The Political Afterlives of Poems

I It is difficultto get the news from poems                        yet men die miserably every day                                                for lackof what is found there. – William Carlos Williams, “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” (1955) It may be “difficult / to get the news from poems,” but you can get poems from the news. Just last month, a sonnet made headlines after the Trump administration announced a new policy refusing green cards to anyone who relies on government assistance. At a press conference, a reporter […]

Excerpt from Dr. Seuss cartoon of hills, a castle and arch, and balloons floating into sky

Oh the places they’ll build!

If you talk to almost any professor at Davidson, we’ll say that our students are the best part about working here. I’ve got to agree (though I’ve got some pretty inspiring colleagues, too). And while lots of folks like to bemoan the decline of Generation X, Y, or Z in the age of smart phones and social media, I’ve seen them do some remarkable work with their new-fangled gadgets. On or about December 2013, Davidson College unfolded “Davidson Domains,” an […]

2016 Holiday Letter (by Luke, Thomas & Zac Churchill)

Peace in Our Time!

This morning’s newspaper headlines the N. C. General Assembly’s last minute power grab to limit the already restricted powers of Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper. The Republicans are defending their actions, saying the Democrats “did it first” 20 and 40 years ago. Colin Campbell reports: “House Bill 17, which legislators approved Friday, would limit the number of state employees the governor can hire and fire to 425. The current limit is 1,500 and was increased from 400 around the time Republican […]

Make America Think Again

I haven’t posted on this blog in months. Now that Mom’s gone and Dad’s remarried, I get an occasional urge to write, but lack the urgency. …until this week, when the triumph of Trump convulsed me from low-grade anxiety to a fever pitch of terror and sadness. On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, I went to bed at 9:50 pm, unable to watch what already appeared inevitable. I tossed and turned in bed, my feet cramping. I tried to reassure myself that more than 50% of […]

Computerized Textual Analysis

Apologies for this rough post, but I don’t have much time before I have to catch my shuttle to the airport. I’m in Victoria at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, taking a course with David Hoover (NYU) called “Out of the Box Text Analysis.” All week, I’ve been trying to work through my own skepticism about whether: computerized analysis of literary texts merely confirms/denies what we already know; the results are interesting and valuable enough to justify the tedious work […]

A Family Fable

Anne Lamott’s birthday essay about “every single thing” she knows at the age of 61 has gone viral again. I was among the 86k people to like it on Facebook. What’s not to like about Lamott’s delightful blend of spiritual wisdom, dark humor, and love of humanity? Witness this from Lesson #1: Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of […]

Serendipity: “Sead” for Yourself

Long ago and far away in a land called Persia, there were three princes who spent their days traveling the world. As they roamed far and wide, thither and yon, across amethyst mountains, emerald valleys, and sapphire seas, the princes “were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass […]

What Poetry Doesn’t Tell You

Ok, this morning’s earlier post was the public story, but as you might of guessed, there’s a private story lurking behind it. Or more accurately, a story “Formerly Known as Private,” since I’m about to tell it. The public story was proper and tidy. This story is going to be messy, because I’ve just gotta get it down and then get on with grading all those papers. What set off the explosion of gloom I alluded to was simply a […]

Poetry Makes Something Happen

This morning, as I struggled to drag my mind out of a mire of missing my mother and regretting my own misfires in the classroom, I watched two videos by Davidson college alums that snapped me out of my solipsism and reminded me what poetry can do to change our perspectives and broaden our minds. (Go English majors!) Clint Smith (’10) is a poet and teacher who uses poetry to change the narratives we tell about kids and poverty in […]