Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Can I Borrow Your Stomach for a Year?

This week’s Radiolab (a fantastic NPR show if you have not heard it) addressed our guts. Here’s a quick summary of the first Act: in the 19th century a scientist, Dr. William Beaumont, saves the life of a gut shot individual, Alexis Saint Martin. Martin retains a hole in his stomach that allowed aforementioned scientist access to his insides by dropping and removing food at will, as well as naked eye observations of the surface workings. He does these experiments for the remainder of Martin's life. Previous to this point it was thought that the “bowels” were only connected to emotions. Beaumont is the pioneer who essentially realizes the stomach is “a big muscle full of juices.”

Beaumont pressed into unknown territory and created a map. When we press into an unknown territory over the course of a few decades – or even centuries – we take a detailed topography of the geography. These discoveries change our colloquialisms, even the way we perceive ourselves, and construct our identity. For our generation the unknown landscape is the brain.

It’s odd that our bodies which we are each at the maximum level of intimacy with can be such a mystery to us – even our realization that it is a mystery is a function of it. Our bodies can surprise us and betray us all while remaining enigmatic. In our information age the degree of mystery is constantly decreasing and, at the same time, becoming more complex. We have constant access to short articles, radio programs and television programs (even entire stations) dedicated to our personal biology.

Will these discoveries impact our identity as we strive to achieve mental, physical, and spiritual health, or will it plunge us into a level of neurosis that will destroy our civilization?

History may tell us – when he returns our calls -that nothing extreme will occur and the changes will be negligible and slowly accruing. Perhaps, in greater knowledge of self, we will usher in a new era of self-regulation. Where we would use hand held digital medical monitoring devices, detailed applications to track diet and exercise and sleep, all to strive for optimal health. Our new found knowledge could press us into a new era of personal responsibility where we can only blame ourselves or the super wealthy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flimsy Cards Afraid of Houses

And I forgot why I overloaded Scenario’s 1997 Honda Civic gills and drove her to the Delta.

John Ashbery begins many of his poems in the middle of a thought, usually via a conjunction. Abruptness is the truest form of beginning. There is no cradle to crave narrative – not even our own – that unfolds perfectly. At times it is that these false expectations that prevents me from updating all the wonderful people back home. Damn it I am good at making my absences seem so poetic!
And we started catching up.

…I forgot why…

I forgot in the stream of days where I pushed school from my mind once I arrived home. The items to share and say piled high:

Creative Writing


My creative club took off in a spray of sparks and in shouted lines in the center of my humid classroom after I caught a six minute nap at my desk. This week my students will begin work shopping their poems and will prepare to submit. AND….my creative writing class is a go for next year. I got it back on the books!

Time to Teach a NOVEL – j/k

I figured out that questions are an essential to my classroom. I flew high on this after teaching a Sherman Alexi e piece “Superman and Me” just in time to teach a novel. This realization butted right into the block schedule. Block meant all my students would were exchanged for the sophomores. I learned I do love my job. Within all the gripes and mutters into my coffee cup I forgot how my juniors kept me going. Test prep did offer its own lessons. New students gave me some steel in my spine that was much needed. Test prep objectives are more concrete so my goals for each day became clearer.

And I remembered how TFA convinced me to leave all and every.


Tonight we met to discuss the ELA pilot, which is the framework TFA adopted in Nashville and the Delta for English teachers. These visiting staff members were a reminder how hard everyone in TFA works toward a single goal. Surrounded by so much enthusiasm and passion and people who knew what I attempted each and every day…that reenergized me. I am a part of something and it’s so much bigger than I am.



In forgetting my direction and reason for traveling all seemed for naught. I also had two cups of coffee at dinner, so the first draft of this post came out as an existential metatextual poem full of conjunctions and phrases like “We’re a deck of a flimsy cards afraid of houses.”

Caffeine, now with delusions!


Final note of this hodgepodge:

Student: Can I call you Steve?
Mr. Stevens: *questioning look*
Student: So it seems like we're on familiar terms

-Steve