Friday, March 31, 2017

Full day of convention-ing...

31 March 2017: "A kind of guerrilla feminist..." --Student at a session today, discussing Rebecca Harding Davis. I really loved this idea and the images it brings with it.

It's been a good day at the Sigma Tau Delta Convention, and a day that has given me lots of time to embrace this year's blog theme and just listen. The students here are so bright and energetic and have so much to say. And they are worth listening to. I could have listed any half dozen smart lines like the one above. I just picked that one because it came early--during an 8:00 a.m. session. If these students are representative of what English departments across the country are putting out there, then we can feel pretty good about ourselves.

Of course, I am a bit biased about two of the best: these fabulous Shepherd students and my travel companions.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Off to Louisville...

30 March 2017: "I want a biscuit!" --Julia, one of my Sigma Tau Delta students, voicing her opinion for our lunch stop today. I am currently in Louisville, Kentucky with Julia and another student, Brianna, for the Sigma Tau Delta Convention. That meant spending most of today in the car driving here. But at long last, I finally experienced a West Virginia delicacy: lunch at Tudor's Biscuit World. And yes, it was very good.

These two students are a lot of fun: funny, smart, and sweet. I mean, think about it: we were in the car with each other for over nine hours and I wasn't tired of them. (Not sure that goes both ways!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


29 March 2017: "The response rate today? 8%." --Dr. Slocum-Schaffer, discussing the response rate for political polls today versus the 1970s, when the number was 80%, at today's Teach-In on fake news and polling, sponsored by the Political Science department. Just in case you *never* wanted to trust a poll again...

And a runner-up entry for today's "listening" post: "I feel like I should write 'I don't know what I am talking about' in the header to my Deconstruction paper." --a student in my ENGL 301 class. So I had to intervene on that one. Ha.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"Where the Streets Have No Name"

28 March 2017:
"I wanna run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls
That hold me inside.
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name." --U2, "Where the Streets Have No Name"

Heard this song, which I've always loved, at just the right time today--at a moment when I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed. It's been a strange day, with emotions all over the place, but this song lifted me when I needed it to.

Monday, March 27, 2017

When it gets meta...

27 March 2017: "I mean, I might be way off...but I think the space represents silence." --a student in my ENGL 307 class today, as we discussed Brown Girl Dreaming, specifically a poem called "How to Listen: #10."

The "How to Listen" poems are all haiku form, and all interesting as we read about how the main character becomes a writer. This last one is different from the others as there is a gap between the second and third lines:

"Write down what I think
I know. The knowing will come.

Just keep listening."

The student who shared the observation above is one of the more quiet ones in the class. And she was sort of slow to raise her hand here and even a bit reluctant to share her idea. But her comment is so insightful: leaving space for silence is a key part of listening.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

One last NEMLA session...

26 March 2017: "[These films] demand that the dispossessed deserve a hearing." --a speaker on the last panel I attended at NEMLA, this one on horror films. This speaker looked at movies like Sinister, Amityville Horror, and The Haunting in Connecticut 2 and argued that they demonstrate guilt over landownership and possession, both of which are based on dispossession of someone else. Terrific paper. Terrific panel.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hamilton at NEMLA

25 March 2017: "['My Shot'] is coded as both opportunity and violence." --a presenter discussing Hamilton at a session all about the musical that I attended at the NEMLA Convention in Baltimore today. I am probably not getting the quotation right, but this particular presentation, about hip-hop and history in the play was amazing. I could have talked with the presenter for hours.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The things you learn...

24 March 2017: "It felt very sneaky...I have fond memories of hiding things from my grandparents." --a student in my ENGL 307 class today, discussing how, when she was little, her family hid the fact that the kids went trick-or-treating from her grandparents. (They disapproved for religious reasons.)

This made me laugh--and it did have some context, as we discussed Brown Girl Dreaming and the little girl's Jehovah's Witness upbringing. It's always neat to see the ways students connect with material.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"TV Typos: Part Tw"

23 March 2017:

Clue: "Well kids, I reckon it was like this: before your Aunt Robin came along, your mom and I were in the Donner Party and one thing led to another..."

Answer: "How I Et Your Mother???" --Game Time on this week's Extra Hot Great.

Man, the Game Time on this week's Extra Hot Great was terrific. Made me laugh my head off. This week's game involved guessing a TV show title from a description of what that show would be if one letter in the title was changed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


22 March 2017:
"I like cartoons, southern cities with large moons
Faith healers, ex-female drug dealers and art booms
Apologize for my weird mix
What taste like hot dogs and tear drips
And looks like pantomime and clear bricks." --Lupe Fiasco, "Mural"

Look, I never heard of Lupe Fiasco before today, but a student I am really fond of mentioned him today (he's crazy about the guy) and I told him I would check out this song. It's not my usual taste, of course, but this is a heck of a song with some really impressive lyrics. Yeah, I am old and it's not written for me, but I am glad to have listened to it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"All I Ever Wanted"

21 March 2017:

"In the middle of my life
it was right to say my desires
but they went away. I couldn’t even make them out,
not even as dots
now in the distance.
                                         Yet I see the small lights
of winter campfires in the hills—
teenagers in love often go there
for their first nights—and each yellow-white glow
tells me what I can know and admit to knowing,
that all I ever wanted
was to sit by a fire with someone
who wanted me in measure the same to my wanting.
To want to make a fire with someone,
with you,
was all." --Katie Ford, "All I Ever Wanted"

Love this so much it almost hurts. Listen to/read the whole thing here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Proud sister...

20 March 2017: "What do we do and where do we go from here?" --my sister Erin, during her presentation at Shepherd today. Her question is an important one: in light of recent Supreme Court decisions on juvenile sentences, how do we move forward as a society?

And what a joy it was to see my sister shine in this venue. I mean, I knew she was smart and decent and kind, but to see her "do her thing" just made me so happy--even regarding such a vexed topic. She's amazing and I am lucky to call her my sister.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"I'll Be Seeing You"

19 March 2017:

"I'll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you" --Billie Holiday, "I'll Be Seeing You"

Another day, another entry about a bittersweet love song. Maybe a bit of rut at this point, but it is what it is.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Mr. Jones"

18 March 2017:

“Mr. Jones and me stumbling through the Barrio
Yeah, we stare at the beautiful women
She's perfect for you
Man, there's got to be somebody for me
I wanna be Bob Dylan
Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky
When everybody love you
Ah son, that's just about as funky as you can be…” –Counting Crows, “Mr. Jones”

I have always loved this song. It came on today while I was riding with my friend and, man, it just made me happy, even though the song itself is based just as much in sadness as in joy. But something about that was perfect for the moment, so I sang along and just felt the moment. And that was enough.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Bing is 15 today. Hard to believe. This little dude and I have been through a lot together and he makes my life better every day. And he still insists on jumping in a box or tote bag or whatever is available every time I clean the closet in my office. Every darn time.

Irish Pride...

17 March 2017: "And four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore. We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America. We came and we became Americans. We lived the words of John F. Kennedy long before he uttered them: We asked not what America can do for us, but what we could do for America. And we still do." --Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, doing some lovely explaining with Trump standing feet away. Watch the whole thing here.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"I'm On Fire"

16 March 2017:

"At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
And a freight train running through the
Middle of my head
Only you can cool my desire
I'm on fire..." --Bruce Springsteen, "I'm On Fire"

I've always loved this song and then just tonight I heard this dreamy cover. Swoon.

(Yes, another romantic song, I know...)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


15 March 2017:

"I never loved nobody fully
Always one foot on the ground
And by protecting my heart truly
I got lost in the sounds
I hear in my mind
All these voices
I hear in my mind
All of these words
I hear in mind
All this music
And it breaks my heart" --Regina Spektor, "Fidelity"

I've been on a song kick with these posts, I know. Blame the relative isolation that Spring Break and snow brings. I am spending lots of time in my own head...never a completely good thing. But, to put it simply, I am not talking with that many people these days. And yes, the posts have also pulled towards the romantic and wistful, but I am who I am and my mind has been preoccupied with such matters lately (for better or worse).

Incidentally, this song will always have a soft place in my heart for a bunch of reasons (including playing in a sweet romantic scene from Veronica Mars). My favorite reason, though, is that I had treated myself to Begin to Hope, the album it appears on, right in the midst of the job search craziness of 2006/2007. And I loved this song. It was in heavy rotation. I remember getting back in my car at the Clarion Hotel in Shepherdstown, heading back down to Richmond after completing my interview at Shepherd. This song came on and I just sang along and smiled. I had a good feeling about that interview. And I was right.

Thoreau and the tiny house movement...

I've been trying to make this point to my students for the past few years: that some of the tiny house movement's ideas can find their roots in Thoreau. But Rick Diguette, writing in the Washington Post, puts it more elegantly than I could:

"What Thoreau and the tiny-house movement can help us see is how we can simplify our needs and in the process reap benefits that enhance our quality of life. Reducing the size and number of monthly bills will obviously grow your bank account balance, but it can also help you recalibrate the way you perceive necessity. Thoreau didn’t argue that everyone should live in a small cabin, and (most) tiny housers aren’t guilty of that, either. The point is to use what you need rather than consume what you can afford. Scale down rather than add on. Simplify rather than complicate. The soul needs a resting place, but it should be a cozy nook, not a bigger house in a better Zip code."

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Here Comes the Rain Again"

14 March 2017:

"Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you?"

Yes, a weird song to use for the daily entry on a snow day, but it came on the radio today and well, I had forgotten how good it is. Plus, the rain is mostly a metaphor, right?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spring Break and the storm is approaching...

13 March 2017: "Sometimes when I'm on my own I get like very...ummm...I don't know if it's like depressive or like existential...I go from zero to existential very quickly." --Aparna Nancherla on this episode of The Hilarious World of Depression.

This one hit close to home today, the first full day of Spring Break with this big stupid snow storm approaching. Not looking forward to being snow-bound.

Incidentally, I've blogged about this podcast before. It really is so good and I can't believe I'd fallen behind on listening to it. I also listened to the Jen Kirkman episode today and it is great.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


12 March 2017:

"Jack Palance and Lee Marvin would have never pulled this shit."

"They didn't have to. They're men."

"Well that makes them half as cunning and nowhere near as ruthless." --Robert Aldrich (a fictional version, of course) talking with his wife, in episode two of Feud, discussing how difficult it is to work with two powerful women.

Look: this is Ryan Murphy show, so it's all sorts of over the top, including this little exchange. But I've just spent a couple of hours working on an article about teaching my women's studies class and student after student is making the same argument in their essays. There's some real truth there and it made me laugh to hear it come up just as I finished typing up my latest pages.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Gray or Blue"

11 March 2017:

"And I'm winning you with words because I have no other way
I'd love to look into your face without your eyes turnin away
Last night I watched you sing because a person has to try
And I walked home in the rain because a person cannot lie" --JayMay, "Gray or Blue"

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Afternoon Happiness"

10 March 2017:

"Much as I want to gather a lifetime thrift
And craft, my cunning skills tied in a knot for you,
There is only this useless happiness as gift." --Carolyn Kizer, "Afternoon Happiness"

I heard this poem today as I caught up on the "Poetry Off the Shelf" podcast on my way home today. It's funny and sweet and just lovely. Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

There's an idea..

9 March 2017: "We should put in a second toilet!" --my four-year old niece, Krista,  making her own renovation recommendation after learning about the convenience of double-sinks. This reflects, no doubt, her great desire to spend as much time as possible with her mother. Hilarious and adorable. Erin said, "I think she has this picture in mind of us sitting there together, holding hands."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Come for the opening laugh; stay for the creepy doll...

8 March 2017: “I frankly would appreciate it if every time I left the house, people just handed me business cards that said ‘you’re doing okay.’ I don’t think that’s too much to ask of the world.” –Mallory Ortberg, aka “Dear Prudence” on this week’s “Dear Prudence Podcast.”

This morning as I was walking to my office with my earbuds in, the line above made me laugh out loud and I thought “maybe that’s the listening post for today.” But then I thought, “It’s kind of early—not even 8:30. Maybe something else will come up?” And today was been a good day, I think. Lots of high notes and not many bad ones, but this is still maybe my favorite manageable (short) thing I heard today, so it wins.

Give the whole episode a listen. There’s a very funny bit at the end about a creepy doll.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


7 March 2017: 

"Happy is the heart that still feels pain
Darkness drains and light will come again
Swing open up your chest and let it in
Just let the love, love, love begin..." --Ingrid Michaelson, "Everybody"

A strange but good day. This song just came on Pandora and I am just kind of feeling these lyrics. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

These wonderful ENGL 301 students...

6 March 2017: "Oh good, because that's the stuff I like to geek out over!" --yet another wonderful student in my ENGL 301 class, excited because after looking at a draft of her paper, I encouraged her to do more close textual analysis of how the poem she was writing about employed paradox and ambiguity. This is normally the stuff you have to push students to do.

Look, I realize that I keep writing about this particular class (especially lately), but they continue to impress the heck out of me.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


5 March 2017:

"Is it a sin?
Is it a crime?
Loving you dear like I do?
If it's a crime then I'm guilty
Guilty of loving you."
-Victoria Vox, "Guilty"

Just feeling this song lately. It's simple and lovely and made me smile and sigh today.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Ten Years of Storycorps Griot

4 March 2017: "I think I take you for a bunch of reasons. One is so that you can see what it looks like when people come together. But also that you understand that it's not just about people that are familiar to you but it's about everybody....If you decide to be a cab driver, then you've got to be the most impactful cab driver that you can possibly be." --Albert Sykes, to his son Aidan Sykes, after Aidan asked "Why do you take me to so many protests?"

This Storycorps interview had me laughing, smiling, and tearing up while I listened to it on my walk today. It is part of a larger episode celebrating ten years of Storycorps' collaboration with Griot. Give the whole thing a listen. It's so worth it.

Albert & Aiden Sykes from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Friday, March 3, 2017

That's actually a pretty good example...

3 March 2017: "Like how I want to work out but I also like chicken nuggets?" --a student in my ENGL 301 class today as I was doing my best to explain a concept key to deconstruction--that we are all fields of competing identities and ideologies.

Here at Shepherd, we are all somewhat gracefully stumbling towards Spring Break--with a week to go. This kind of comment from a student (which is, I think, a kind of perfect example of that battlefield of conflicting identities, by the way) is going to to help us get there. These kids are pretty amazing.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Bell Theory"

I really like this poem. That's all.

Compassion and common sense aligning...

2 March 2017: "He's a child, simply looking for his place in the world. Do we really not have the simple decency to allow him at least that? Because it seems to me it's the very least we can do." --Texas sports announcer Dale Hansen on Mack Beggs, the transgender wrestler who wasn't allowed to wrestle with boys.

Based on this and the statement he made a couple of years ago about Michael Sam, I am going to call this dude a freakin' hero.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

They Call Me Q

1 March 2017: "When I brought home a 98 on a test, my mother would say, 'What happened to the other two points?'" --Qurrat Ann Kadwani, in her play, They Call Me Q

As someone whose mother frequently asked me what happened to those "other two points," I knew from the moment Kadwani spoke those words that I was going to be hanging on her every word. This is a terrific show, well worth your time if you get a chance to see it.