Monthly Archives: October 2009

Octavio Paz, or Iemanja


¿La ola no tiene forma?
En un instante se esculpe
y en otro se desmorona
en la que emerge, redonda.
Su movimiento es su forma.


Las olas se retiran
–ancas, espaldas, nucas–
pero vuelven las olas
–pechos, bocas, espumas–.


Muere de sed el mar.
Se retuerce, sin nadie,
en su lecho de rocas.
Muere de sed de aire.



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Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Anne Waldman


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Controversial Monday Ideas

…that I heard over the weekend. For your consideration:

1. “Student centered classrooms” and “task based learning” have been invented to cover and compensate for having teachers trained in classroom management but not knowledgeable about the subject matter.

2. “Communicative” and “proficiency” oriented language teaching is part of vocational education, not part of a liberal arts education. It is like English as a foreign language, taught in Asia, for instance, so that businessmen from different places have a lingua franca and can read software instructions written in English.

3. If students are majoring in a foreign language, starting with a beginning course on how to speak it, they should also start with other courses in their native language, about the target language and its cultures.



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Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Robert Duncan

I remember clearly when Bending the Bow came out and we read:

My mother would be a falconress,
And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,
would fly to bring back
from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize,
where I dream in my little hood with many bells
jangling when I’d turn my head.

My mother would be a falconress,
and she sends me as far as her will goes.
She lets me ride to the end of her curb
where I fall back in anguish.
I dread that she will cast me away,
for I fall, I mis-take, I fail in her mission.

She would bring down the little birds.
And I would bring down the little birds.
When will she let me bring down the little birds,
pierced from their flight with their necks broken,
their heads like flowers limp from the stem?

I tread my mother’s wrist and would draw blood.
Behind the little hood my eyes are hooded.
I have gone back into my hooded silence,
talking to myself and dropping off to sleep.

For she has muffled my dreams in the hood she has made me,
sewn round with bells, jangling when I move.
She rides with her little falcon upon her wrist.
She uses a barb that brings me to cower.
She sends me abroad to try my wings
and I come back to her. I would bring down
the little birds to her
I may not tear into, I must bring back perfectly.

I tear at her wrist with my beak to draw blood,
and her eye holds me, anguisht, terrifying.
She draws a limit to my flight.
Never beyond my sight, she says.
She trains me to fetch and to limit myself in fetching.
She rewards me with meat for my dinner.
But I must never eat what she sends me to bring her.

Yet it would have been beautiful, if she would have carried me,
always, in a little hood with the bells ringing,
at her wrist, and her riding
to the great falcon hunt, and me
flying up to the curb of my heart from her heart
to bring down the skylark from the blue to her feet,
straining, and then released for the flight.

My mother would be a falconress,
and I her gerfalcon raised at her will,
from her wrist sent flying, as if I were her own
pride, as if her pride
knew no limits, as if her mind
sought in me flight beyond the horizon.

Ah, but high, high in the air I flew.
And far, far beyond the curb of her will,
were the blue hills where the falcons nest.
And then I saw west to the dying sun–
it seemd my human soul went down in flames.

I tore at her wrist, at the hold she had for me,
until the blood ran hot and I heard her cry out,
far, far beyond the curb of her will

to horizons of stars beyond the ringing hills of the world where
the falcons nest
I saw, and I tore at her wrist with my savage beak.
I flew, as if sight flew from the anguish in her eye beyond her sight,
sent from my striking loose, from the cruel strike at her wrist,
striking out from the blood to be free of her.

My mother would be a falconress,
and even now, years after this,
when the wounds I left her had surely heald,
and the woman is dead,
her fierce eyes closed, and if her heart
were broken, it is stilld

I would be a falcon and go free.
I tread her wrist and wear the hood,
talking to myself, and would draw blood.



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Marin Marais


Gracias, violines, por este día
de cuatro cuerdas. Puro
es el sonido del cielo,
la voz azul del aire.

–Pablo Neruda (Chile, 1904-1973), El mar y las campanas. I would post a photograph of Isla Negra but I lack time.


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Rima I

Yo sé un himno gigante y extraño
que anuncia en la noche del alma una aurora,
y estas páginas son de ese himno
cadencias que el aire dilata en las sombras.

Yo quisiera escribirle, del hombre
domando el rebelde, mezquino idioma,
con palabras que fuesen a un tiempo
suspiros y risas, colores y notas.

Pero en vano es luchar, que no hay cifra
capaz de encerrarle; y apenas, ¡oh, hermosa!,
si, teniendo en mis manos las tuyas,
pudiera, al oído, cantártelo a solas.

–G. A. B.


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El Dorado

Lighting, in nature and in the home, is very important. A change in light makes a enormous differences in everything.  Some people like white light but I prefer golden light.



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That Job Market: Suggestions for Interviewees

It is October 15, the traditional opening day of the job search season. I have a few suggestions for people going on campus visits — suggestions others may not have covered yet.

1. Good facilities are rare. Take note of the schools that have these.

2. Think of yourself as a colleague, not as an aspirant or a student.

3. That does not mean to think of yourself as a senior colleague.

4. Remember that even senior colleagues, when they are new hires, lead first by following.

5. Go with your gut feeling when choosing jobs. (And do not confuse this with your imagination about how things “should” or “must” be.)



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Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Mercè Rodoreda

Any time is a good time to read Mercè Rodoreda. The Nation‘s review article on her is worth reading, too. I have never really studied Rodoreda’s life and I have not read all of her books. Having read the review, however, I am re-fascinated. At one point the writer says:

It’s curious that Rodoreda is so esteemed by feminists (she’s the frequent subject of academic papers), when her novels revolve around the abdication of control by women and their subsequent humiliation. And yet there’s something steely and thoroughly modern about the way Rodoreda acknowledges the unsentimental deal-making that masquerades as love.

For oblique reasons this suddenly made me understand some aspects of Clarice Lispector, whose work to me alwasys seemed as flat as Danish modern furniture. My mistake, perhaps.


This, of course, is only further evidence for my theses about Reeducation, which assumed that if one had an education and an independent life then one was exerting inordinate amounts of “control” (this being a major sin for women). In Reeducation, as we know already, such achievements were reserved for people from perfect families; the rest of us mortals were incapable of achieving such things in a genuine way. We were better off without them, because for us happiness and achievement could only be masks.

My point is that if you relinquish control like that, and accept the kind of gender role to which Rodoreda’s characters are forced, you are then open to the kinds of humiliations they undergo. And reeducation was invented to keep women in their places and convince them that the poor results of this were their fault. I have said it before and I run across books and essays confirming this all the time. Note once again:  relinquishment of control leads to abjection.


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