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Recall Notice

July 11, 2011

I am now officially employed half-time and must begin acting like it soon, going in to the college and keeping office hours and seeing real, live people every day. Right now everything is still in planning mode, though, so we’re having a lot of meetings, some of them over lunch; nothing too arduous, just a bit of composition theory with panini and iced tea.

I’ve been feeling a bit of regret that I put all my eggs into the writing administrator basket and will probably not be called on to teach literature again. But then I read the poem “Recall Notice,” another one by Carl Dennis from Callings, and the regret lessened. Because I was never the kind of professor who lectured about the “right” reading of a Shakespeare play, but I am the kind of writing program administrator who tinkers with the best way to be a midwife to the birth of better writing, continually revising my thinking and advice and handouts in light of more and newer information.

Which by the way, I will have better access to now, because I’ll be getting some institutional support for “professional development,” meaning that instead of trying to keep up with what’s going on by reading free stuff on the internets and ordering an occasional book on my own dime, the college will pay for some professional memberships so the information comes to me. And I can read it in my office, which will be in the library and have a window. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Recall Notice

Gone now the young professor
Who took pleasure in hauling Lear
Before the court of a sophomore classroom
And pronouncing the old king headstrong,
Hungry for praise, intemperate,
And flagrantly ignorant of the world,
Confident he can cede his kingdom
And still retain his kingly authority.

Gone the old professor the young one became,
Who taught that Lear deserves to be praised,
After the arrogance of Act One,
For shaking his fist in the face of calamity
And asking what can be made
Of the nothing he’s left with,
Or the next-to-nothing.

Gone the students taught the old view,
Whose notebooks the old professor
Would have liked to recall for some serious
Alterations in focus and tone.
Or if not the notebooks of all,
Then those of the few who paid attention
And remembered the class long afterward.
Rebecca Bryce, for instance,
Who sat near the front, head bent,
Taking every word down,
While most of the others studied the rain
Soaking the hemlocks outside the window.

To her he’d have been happy to send a note
Expressing the hope no lecture of his
Berating Lear for trusting in flattery
Left her suspicious of friendly overtures,
Reluctant to let her guard down for a minute.
To her a note hoping his pious praise
Of Lear’s belated humility and contrition
Didn’t induce her to suffer injustice tamely.

Gone from the world the belief that the two
Can talk about it in some other life,
A life that now only imagination
Finds room for. There he’s delighted
To learn from her that his worry
Is more than a little ridiculous,
His claim to an influence
He never came close to possessing.

There he has a chance to be foolish,
Like Lear at the end,
Oblivious to the issue of royal authority.
And after the end, when the king
Chats over there with Cordelia all afternoon,
The professor makes sure that the pair
Are not interrupted. There he goes,
Patrolling the perimeter of the country cottage,
Turning messengers from the Court away.

Literature always offers “a life that only imagination/finds room for,” and I’ve kept a lot of the rooms in the house of my imagination furnished with the literature I love most, but now I’m going to be redecorating the part of the house furnished with more pragmatic knowledge, and it will be interesting to see if that makes more of an effect on the world.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2011 11:31 am

    I am so thrilled you have these fantastic changes going on. I’ll live vicariously through you for a bit!

    • July 11, 2011 3:26 pm

      As I have been living vicariously through your trips to Hawaii this year!

  2. July 11, 2011 11:46 am

    YIPPEE!! I think. for finding your niche as a writing coach or whatever. (see? lots of people out there NEED you.)


  3. freshhell permalink
    July 11, 2011 12:26 pm

    That is very exciting! Esp that library office with a window! Perhaps you’ll happen on a conference close to me one day!

    • July 11, 2011 3:27 pm

      One day, perhaps. Next year it looks like St. Louis. If my summer weren’t so full, I’d be coming to Staunton to see the ASC’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

  4. July 11, 2011 12:47 pm

    This is great — really great.

  5. July 11, 2011 9:12 pm

    I always think of you just before I press “publish”. I do the grammar check, and cringe a little bit at all of the passive voice constructions that I employ in my blog. But, then again, this is (I think) how I talk, so I give myself a little special dispensation.

    Congrats, and here’s to many sunny days at that window.

    • July 11, 2011 10:04 pm

      I like the way you talk. And it’s not like I read blog posts as a proofreader!
      You of all people appreciate the kind of effort it takes to enjoy the sunny day and the window here.

  6. trapunto permalink
    July 11, 2011 10:11 pm

    Yay! That’s all I have to say.

  7. July 12, 2011 9:08 am

    Thanks! I appreciate the vote of confidence.

  8. July 13, 2011 8:21 am

    How exciting! I think you’ll be a fabulous writing coach!

    • July 13, 2011 8:35 am

      More of my job is teaching students how to teach writing to other students, but “coach” is certainly as good a word for what I do as “midwife”!

  9. July 17, 2011 11:00 pm

    Oh dear, I’m afraid I went on a Mark-all-as-read spree a while back and missed your announcement that your blog was moving. Scrolling through my Google Reader today, I thought, Hmmm…that’s weird that there’s nothing new from Jeanne…

    Anyway, congrats on your new blog home–I hope you like it here–and I hope your new job is going well. Your office sounds lovely!

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