C+, Your Site Lacks Unity.

One of the nagging problems with this site has been its lack of focus. Perhaps all those years of teaching high school composition and trying to get students to write with some resemblance of unity makes this lack of unity in my own work troublesome. Still, I've realized for quite awhile that I'm attempting to do at least two major things in this blog, promote poetry and seek personal enlightenment.

Having taught for thirty years, it seems impossible to totally divorce myself from that role. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher. Adding to the problem, being linked to by other poets or by college poetry teachers has fed my ego. For instance, I was pleased when a college professor suggested her college students use my interpretation of Roethke's "In a Dark Time" as a starting point for their own ideas on the poem. I was even more pleased when The Academy of American Poets pointed towards my appreciation of another poet. Being linked to has become it's own form of addiction. But I'm actually most delighted when someone writes that I've helped them to rediscover their love of poetry, especially if it is someone who studied poetry in college and then let it drop by the wayside.

There's no doubt that on one level this is a "poetry blog." I know it, I promote that idea, and, sometimes, I even take a false pride in it. So I exit the classroom, right, still talking to myself, still pretending to address a class full of inspired students who've long since exited the room, left. Self-delusion sometimes seems the best way to keep us from losing all respect for ourselves.

On another, more important level, or, at least I like to think so, this blog is an attempt to attain personal enlightenment, and poetry, indeed literature itself, is nothing more than a tool to help attain that level of insight. Hopefully no one really thinks there is any logic to the way poets are discussed on these pages, unless there is some form of serendipity going on that I'm unaware of. When I actually take the time to look back at what I've written, generously, I would like to think that there is some sort of spiral order, where I circle back to re-examine what I looked at many years ago, only to rediscover old truths can be reawakened with new insights. As I explained once, though, the books have nearly chosen themselves since the older ones all come from books I bought while attending college but never had time to finish. Most of the newer ones are the result of browsing whatever bookstore I wandered around in while Leslie picked up a stack of mystery novels. Those that show any continuity are probably the result of Mike's recent suggestions.

This understanding of self, of course, was the source of my original love for poetry and has probably been the driving force in my life. As I get older, it has become more, not less, important. A problem with this, of course, is that thinking about life is only one dimension of life. Too much thinking, too much time spend considering other's ideas, detracts from time that should be spent in other ways. I haven't spent enough time in the woodshop or the garden. I spend more time at the computer than I spend walking, and certainly more time than I spend doing my yoga. Meditation, per se, has virtually disappeared from my life, replaced by the contemplation of poetry, though I suspect that both would prove complimentary given the opportunity.

At times I certainly lose sight that this, and not the promotion of poetry, is the main goal of this site. I end up analyzing someone's poetry rather than relating it to myself and helping me to see my world more clearly. The truth is that I retired early because I was tired of teaching, because it had become a burden rather than a source of joy. Instead of making my life more meaningful, it sucked the essence out of it and made me tire of the very things that had led me there in the first place. If you share too much of yourself without replenishing your energy, you find yourself with nothing left to share with others. If I find this site becoming the same kind of burden, then it will be time to move on, to leave it behind.

12 thoughts on “C+, Your Site Lacks Unity.

  1. I have long admired your system of categories (individual poets). It makes it easy to relate and compare reactions to things. My site is much more scatter-brained, but then it covers a broad swath of readings. I think the real power of this stuff is being able to look back, long after you’ve written, at reactions to things in a non-systematic way.

    BTW, I still occasionally look at your Emerson stuff. It turns out that Emerson’s philosophy has become fairly central to the research I’m doing on the early nineteenth century.

  2. I came galumphing over for the poetry, and stayed for you. And the journey of discovery you allow us to accompany you on. Whichever path you choose, choose it for you.

  3. Loren, no, no, you can’t give yourself a C+. What is that? The positive side of average? If it’s true that doctors make the worst patients, then surely teachers shouldn’t be permitted to grade themselves.
    My own search for personal enlightenment has also led me through the winding streets of poetry and literature, but unlike you, I don’t contribute any personal commentary, perhaps because I lack your background in teaching.
    Personally, I think the relationship we have with blogging tends to be very similar to actual relationships. There are reasons to stay and reasons to go. There is a necessary commitment that must exist in order for the relationship to endure through good times and bad times. There is passion, sometimes, and there is boredom. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, but isn’t it true that anything we do has the potential of becoming a burden?
    I know you’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m guessing you’ve gone through this phase before. Why am I doing this? Who would care if I quit? Once past the first lustful exhilaration of it all, everyone must stop and ask themselves the same questions.
    If I were the teacher, I would certainly grade you higher than a C+. Seriously, if you were the student, wouldn’t you expect more? Wouldn’t you suspect the teacher of having some underlying prejudices against you?
    I know, someday, you’ll go. Someday I’ll go. How many of us will keep this up for ten years? For twenty? Who will be the famous old-timer still blogging thirty or forty years from now? But I will miss you when you go. And I’ll remember you, and the things you taught me here. I am sure of it.

  4. Okay, this isn’t an announcement that I’m about to stop blogging.

    When I’m ready to do that, I’ll just pull the plug, shut the whole damn thing down and go hiking in the mountains, kayaking on the Sound, or cross country skiing in the Olympics. I won’t announce it. It’ll just be gone.

    This is a way of admitting that I’m frustrated with what I’m doing and need to find some new ways of doing it.

    The third part of this series should be posted tomorrow before I leave on my California trip.

  5. I’ve been logging on to your site for some time (from the UK) – often finding illuminating insight. Let’s face it, it’s difficult to find someone seriously addressing poetry as you do. Just one recent resonance: your consideration of Mary Oliver’s “A Bitterness” gave me a personal, rewarding “take” on someone I know in my own family. Just google on “Roethke”, or “Edward Abbey” or “Wallace Stevens” etc. and we all know that the majority of sites are out to sell you something or do a course on it. Your site is different. OK, you mix in the personal, and you sometimes sound a tiny bit depressed, and you get far too involved in the techno-geek-garbage. But, what the hell, we can’t all be perfect! I would urge: keep up the good work.

  6. I too retired as soon as possible…for the very same reason. The life of a teacher had ceased to have the caring component that drew me into it in the beginning. Our state has utterly dehumanized the classroom into a mere score keeper’s station. I love to read this journal. Personal enlightment and poetry in balance with real life–good enough…

  7. Lacks unity? Hogwash.

    Carry on, Loren…I often like your personal insights more than the poems themselves. It’s a great journey, a pleasure and a privilege that you share it with us.

  8. Blogs, like any journal, are a record of the journey one is taking, whether it be physical or metaphysical in nature. And on any journey, one sees many different things, not all of which contribute to or fit into a coherent narrative of the trip. You shouldn’t fault your blog for recording your journey, with its many perambulations and incoherent scenery, accurately.

    Adam Phillips, in an essay entitled (I believe) “On Translation” from his book “Promises, Promises,” argues that psychoanalysis, one kind of search for personal enlightenment, is simply a process of finding other, better ways of telling one’s own story, of translating the events of one’s life into a story that serves you better as a person. That’s why you return to the same topics, tread the same rhetorical ground in one’s journal. You need to find the right words, the best translation of yourself, your life into a meaningful story.

    Poetry, and literature in general, provide much of the scenery on this journey, at least the part of the journey that you record in this blog, and others can (and do) find this record instructive. But you’re right that the process of recording can overwhelm or crowd out the journey itself so become counterproductive. In the end, though, I don’t think you can measure (grade) progress on a journey which has no final destination.

  9. Andru, since you left a url instead of an email address, and I can’t find an email address on your site, let me just say that I found Ellison’s Invisible Man to be, at the very least, one of the top five novels of the 20th Century.

    It raised questions I’m still seeking answers for.

  10. Dear Loren,

    I think your weblog is wonderful. It is a great inspiration to me. I am glad that I stumbled upon it in path.

    Unity is an important thing to have in life. As a composition teacher, I do not need to remind you that our writing reflects who we are and what we search for in life. Oneness and integration have become more important to me.

    Keep doing what you do. As long as it reflects the “true” you, it will always be A+ work.

    Best,

    Don

  11. I happened upon your site for the first time today, and in my opinion, it is the Blog of Blogs! Not only do I appreciate the exposition and commentary upon the poets and writers I’ve read herein (I’ve only begun to read your archives), but I like very much your style of experiential interpretation.

    I admire how you have created the continuity between your readings and the events in your life, so I’m confused a bit by your lament that there is no “unity”. I thought that there was a great deal of unity, guided and coalesced more or less by the spirit that is you!

    Bravo!

    Very truly yours,
    Vicki

    PS: And more often than not, I agree with your comments vis a vis the Bush administration!

What do you think?