rim of the pond to the center in a leap.
Coffee with T. He doesn’t believe me that imitating other artists will not, after the first flush of youth, further you in artistry.
No acceptances or productions today. One happy day and I’m spoiled.
Developed Mother Midnight’s Oratory for the creative writing program. That title has been running in my head for a quarter of a century.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

September 7, 2016

From the editor at Transcendent Zero Press: I  judged from your poetry that you are a scholar and a serious student of Biblical texts, as well as Jewish writings.

I love your poems. They tantalize, intrigue, and stupefy the imagination a bit so it has to run around its own corners. The poems are lovely.

I have to admit, though, of the first poem I can't make heads or tails-- is it intended to have political consequences? Today's political strife would definitely drive one to write. Or is this a broader religious/spiritual truth you aim at? I wrote a short writing about the future of poetry and how it would illuminate the "poverty of our lives" using common waste and formal structure as one. I mention this because perhaps the poem is stretching a common conception that Earth is a place of doubt, a "purgatory" of sorts.

I have to admit I can't decide between these poems and would be happy to publish them all in our winter edition, due December 15.

Dustin Pickering, Editor-in-Chief

also, on the same day:

Congratulations, Night Music has been selected to be the next New Play Project and will receive a full production from the Drama Center January 19-22 as the kickoff event for the 15th Annual Greensboro Fringe Festival. This year was a very competitive process, and I was excited when the panel had placed your script into the top five for me to read. I love the descriptive/poetic dialogue and progression through time and relationships. Phil, Cleve and Jesse create a complex and beautiful world, ripe with emotion and the anxiety of growing. I’d love to find a time for us to talk over the phone, get to know each other and go over some of the nuts and bolts of the NPP and the award. We have not sent out a press release yet, but will most likely tomorrow or the Tuesday after Labor Day ( in hopes of garnering a little more buzz!). For that we’d love it if you could send a brief Bio and preferred “Head Shot”.  A synopsis of Night Music would also be helpful Please feel free to reach out if you have any immediate questions, I am looking forward to working with you and Night Music.

Todd Fisher, City Arts Coordinator, Drama Center Director
Parks and Recreation

City of Greensboro

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September 6, 2016

The hen-and-chicks on the porch has been blooming in its pot on the porch for most of the summer. I sat in the living room as an emerald hummingbird descended and drank from the coral pink flower, all surrounded by the gold haze of late afternoon. It was unspeakably beautiful. The Artificer is all the time conjuring such moments, hoping we will forget the general botch of things, and we do. Quiet Labor Day, some gardening, some sending out of manuscripts, binge-watching of The West Wing. Something–maybe it was the hummingbird on the flower, maybe something on the TV-- stabbed me with the realization of how trivial I am most of the time, agonizing over my little life when children disappear and cities go up in flames. I don’t know what to do about it. It’s all the theater I have to play in, yes, the one I’m clearly meant to play in, but one would like, from time to time, a little perspective.

I wanted to contribute to a magazine called Halcyon, which asks for serene and restful poems, that bring calm and a sense of repose. After a few minutes’ search I realized I had nothing like that at all. 

September 5, 2016

Facebook post from Y. I remember saying, in the midst of my infatuation, “someday we won’t remember who each other was.” Almost true already. Took the spade to some overgrown parts of the new garden. I was going to wait until autumn and the space could actually be planted, but it looked too unruly. I watched the ground for signs of yellowjackets the whole time.
I think my aversion to choir camp is specifically to Lake Logan. I woke in terror, thinking I was in the room at Lake Logan. It took me a full minute to settle down and realize I was home. This is irrational. I can think of no bad experience there. Maybe the invisible world is warning me to expect one.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

September 4, 2016

Yellowish afternoon. Choir camp was endured.  Lake Logan stood in all her late summer beauty. I can’t explain why every second there makes me frantic. Might be no reason at all. Phlebitis came upon me as I walked from the dining hall, and I felt the waves of microscopic battle cross under my skin as we sang. But I had anticipated it from pain in my leg, and took the medication and in the end I had the victory. I slept all the free period, but at night I was visited by strange dreams. My roommate was snoring, so I took blanket and pillow into the living room where I slept on the couch, and had a dream where I was a new boy in a very exclusive school. The staff was all beautiful women, and when I admitted (I think I was about 16 in the dream) that I had never seen a vagina, they undressed and showed me theirs. The vaginas were made of gauze and jeweled lattice and fine paper, all exquisite, and not what I was expecting at all.
Hoed and water reaching home, resenting the delay.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

September 3, 2016

A carton of roses arrives from Oregon, and as my weekend is gobbled up by choir camp, I dig them into the ground by the darkening sky of evening, laving it to God to water them.

September 2, 2016

    Cantaria sings for the old folks at the Givens Estates, scores a hit. Drinks afterward at the Wayside to celebrate my birthday.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Last Evening of My Middle Years

September 1, 2016

Was at my space at the Riverside before dawn yesterday, and when I looked up, in the first light, a heron was flying directly overhead. Best of all possible signs. Then in the evening I went down to the pond to right the pot of papyrus which the wind had blown over, and when I did, a leopard frog rocketed away from my feet with a piercing yike! My first resident amphibian, in whom I rejoiced. Heard him singing briefly a little later on. Spent the last evening of my middle years sitting on my bit of back porch writing poetry. It was good. I was happy. The white swamp hydrangea clustered like a fistful of stars.
Calliope magazine has taken one of my Hungary poems, the first to see the light.

I made it rain by dedicating myself to a long garden watering. No sooner had I turned the nozzle when moisture began to fall from the sky. Blessed.
My students are not actually impolite. They would be appalled to be accused of impoliteness. They simply have had no training in what constitutes the theater of the private and the theater of the public. There is no public or corporate moment for them, no adaptation of immediate impulse to the social situation. Young lady yesterday comes in with a plate of scrambled eggs, proceeds to consume them in class. Another young lady unwraps a power bar, eats it, gets up (from the exact middle of the room) to throw the wrapper in the trash while I am lecturing. She sits down, peels a banana, consumes it, takes the peel to the trash while I am lecturing. I stop each time and stare. Finally she stares back and says, “Oh, you’re stopping because of me.” She’s surprised. I say, “The class is 75 minutes long. Adults can probably sit and concentrate for that long.”  She says, “What if we need to stretch or something?” I say, “The class is 75 minutes long. Adults can probably sit and concentrate for that long.” I could see that it never crossed her mind that classroom decorum should be any different from her and her friends in the dorm. Deep and unchallenged sense of empowerment.
I nap, anyway, like a champion. I did the math, and it still–what with me going to bed late and rising early– does not exceed eight hours. So--