Thursday, January 14, 2010

As much as I've enjoyed this break, the time it afforded me to laze around and play casually with the kids without the looming deadline of grading/reading/writing hanging over my head, I've missed the structure that the academic year forces on my life. Like a toddler, I respond very well to structure. Also like a toddler, I get cranky when I don't get my snack. But that is beside the point.

The point is, school started today. I teach MWF, and have my (last!) major grad class Wednesday afternoons, so Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are reserved for office hours and my other class, a teaching practicum, which meets for just one hour a week on Thursdays. This is almost the same schedule as last semester, except that for "night class" read "afternoon class," and instead of going to class all afternoon Tuesday and Thursday, I will be in my office, getting work done.

And while two three-hour stretches of uninterrupted (I mean, unless a student actually visits me during office hours) time might not seem like the lap of academic luxury to you, it sure does to me. So much so that I feel almost guilty about it. But when I think of all the work I am going to try to cram into those few measly hours, then I realize I really need them.

Speaking of work...last weekend was an exciting one for us. Jeff got a call Sunday night informing him that he'd won the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award for poetry. This is a local award, sponsored by the Lawrence Arts Center and The Raven bookstore. There is a monetary prize, and he gets to read at a reception in his honor at the Arts Center on February 1.

This is very exciting, of course, but what really made me pause was how timely it all was. Because Jeff isn't enrolled in a grad program or plugged in to a community of writers in some other way, it often seems like he's working in a vacuum. Since his first title right now is stay-at-home dad, his writing frequently takes second place. Days go by with little time for him to work except at night after the kids are in bed, after he's exhausted by the constant demands of a baby and preschooler. And I am often his only sounding board, and I rarely have the time or energy to give his poetry the careful attention it deserves.

It seems like whenever things are particularly difficult for Jeff, for whatever reason (a number of rejections in one day, several days with no time to work, etc.) something like this happens. And I have to say that I think it's pretty amazing that a guy with no "formal" training or instruction in poetry has won an Ohio Arts Council grant for individual excellence, has published and had poems accepted for publication in well-regarded journals (he'll have one out this spring in Natural Bridge), and has now been recognized for the Langston Hughes award. Part of it is his work ethic. He's incredibly committed to his writing, and is almost always thinking about his poems that are in the works, or the ways he can tweak little elements of his daily existence to speak something to something larger, or more absurd, or more funny. It's inspiring.

Several of you have inquired whether you could read Jeff's poems, and whether we could post something to the blog. Well, the thing is, many journals are funny about publication of work, including on a personal website. So as not to jeopardize any poems that are published or could be in the future, he doesn't really want to put anything up here. But if you're interested, you could try contacting Jeff directly (jefftig AT hotmail DOT com). Or, even better, you could pick up a copy of Natural Bridge (number 23, due out this spring) or Margie (number 8, available online now) and support these publications as well as Jeff.

I have two favorites among Jeff's poems that I keep hoping will be picked up by some journal so they can be shared with the world. One is about Metallica, the other deals with men and their love for trucks. Enough said. Let it be known that the second either of these two poems are available in print, I will encourage you to run, not walk, to your nearest independent bookstore.

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