Friday, January 25, 2013

First Week at Skinner West

You may now read all about my first week as a poet-in-residence at Skinner West through the Poetry Center's blog. (We read and discussed Mark Strand's "Eating Poetry.") I'll be posting regularly throughout the remainder of the school year, so please check in!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Return of (and to) Hands on Stanzas

Working as an adjunct has its pros, the most obvious being that one is free from much of the departmental hoop-jumping that tries the patience of full-timers. But the tip of the con iceberg would be the never-ending running around to secure work from semester to semester, especially since said work can evaporate in an instant if full-time faculty members lose classes due to low enrollment; at that time, courses assigned to adjuncts are up for grabs, and no matter how well-liked a part-time instructor may be, if one of their contracted classes fills a full-timer's vacancy, there's not much that can be done -- aside from getting assigned a possible last-minute replacement, which has its own set of difficulties, such as scrambling to set-up a class bequeathed in the eleventh hour.

I've been fortunate to avoid this particular pitfall so far -- that is, until this semester. I've been teaching on two campuses the last few years. One is in Chicago, and the other a short commute away in Indiana. The longer drive only makes sense economically if I have at least two classes, so when I lost one of my composition sections to a tenured instructor, I had no choice but to surrender the second. I was disappointed, but also oddly relieved, since it meant a break from the 80+ mile roundtrip drive twice weekly for the semester. I'd save on gas, and have more time to devote to my three sections at Northeastern, as well as my other extracurricular activities.

But good karma intervened as I was soon after contacted by the Poetry Center of Chicago to see if I was interested in teaching as a poet-in-residence once again for their resuscitated Hands on Stanzas program. If the call had come any sooner, I would have felt obligated to stick with my prior commitment, and put off the residency option until the fall. Of course, I said yes.

I've written extensively about my Hands on Stanzas experiences in the past. The program is what steered me away from years of working what Philip Levine used to refer to as "stupid jobs" and toward something more attuned to my tastes (not to mention performer proclivities), so I was disappointed when it went on hiatus in 2011 due to financial difficulties. Also, much as I enjoy working in higher education, being able to balance my college classes with teaching poetry in the public schools creates the perfect academic equilibrium.

With 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at Solomon Elementary

I'll be starting at Skinner West School shortly, and will be blogging about my ongoing 20 weeks of classroom experience (as well as sharing student writing) through the link at the PC site. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Poem in North Chicago Review

I have new work in the debut issue of North Chicago Review, now available! It is one of a series of persona poems written in the voices of victims of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (an event I witnessed firsthand).

All four poems also appear in my next book, Brief Nudity, out in March from Salmon Poetry Ltd.

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