At the end of Rilke’s poem on the busted up bust of Apollo, he concludes: You must change your life. The idea is that, after looking at this vital work of art, one that retains all its power despite or even because of its condition, the poet feels less alive, and therefore must start living. Not only does Rilke redefine what it means to be alive – in other words, living means more than breathing in and out, sleeping, feeding and copulating – but he points out the aim of all good art, and that is, to offer us the opportunity to get busy living or get busy dying.
So what does that have to do with this newest incarnation of my blog?
I’m not new to blogging. I started my first blog – this one – in like August of ’07. The idea, then, was to visit every day or so, and say a few things about poetry and poets. I was scheduled to teach a class on the art of poetry in the fall, and so I thought the blog might supplement my lectures, and, if nothing else, it would be a good way for me to gather my thoughts before I walked into the classroom – where I prefer to be spontaneous, rather than read from lecture notes – so that when I did walk into the classroom, I wouldn’t be flying blind. Not that I mind flying blind. Actually, I kind of like it and have discovered I’m at my best when I do, but I thought it might be a good thing for students, blah, blah, blah.
I did this for a while. That is, until I realized none of my students were visiting the site, as far as I could tell and as most of the discussion in class more or less proved. And not only weren’t any of my students visiting, but judging by the search terms which led to the site, the students who were may have been interested for reasons which are less than noble, if you catch my drift. If you don’t, then I’ll speak plainly. The posts on the site were being plagiarized.
So I stopped. I backed up the posts I had posted, deleted everything and decided enough of that. The next semester I used the same blog address for another reason, and the semester after, still another. I like the idea of a blog as class supplement, and will probably use it again in the future to update students about this or that, or post images, distribute texts, etc. But not here, and certainly not now. Why? Because I’m on sabbatical.
I might talk more about what a sabbatical is later, for those who don’t know – assuming anyone reads this – but for now, let’s just say and let this definition suffice, that a sabbatical is a rest. Or that’s what it’s supposed to be. The word sabbatical is related to the word sabbath, which is the seventh day of the Jewish week, where Jews, like God after the creation, stop what they’re doing and rest. It’s funny, but when you think about how civilized a concept that is, it reveals how uncivilized many of our lives are. Is there a day you set a side for no other reason than rest? Most people can’t say there is. And a day off from work isn’t that same thing as rest.
Even my rest isn’t rest entirely. In order to be granted a sabbatical I had to prove that what I would be doing instead of teaching would equal full-time work. This I don’t mind because being a full-time poet requires both less and more than being a full-time English prof. And the less that work requires allows more time and energy for the more that poetry requires. Anyway, the point is this: one of the objects of a day of rest is reflection, and the point of reflection, as far as I can figure, is revision. That is, an opportunity to conclude: You must change your life.
Well, changing your life isn’t so easy. But changing your blog is. So I’ve started there. My aim here is to visit not necessarily every day and say a few words about what is what. I suspect many of the posts will relate to poetry, but I’m sure the posts will be more wide ranging than that. And, if I do it right, the effort will lead to the kind of opportunity I’m looking to find.