24 May 2010

Project Vacuum

After having had about eight months running of creative projects, mostly collaborative, I have almost nothing on my plate, and so it's mostly free time right now as I wait for my summer teaching to kick in mid-June (a graduate seminar on Whitman--pretty sweet, huh?). 

So predictably, the first order of business is cleaning the floors, reading some random books of poetry, and catching up on my New Yorkers and several literary magazines (including Crab Creek Review). 

But what's so odd about all this is dealing with my own nonchalant attitude about my forthcoming book, Gods & Money, which will be out next month.  I've got gigs lined up, and I'll do my publicity blasts and adept peddling, but I probably won't have a formal book launch until fall sometime after the snowbirds return.  I'm genuinely proud of the book, counting my good fortune and all, but I am going through one of my poetry cooling stages (this kind of fits with my complicated and imperfect metaphor of poetry writing as a process of nuclear fission, trying to free those lighter, crazy careening neutrons). 

Or, what it might be, really might be, is that I'm tired of the linking of my art thing to academic review.  I think that's one reason why I've had such fun with the fringe work, which is very serious, that I have been involved in:  amateur acting, auto-performing, art collaborations, dance collaborations.  I'm not degreed in any of that stuff, and they are the kinds of activities that don't readily "count" in my annual review of "scholarship." 

The standard expectation regarding academic scholarship is that your career follows a steady, ever-climbing trajectory, and every year, as a part of my annual review, I am supposed to write a narrative of my scholarship that shows continual improvement--it's a script really, one that even the most hardened of post-structuralists happily adheres.  In short, one's academic work is supposed to  get better published, reviewed, and cited, a progression that culminates in some big final collected volume.  But I'm usually the one in faculty meetings to cite the exceptions of geniuses, or late bloomers, or mathematicians who shoot their wads at age 25, or poets who loaf and look at blades of grass. 

So, sometimes in reaction to that expectation, I just want to stop.  Or get off.  No, it's not that I feel that my work is so precious it can't deal with that kind of review.  Actually, I'm such a freakin' boy scout in submitting my annual reports on time, all according to expectations.  And I've gone through all the hoo-hah of associate and full professordom.  And it all seems so very beside the point.

I'm genuinely proud of the poetry I've written this past year which has had nothing to do with publication at all, but all with performance.  What's more, I know that the poems I've written for the performances wouldn't really hold up as poems unto themselves, and neither would I like them to stand alone.  And not surprisingly, I feel better about my exceptionally narrow range of acting skills, and more severely limited tap-dancing, feel better about the voice poems I shared in speaking with a co-actor and which were choreographed, than I do about the prospects of my forthcoming book and having to write about it in my annual review next year.

Anyway, I'm not so sure, these days, that I'll fill this vacuum with the same old stuff.  

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