Shining Indignity

WHAT

Florida. Not florida. North Carolina. Not just the first time you write it, but every time: North carolina isn’t a place. The first words of sentences. People you quote who are not bell hooks. Your own last names?

Sometimes Creativity manifests as the shape I twist myself into trying not to run away from grading papers. This chair is roomy, but you can get stuck in it if you try hard enough. I like teaching. I like my students. I’m not the biggest fan of some of my students’ habits. Being Allergic to the Shift Key and/or to Proofreading is today’s epidemic, and I’m feeling a little green and wobbly.

And then Creativity becomes a way to laugh and have a little fun when one is getting a wee bit Cranky. Thus a spontaneous little fiction appeared on my Facebook page, spiffed up for this post:

The professor sits at a typewriter in a large, empty hotel in snowy Colorado. The only words on the paper are “Proper names start with capital letters Proper names start with capital letters Proper names start with capital letters,” over and over. There’s an axe leaning in the corner, a slight glint on its blade from a lonely lamp. There are no other people in the hotel, because the professor is not by nature a violent person or even a scary movie lover, so she just flings the axe through a window. And then begins systematically to throw everything she can lift through every window she can find. The cold wind flows in, like movie blood from an elevator, and perhaps she cries a little. The professor flees to a distant wing, has a hot bath, drinks a bottle of wine in front of the fire, and reads a good 18th-century novel, where an excessive Number of random Words are capitalized. Dogs and cats of a sweet nature settle around her. They have no papers to hand in. They have all read the syllabus. The End.

Yes, I’m posting this instead of grading. How did you know?

TCAFT (formerly known as the CPT) apologizes to Mr. Kubrick, Mr. King, and Everyone for the indignity.

 

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Hello. My Name Is…

Hello

I’ve been thinking about Names this week.

The textbook my students use has tips for Vivid Descriptions that begins with naming, which it says helps readers “visualize…and understand.” We recently compared “a vase of flowers” to “a vase of dandelions,” the latter not only more vivid, but an image that can generate meaning on its own. My students suggested: insulting, broke-but-still-in-love, spontaneous, and others.

A colleague at the historic site showed me a photo of blazing, tomato-paste-red leaves, and asked me sheepishly if they were in fact maple. I thought they were; there are some that ignite like this in early fall. She wanted to post Creatively with them and to be sure of their Name.  Reading Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge’s lively book poemcrazy: freeing your life with words has put back into simple focus how beautiful and rich words are:  Leaf. Flame. Fall. Float. Color. Earth. And names: Oak. Paperbark Maple. Linden. Pagoda Tree. Hawthorne. Elm. (And big thanks to the Boston Public Garden for all the little signs on the trunks!)

More magic name-glitter got sprinkled onto my workday at the site when I met a descendant of someone in the Burial Ground, Dr. Comfort Starr, whose name has always been a Favorite of mine. Having met this woman, I looked him up, and it turns out he was, in fact, a medical man, a “chirgeon.” Not, as I had wondered, a clergyman.  He had the perfect name for either profession, no?

Of course, once one foot is in the Research Rabbit Hole, down you go. I spent part of the afternoon reveling in the names of his many siblings. Puritan names are often wonderfully strange and creative. No offense to William or Judith or even Jehosophat, but some of their names read like a poem-fruit growing on the family tree: Moregifte Starr, Mercy Starr, Suretrust Starr, TruthShallPrevayl Starr, Standwell Starr, Beloved Starr, Joyfull Starr.

They seem to have felt the power of words as names, to witness or even to make real their Values and Aspirations.

On that note, this newly-returned-once-more-and-who-knows-maybe-again-later blog has been renamed. It is now The Creative (Almost) Full-Timer: Finding and Being Creativity in a Brimming-Over World.  My favorite name in the Boston burial grounds has always been Hopestill. Yes. Yes, indeed.

 

Thanks to Jenni, because this began when I said the words, “Yes. Maple.”

 

 

 

Subversive Writing and Rambling

Subversive documents

We historic site colleagues were picking words to describe our presentation styles with the public. We like words: They’re artists and grad students who love communicating about history, and I do, too, and I’m, you know, CPT Me.

I suggested I’m “Intellectual but Funny.” They nodded agreeably, and one said, “The word we chose for you was Subversive.” Really??? Explanation: Because I had dismantled and rearranged our Revolutionary Personages talk to add in colonial poet Sarah Wentworth Morton, and to connect the subjects of the talk in my own chain of meaning.

My colleagues are young and in Master’s programs, blissfully unaware that in the Academia where I used to dwell, that’s not Subversive. That’s Required. That is called “intervening in the conversation,” and You’d Better have a new twist on things if you want to live in EnglishPhDland. Theoryguay. LitReviewistan. Jonestown.

OK, OK, a little dark humor isn’t going to leave a stain. I am proud of some of my work, deeply impressed by some scholars I know and read, and full of stuff to say about the 18th century. But I gloriously failed to be an academic many times while acting like I was trying to become one. That’s OK, though. Let’s all live our best lives.

Of course, there’s plenty of evidence that Scholarly and Creative can harmonize. But often they don’t, and I still don’t quite get it. For example, the author of an important book in my field said to me over cocktails that, although nearing retirement, she was discovering a whole new way to approach theater history. She was now attending actual rehearsals at her university for the first time in her career. Yeah. From her tone, she felt subversive. I felt a little sick. I can laugh about it now.

My Revolutionary talk at work is a good, coherent little talk, a star shape nicely squeezed out of the Play Doh Fun Factory of my Intellect. But it was prompted by real, personal interest and Creative Sisterhood with Mrs. Sarah, and those things aren’t too academic. Do I get to call the talk Creativity? I don’t know, yet oddly, I care. I hope someday to have more Intellectual/Creative harmony.

Am I subversive? I don’t write in a bare garret, rejecting everything but Art; I have an AC. I read mysteries and watch Antiques Roadshow. I like vanilla ice cream a great deal.

The writer and queer/feminist activist Michelle Tea described “Sister Spit, the all-girl performance tour that tore up the United States at the end of the last century” as, among other things, “the my-poetry-can-beat-up-your-theory menace.” I like that. That’s funny. I value poetry a lot more than academic writing. I’ve been dealing with some things and been pretty sub-versive lately (get it?), but I still see a poet in the mirror. And will even if I do finish that book about 18th-century theater history.

I don’t know if I can reach Tea’s subversive heights, but I was busy writing this today instead of writing for money. Taking an actual day off work to prioritize whatever creativity showed up. Not wearing pants. Reading literature in the current administration. You do what you can.  I could murder some ice cream right now. Chocolate? I like eating it with a fork.

 

The portrait of John Adams by J.S. Copley belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I quoted from Michelle Tea’s piece “Sister Spit Feminism,” in her new book Against Memoir, published by Feminist Press. I highly recommend it. My talk and other good ones are available at King’s Chapel on the Freedom Trail, Boston.

Return of the Blog. Oooooh.

zzzzzz

I haven’t done what I would classify as My Creative Work in more than a month, and as a result, I feel crampled (a word I accidentally made up) by life and also more than ready for change. I have been writing for money, about issues in moving with kids, and about the various Revolutionary Personages of the historic site where I am an educator.

Dilemma: being a CPT whose mind really needs to rest when it can, in the hopes it will stop being either the scattered monkeys or the wild elephant of Buddhist metaphor. The blessing and curse of being deeply engaged in and satisfied by multiple thinking-intense jobs, I find, is loving your work and then adoring empty quiet time. What blog? What poems?

So I’m going to change strategies to get uncrampled (second word I made up). First of all, I still stand for Going with the Flow and not criticizing yourself. You can’t demand the tide be in when the tide is just out right now. Use it as an opportunity to Experience Creativity, not in the way You Decided was right and meaningful, but just as it happens in your day, however it happens. Or doesn’t. No Ego required. Lots to learn and enjoy.

This year I’ve been trying to observe/receive more and think less in my Creative Work. Some of my usual writing is a fallow field. But I’m taking a lot of photos, trying to wait for things to show me themselves, rather than deciding first what it is I see. (For more on this creative process, see The Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori and the photos of Minor White.)

I’m going to bring that exploration here, so that the blog can Be when I’m too tired even to think about an intelligent mini-essay or having Something Important to say. When he was interviewed by On Being, Yo-Yo Ma inspired me  with, “It’s not about proving anything. It’s about sharing something.” As an ex-academic, a teacher, and an artist, I deeply appreciate that reminder. That’s the Flow I want to Go with.