(All right, so it was a completely loopy train of thought, but I blame Rossini for that.)
Last-minute copying: $0.00 (thank you, generous office copier allocation)
Printer's binding fee: $29.63
Pack of cigarettes to calm jittery nerves: $6.95
Being finally, conclusively done with your dissertation, even though you almost missed the deadline and had to beg the requisite office for a meeting so they could do the final margin check: Priceless.
I Googled "pantoum" and came across a lot of them, some quite good, others, er, less so. There's even an About.com page about them. Of interest is this one by Peter Schaeffer on Wondering Minstrels, and the accompanying commentary. Commentator Thomas notes, "Pantoums put villanelles in the shade -- they're far more complex, more constrained, and more convoluted." I don't think I entirely agree with that, though. I've never had much success writing villanelles -- they always come out sounding stiff and awkward. I have, however, experimented with the pantoum, and found that I really like the constant back-and-forth shifting of the repeated lines. It seems to bring on odd, associative states of mind, almost like what I imagine automatic writing to be. No wonder so many modern pantoums partake of the surreal -- or the obsessional. (It also seems much easier to modify the requirements of a pantoum than those of a villanelle, or perhaps I just have Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" lodged too firmly in my head.)
Substitute "literature" or "writing" for "music" and you've got the situation of (I suspect) not a few Ph.D.s in my field, who adore literature and have a hard time imagining why any of their students wouldn't like it, and who'd like to be awakening young minds to its glories but instead are teaching introductory classes where most of the students are fulfilling distribution requirements. I keep having to remind myself that my composition students are mostly non-literature majors, and just because I revel in the quirks and weirdnesses and musicality of the written word, the same doesn't hold true for most of them.
But on the other hand, my career quandaries mean that I'm starting to understand -- in ways I don't think I previously understood -- where my students are coming from. They're very pragmatic in their approach to education; they mostly want to major in pre-professional fields, and they want their college years to focus on that goal. I used to get all worked up about that, and wish that every student could be an unworldly liberal arts major. But now I find myself thinking, what could my graduate program do to prepare us for the world outside academia, since so many of us aren't getting academic jobs of any kind? Why didn't I go into a more pragmatic field? It would have come in handy.
And that concludes today's lesson on irony. Class dismissed.
So, in honor of the impending season, and because I find it consoling, I offer a favorite Thomas Campion poem:
Now winter nights enlarge
The number of their houres;
And clouds their stormes discharge
Upon the ayrie towres.
Let now the chimneys blaze
And cups o'erflow with wine,
Let well-tun'd words amaze
With harmonie diuine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall waite on hunny Loue
While youthfull Reuels, Masks, and Courtly sights,
Sleepes leaden spels remoue.
This time doth well dispence
With louers long discourse;
Much speech hath some defence,
Though beauty no remorse.
All doe not all things well;
Some measures comely tread;
Some knotted Ridles tell;
Some Poems smoothly read.
The Summer hath his ioyes,
And Winter his delights;
Though Loue and all his pleasures are but toyes,
They shorten tedious nights.
-- Thomas Campion (via Luminarium)
It has come to our attention that in recent weeks, the Inside of Your Head has become a disagreeably noisy and crowded place. We believe that the appropriate course of action would be to set limits on the number of inner voices allowed on the premises at any given time. With this in mind, we submit the following suggestions for your consideration.
The Inner Critic should be banned until she demonstrates that any of her contributions are of use. We cannot see why the rest of the patrons should have to listen to her constant harpings on the themes of "You can't get anything done," "You're never going to get a job," and "You're just generally pathetic, you know that?" If she continues to show up, we recommend forcefully ejecting her by the scruff of her neck. You may wish to consider hiring a bouncer for this purpose.
We've noticed that once the Inner Worrywart stops in and begins to fret, she frequently refuses to leave. If this problem persists, hire another bouncer.
The Inner Sloth should be treated with caution. She appears harmless, and she may in fact be harmless. But her tendency to sit apathetically in a corner, hunched over her table, declining all offers to get up and dance, staring vacantly at the television, strikes us as bad for morale.
The Inner Goofball is welcome. She might be of use to distract the Inner Sloth from her torpor, as a matter of fact.
The Inner Snarky Bitch is also welcome. Have you noticed how everyone else cheers up when she steps out of hiding and starts to talk? Why not offer her a free drink and a bowl of cheese straws every now and then?
The Inner Waffler has occasionally proved helpful with her insistence on seeing all sides of every issue, but at the present moment her indecisive shilly-shallying is annoying. Try installing a new jukebox and getting her to waffle over song choices rather than second-guessing every decision the others are trying to make.
The Inner Decision-Maker visits with distressing infrequency. You wouldn't happen to have her number, would you? We'd hate to lose such a valuable customer, and we're starting to wonder what's become of her.