Wednesday, November 28, 2007

wherein I attempt to weed out my library

The English club at New SLAC is having a book sale to raise money for Cool Trip That I Seem To Be Organizing This Year. (This is a little alarming, as I do not normally do organization, and my usual approach to travel is along the lines of "buy a plane ticket to City A, and another one returning a month later from City B, and see what happens in between." I suspect that Travel With Student Groups takes a bit more planning. But I digress.)

Anyway, I thought I would donate some books. I already donated a bunch of books to their last book sale, and brought a boxful to the Free Market in Crunchy Granola Town before I moved, so I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel here. And yet, I probably should not be. I have lots of books I will probably never read again. I have some that I've had for years and have never read at all, but I don't want to part with them before I've had a chance to ascertain what they might contain.

My books fall into three broad categories. There are the books I genuinely like and / or find useful for my work, which I obviously want to keep. There are books that I haven't actually read, or read long ago for an undergraduate course, but keep around in a vague hope that I will find them useful someday. These are the ones with titles like Teach Yourself Thai, Orthography in Shakespeare, and Oral Presentations in the Composition Course: A Brief Guide. I might, actually, give serious thought to donating some of these, except I suspect that undergraduates are even less likely to find them useful or interesting than I am.

And then there are the books that have, broadly defined, Sentimental Value. Pretty much all of my travel guides fall into this category, although most of them are outdated. So does the trashy paperback that I bought at the hotel when I visited the University of Basketball as a prospective student; the Shakespeare authorship conspiracy books that a friend gave me as a graduation present; and the copy of The Duchess of Malfi that used to belong to my undergrad American lit prof (whose class was memorable solely because it inspired me to write a short story about a killer copy of Moby Dick that flew around the English department clubbing boring professors over the head, but somehow those memories seem to have acquired a patina of sentiment with time).

In short, everything has sentimental value. I tried an experiment today where I chose a bookshelf at random and tried to remember when, how, and why I acquired each of the books; there were only three or four that stumped me. The rest all had stories. And I find it very, very hard to get rid of a book with a story. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Think interview was neither great nor awful. At any rate, it is Out of My Hands, and that at least is one fewer thing to worry about.

They do not prepare you in grad school for things like having the student member on the search committee ask you questions about the class she's taking with you right now. (Actually, they don't prepare you in grad school for having undergrads on the search committee at all. I keep thinking I should do a whole post about the things your grad school professors won't tell you about interviewing at smaller colleges, except I feel like I should actually get a t-t job before I take it upon myself to dispense advice.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Too. Much. Happening. At. Once.

I have a phone interview for the t-t job at New SLAC. Tomorrow. This is both very good and very ill-timed, as it comes right on the heels of two hours of student conferences for freshman comp, and right before New Colleague's Poetry Reading. And this afternoon, the secretary dumped a pile of writing proficiency exams that need to be scored ASAP in my lap, and the day after tomorrow, I teach Modern American Play That I Have Never Taught Before And Have No Idea How To Teach As Yet.

OK, I have known about this interview for almost a week, so I have theoretically had time to prepare, but dammit, it doesn't count as time if it's over Thanksgiving break!

Clearly, this is the crazy season, and I need to remember that the craziness lifts right around the second week of December and there is a great stillness, and then Christmas. A comforting rhythm. Interrupted by the redoubled craziness of the MLA, these last few years, but at least it's a pause for breath. I remember going for long walks during exam week when I was an undergrad, and being amazed at how suddenly all the deadlines had gone away. I need a long walk now.

Also, one of the writing exams referred to "playing bad mitten," which is one of the more adorable misspellings I have come across. BAD mitten!

Breathe. The day after the day after tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

more job-searchy stuff

Whew, I'm done. Forty-one applications, I think. I amused myself during office hours by making a map of all the places I might be living next year, but I couldn't figure out how to post it without cutting off the eastern third of the country. Anyway, twenty-five different states.

I have never been to twelve of these states. Well, I've sort of been through Ohio, but not in a way that counts. You toss the dice and see where they fall, I guess.

I got to visit some interesting places last year, including one foreign country, so that was cool. Keep your fingers crossed I get to add a few more states to the life-list after this is over.

Is anybody else getting super-twitchy when they refresh their e-mail?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Comments I never envisioned writing on a student paper

"Is every paper you turn in for this class going to have a drunk angel in it?!"

... I guess some people really like drunk angels.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

VAP's Dilemma; or, Yet Another Boring Job Market Post

So, this is my third year on the market. The first time around, I had a half-finished dissertation and no clue what I was doing, so I applied to fifty-odd jobs in the hope that some of them would stick. The second time, I was in a blind panic and applied for every early modern or generalist job on the table, interviewed every which way, and finally ended up in a visiting position here at New SLAC, after one of those fabled late-April miracles.

This year is different. Among other things, they say it's easier to get a job when you have a job, but I'm not sure yet how much easier it is. Then, too, the flip side is that it's a lot harder to apply for jobs when you already have a job, particularly if that job is at a SLAC that emphasizes faculty involvement in the life of the campus, whatever that means. Do I go to the English club meeting, or use the time to revise the teaching statement? Spend the weekend being convivial with the new colleagues, or send applications?

Mostly, I've chosen to put New SLAC stuff first -- partly because I think I have a better shot at being hired for a t-t job here than I do at a place where they've never heard of me before, but mostly because it's what I genuinely want to do. I like this job and I like hanging out with the people here, and I have an uneasy feeling that this, too, is a trap, because for all I know they don't like me enough to hire me for the tenure-track position, and it's best not to get your heart set on any particular job. But I'm here, and this is my life right now, so how am I supposed to not get attached to it?

At this point, it looks like I've definitely caught the attention of a couple of search committees, both at other SLACs that look like they would be quite decent places to work, one of which is in a cool and interesting if rather troubled city. And what worries me is that I should be excited about having one MLA interview lined up and another strong expression of interest this early in the season -- this time last year I would have been jumping for joy -- and this time around I'm not all that excited about these two unknown schools, more worried that I haven't heard anything from the search chair at New SLAC yet. Last year I was all about the great leaps into the unknown, and this year it's like my inner two-year old is stamping her feet and howling "Don't WANNA go anywhere!"

Well -- things will get resolved, one way or another, and in a way it's a comfort to know that so much of the process is out of my hands. It's a bit like getting on the bus in a strange city and seeing where the driver takes you, which is the very best way to take buses, except when you end up at the landfill. (Uh, I'm not sure this analogy is all that comforting after all. Never mind. It's late and I'm tired.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

more poetry

A day late on this one, but it deserves a wider audience, especially now.

A Short Poem for Armistice Day

Gather or take fierce degree
trim the lamp set out for sea
here we are at the workmen's entrance
clock in and shed your eminence.

Notwithstanding, work it diverse ways
work it diverse days, multiplying four digestions
here we make artificial flowers
of paper tin and metal thread.

One eye one leg one arm one lung
a syncopated sick heart-beat
the record is not nearly worn
that weaves a background to our work.

I have no power therefore have patience
these flowers have no sweet scent
no lustre in the petal no increase
from fertilizing flies and bees.

No seed they have no seed
their tendrils are of wire and grip
and buttonhole the lip
and never fade

And will not fade through life
and lustre go in genuine flowers
and men like flowers are cut
and wither on a stem

And will not fade a year or more
I stuck one in a candlestick
and there it clings about the socket
I have no power therefore have patience.

-- Herbert Read

Thursday, November 8, 2007

poetry for an autumn evening

Because after this afternoon's comp class I need something to remind me why I do this, and because all things must pass (except possibly some of the comp students). Yeah, it's been one of those days that leave you feeling vaguely bruised all over, as only very bad classes can do, and I have a feeling it's too late in the semester to hope it will get better.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As on the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

-- William Shakespeare

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon these brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed, since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

-- W. B. Yeats

Monday, November 5, 2007

random and inconsequential job market observations

1) Is it just me, or are a LOT of the affirmative action forms this year asking candidates to identify themselves by name? So much for anonymity. I wonder if they are tracking who responds and who doesn't, or merely trying to give candidates the impression that they are in hopes of inducing more of them to cooperate.

2) If I'm not out of ink, I'm out of paper. And about to be out of envelopes. And if I'm not out of staples, I'm out of paperclips. And I left the damn binder clips at the office AGAIN. This is not a good game for disorganized people, is it?

3) Is there anything more disheartening than applying, yet again, to the school where you didn't get an interview last year? Maybe it shouldn't be disheartening, given that I have a) a diploma in hand; b) a shiny new article coming out; and c) some actual experience as full-time faculty at the type of institution where I'd like to end up, and therefore can reasonably expect to get interviews that I wouldn't have gotten last year, but still, it always feels like I've already shot myself in the foot before I begin.

4) What's up with schools that have stealth requirements in their applications? Like, the MLA ad asks for letter, vita, recs, and transcripts, but then when you go to their web site, the expanded version of the ad strongly suggests that they also want course syllabi and evaluations; or the ad asks only for a letter and vita, but it also says somewhere in the fine print that "recommendations should demonstrate excellence in teaching and scholarship," and you don't know whether to send your letters of rec or not. Or they ask for a "dossier," and you have to figure out what they mean by "dossier," and three weeks later you get a testy note from a secretary asking where your undergraduate transcripts are.

5) This business of looking at department web sites, by the way, is SO not good for those of us who are easily distractable. (Oh, look, they have a pretty building. Hey, I didn't know Edward Albee was still alive. Ooh, department Christmas party pictures! Cute baby! Huh, I wonder what this "poetry blog" thingy is. [Half an hour later] Uh, was I supposed to be applying for something?)