The last half of 2016 almost seems like a different year from the first. It is that the resurgence of rightwing populism was sudden but that the power it has amassed became suddenly undeniable. The danger no longer looms: it is fully present.
Resistance, however, should not be purely utilitarian until it has to be. If we begin to shape all our actions with the question of how it responds to monsters, then we allow monsters to limit who we are. Resistance also means continuing to build the culture of art and inquiry we want, without ignoring what goes on outside the areas in which we can build it.
How have I contributed this year?
- I published my doctoral dissertation as a book.
- I started moving my literary inquiry beyond that first major project by:
- publishing an article on teaching in university fiction
- presenting my ongoing work on Joyce and continuing to work on putting it into written form.
- My own creative writing has fallen back as a priority. I have been incubating an idea for long fiction and trying to find homes for poetry books that keep coming up as finalists. I need to refocus here. The recent death of David Meltzer is a reminder that poetry always already has a power outside the self that puts it into words.
- I have taken up the challenge of serving as department chair. For me, it is an opportunity not just to teach but to support the pedagogy of others and to find the millions of systemic ways small and large that an institution can contribute to learning. There are times that point of view feels impossibly optimistic, times when I can barely keep up with the rising waters of assessment and paperwork.
Then again, I can breathe underwater.
When I think about how I will move forward into 2017, the most important thing I did this year, however, is not something I did or gave. This is the year I learned to SCUBA dive, and I’ve managed to gain a fair amount of diverse experiences since being certified. There is something sacred under the surface, about remembering first of all to keep breathing as you pass through the cities of coral, the only cities more readily threatened by climate change than the ones that humans have built by the shore. The project that I will pursue as I return to my poetic work comes out of these experiences—and the first piece is forthcoming in Hawai’i Review.
- T H E D I S T A N C E S and / or C I T I E S (6) (poetryfoundation.org)