A collection of necessary tangents, digressions, and distractions

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AMP, Foster, and Essbaum

If you don’t know the poetry and prose of Alan Michael Parker, the critical work and poetry of Brett Foster, or the poems and (forthcoming) fiction of Jill Alexander Essbaum, what’s wrong with you? They are each wonderful and quirky and smart. 

Also, and I’m lucky as hell here, they were each kind enough to read and endorse The Small Books of Bach. Here are the kind things they said:

"David Wright has apprenticed himself to the greatest of masters—with the humility of the student alert to the astonishments of point and counterpoint, our aesthetic antipodes. Were you worried, you may be at peace. Here, in these beautiful poems, in the poet’s haunted hands, Bach springs eternal."
—Alan Michael Parker, author of Love Song with Motor Vehicles

"From a ‘singed g-minor’ in wartime to a ‘Sestina for Bach’s Mama,’ Wright’s Bach is an imaginative creation suited to the revival tent and electric organ, feeling all along the ‘hum and rhythm’ present in the syncopated experiences of art and belief."
—Brett Foster, author of The Garbage Eater

"Here’s the deal with this book: it’s funnier than you think it is. And it’s sadder than it presents. And it’s far, far wiser than it sets out to be … Here is a book of private absolutions made public, settled ‘scores’ (there’s that Wrightian wryness again), and ultimately, an elegiac lyric congregated around loss and God. Don’t be fooled—this isn’t a book about Bach. It’s a book about the common crisis shared by every living, loving soul. It’s a book that sings longing’s awful song."
—Jill Alexander Essbaum, author of Heaven

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The willingness continually to revise one’s own location in order to place oneself in the path of beauty is the basic impulse of education. One submits oneself to other minds (teachers) in order to increase the chance that one will be looking in the right direction when a comet makes its sweep through a certain patch of sky.

Elaine Scarry, from On Beauty and Being Just

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The Re-birth of High School English


My college students dread writing and reading. It’s time to re-think the way we teach.


*photo credit: Susan Sermoneta, Flickr Creative Commons*

One of the earliest assignments in my first-year seminar is a reading and writing autobiography. Basically, I want my students to tell me who…

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David Wright on Terrance Hayes’s “When the Neighbors Fight”

Here is desire and the possibility of intimacy (more tentative, perhaps, in similes rather than metaphors); this is the urge towards connection in spite of the evidence of abuse and the risk of pain and regret.  Is the risk of the “Mouth on the nipple / Above my heart” worth taking? How can you know until you open and enter the vulnerable door? 

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Maundy Thursday, On the Run

An old poem from a book that’s now, yikes, 11 years old. Still, closest thing we Mennonites have to a sacrament is foot washing.

Maundy Thursday, On the Run

"You also ought to wash one another’s feet."
—John 13:14

To find a body willing is hard. In the mall, I asked old women, young men, a few clerks—could I please wash your feet? I held out a brand new bar of soap and a full blue plastic basin. The pink towel on my shoulder was clean.

And as you might expect, some folks dismissed this as a ploy. A wide man wearing green suggested I kiss his wide ass instead. His leather work boots squeaked against the tile as we each declined the other’s gesture.

It was a revelation just how many claimed their feet were plenty clean: tiny women in gossamer shoes; boys in sleek white Nikes; a cop’s polished black oxfords shone.

By the time I found someone, the water had grown cold. Yet he only winced a bit at the initial dip of his heel. Callused skin on the balls of his feet and a sharp nail on his big toe kept him from being a stranger. After dabbing dry his skin, I handed him his socks. He knotted up his laces. He asked was it my turn now? But by then I had to run.