Approaching a Venn Diagram of Poetry and Theatre

I cooked last night. Salted cod, kale, mashed cauliflower, roasted beets and garlic. I made dukkah, and feta cream-cheese with lemon zest.

After nearly a week of feeling ill, this was good. After literally years of not enjoying cooking, not being creative in the kitchen: this is great.

I am a cook. I am not a cook.

Fever gone, I’m heading back to work today. I’ve had several nights of bad dreams, which I’m choosing to use as a lens to examine my real insecurities.

I think that my interests are changing. It’s not that my passion is waning, but it is shifting direction. I keep fighting the desire to know that this time I will uncover it: my authentic calling. Goo to clearly-identifiable butterfly. Finally.

I remember being crushed when I read about how Robert Frost was very protective of his reputation. Of his image. I remember thinking that if even he is not good enough in his authentic shapelessness, who is?

How can one live in a body and view it simultaneously? Every mechanism for that reveals at least one, inherent distortion. Even the smoothness of a baby’s skin is an illusion of uniformity. The truth will out. Of not under a magnifying glass, then with age.

We have a new curriculum point in the rehashed version of what used to be primarily Theater History. It is about the theatricalized self. And while I am still uncomfortable with the inclusion of this subject in the classwork, I am fascinated by it.

The whole idea seems to lie in a realm between psychology and performance studies. While the education department has basically dumbed-down the academic requirements, it has ramped-up the quasi-philosophic elements. I think it attempts to turn the arts into a soft science.

When I first began teaching, I did impose a lot of my subjective perspectives on the students. I thought I had the life experience and the wisdom to interpret things correctly. If not correctly, certainly as a (implied: the more) “valid” conclusion. I have no doubt that I unintentionally played the guru of theatrical interpretation, as had so many of my instructors before me.

At some point, I began moving away from that. I try to keep my precious insights out of the classroom: “Just the facts, Mam”, and Devil’s advocate. This kind of humility has made me a much better teacher. It’s also left me with the freedom to continually question my own perspective. I think this is when I really began/begin learning.

Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.’

W.H. Auden

I do agree with the concept behind the new curriculum goals, with their focus on continual learning rather on the absurd goal of “mastering” something that will always be subjectively evaluated.

But I am still at a loss in term of how to evaluate this kind of thing. It still begs the question of there being a linear progression to learning itself, and that someone somewhere sits with an unequivocal conclusion, measuring the distance crossed by each student.

It still puts lines down and says: this peg in this hole.
This perspective.
This association taints it all, so throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Maybe the arts will never find a real home in academics? After all, don’t all good mentor-ships require rebellion? Shouldn’t every living have the freedom of shapelessness?

I am not going to worry about all this for a while. I have exams to compose.

4 Replies to “Approaching a Venn Diagram of Poetry and Theatre”

  1. When asked to choose these days, think I choose everything. Who or what am I to make a fuss. Been looking at the end-of-days for a while now. Different when personal. NOT THAT I’m counting days and no element of BooHoo, poor me. Rather the question is what’s-writing-meant-to-be in moments like these. I really really don’t know. I am not “about” my well-being, but neither is it something invisible. There is an element of Liberation in consideration. But then, no shortage of elements! I may continue for some good while yet, but I’m disturbed how ignorant we are about this process of change. Why am I a stranger to myself?

    And then the smallest fraction may provoke a major response of words. Questionable. Unavoidable. Like right now. In their moment everyone knows more than me. I’m pretty sure of that. Thanks for making me look and look again.

  2. I must admit I’m never sure academia fits into art (rather than the other way round). Teaching art (written, visual etc etc) must be really difficult, and sometimes I think the aim must be to give people the confidence to express themselves rather than teaching them form and adherence. I don’t know.


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