In the mind of the beholder
Oh, tired. That second cup of coffee better do it for me. It's bad enough to get up in the six o'clock dark to walk the dog, but when you wake up an hour earlier -- I heard John's "grandfather clock" chime and could swear it chimed six times, but it must have been five -- well, I lay there wondering if I hadn't set the alarm. I am too nearsighted to see a clock without my glasses, and putting on my glasses … Okay, enough of this.
Yesterday was my first class (teaching) at SF State. I'm teaching not poetry, but a course in the Technical and Professional Writers Program. The first hurdles were tough: getting an ID card and email account and so forth -- and getting this all in the name I use now vs. the name I used as a graduate student. But I've cleared most of those hurdles, and yesterday was the class. Hooboy. I won't say I was awful, but, if I had a buck for every time I said "uh," I could retire and write. So, okay, I guess it will get easier, and I do have a lot of real world experience to impart, but let me say that last night, when I was back home to John's hug and a large glass of wine, it was an immense relief. And now there are just fifteen more classes to go.
Meantime, my contract writing job has gone dormant, which means ouch …
The other day, I sat in my car, eating a tuna sandwich and listening to the public radio while waiting until it was time for my appointment with the TPW director. I was listening to a program discussing the death of -- no, not poetry! -- classical music. The whole discussion was word-for-word identical to those we've all heard bemoaning the lack of audience and respect for poetry. They even had Dana Gioia there (who, by the way, never brought up poetry, though he talked about the necessity of maintaining public school programs for music, journalism, and theatre). Well, they also brought on the prize-winning composer John Corigliano. And he changed the tack of the discussion a bit.
He started talking about how necessary it was for radio to broadcast and people to attend concerts for new music, "classical" compositions by modern composers. This was because of the important "adventure of of learning what you think of what you are listening to." (I hope I got that quote right.) By making critical judgments for oneself, he maintained, one particpated in the art experience. He said he wasn't saying not to listen to the old masters, but that you lacked this experience when listening to a performance of their work. You could listen for all sorts of things in the performance, but you accept that Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and so forth are great.
This rang all sorts of bells with me. For one thing, I remember growing up in NYC and attending fine arts films when I was a teenager. (Yeah, I actually watched movies then, before I was hypersensitive to them.) And I remember once or twice leaving the movie with my friends who would like something and I wouldn't or I would like something that they wouldn't, and what a thrill it was, to think about the reasons and to have an opinion. It was all new then!
I love this part of reading new poetry too, of reading something -- one reason I like tackling poems one at a time, instead of book-wise too -- and savoring it in my mouth and hearing it in my mind and deciding for myself what I think ot it. It brings up that whole idea of different people being ready for art at different times too. But the experience of art for oneself. Think about it.