Three Things Thursday: Riding, Reading, and Teaching

The semester is winding down and I’m contemplating my summer blogging schedule. I’d like to keep it going at least four days a week, but perhaps ramping down my quick hits and varia posts on Friday? Or making them a “photography Phriday” post?

Just a thought.

For the final Thursday of the semester, here are three little things that are simmering around in my head. 

Thing the First

Over the last decade, I’ve rediscovered the joy of walking. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t walk at least 20-30 miles usually in 6 or 7 mile chunks and usually accompanied by the dogs. Because I’m a creature of habit, I tend to walk the same paths day after day and this has given me a chance to observe the subtle changes that take place both with the changing of seasons and  year after year.

This spring, I’ve started to ride my bike a bit more. I bought a gravel bike that’s a hybrid between a road bike and a mountain bike suited for light trail riding and, more importantly, sojourns on the gravel section-line roads that surround Grand Forks. This has allowed me to explore a bit more widely. At the same time, I’m finding that gravel riding takes a significant amount of concentration. The distribution of gravel on the section-line roads is uneven meaning gravel appears in pools and eddies, ridges and troughs which make it like riding in deep snow or sand. The road surfaces have washboard patches that give way to smooth, almost polished, hard-packed stretches which ride like pavement. 

What’s interesting about riding the gravel roads around my town is that they give me a greater appreciation for the local landscape much the same way as walking does, but the texture of the gravel roads always is vying for my attention with the landscape for my attention. I can’t really tell whether riding my bike, then, has expanded my view of my world or narrowed it to the smoothest paths between the ridges of gravel on the roads.

Thing the Second

Somewhere on the web, I was reminded that the Greek poet Nikos Gatsos died on May 12, 1992. It’s not a special anniversary of his death or anything (I guess next year we can recognize that it’s been 30 years). His most famous poem is Amorogos. I remember buying my copy of the Sally Purcell translation in Athens when I was working at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. You can read a bit of an earlier translation by Kimon Friar here and there on the web.

The poem was written during the Nazi occupation of Greece and combines traditional Greek poetic forms with surrealist images. For Gatsos, Amorgos (an island, according to the story, Gatsos never even visited) becomes the object for his brilliant tracing of the pain and beauty of the complicated world in which he lived.

Thing the Third

It’s the start of the summer and I’m teaching an undergraduate Roman History class to two students. Traditionally, these summer courses are taught as independent reading and usually focus on three to five books and involve a series of reviews or reflection essays.

This summer, however, I was considering focusing on maybe one or two books. I’m curious about Ed Watts’ recent book on the fall of the Roman Republic, Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny (Basic Books 2018) and Walter Scheidel, Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity (Princeton 2019). I’d like to add a third book to the list, but considering that Scheidel clocks in at over 700 pages and Mortal Republic at 350. That’s 1000 pages for students to read and digest, and probably enough for one semester.

That said, I’m open to a third book, if you have something in mind. These students have no background in ancient history or Roman History.

Three Things Thursday: Black History Month, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and a New Book

I’m almost making a habit of these Three Things Thursdays! This week, I’m mostly sharing things that happening at my other two projects: The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota Quarterly.

Thing the First

Please go and check out this long interview with David Pettegrew on the making of the book One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920 that he co-edited with Calobe Jackson, Jr. and Katie Wingert McArdle.

It’s a brilliant example of public, digital archaeology that involved a diverse group of individuals and produce a wide range of products, experiences, and community.

Thing the Second

I brought together some stuff about the late Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the NDQ blog including a couple amusing stories about Ferlinghetti’s visit to the UND Writers Conference in 1974 which of course involved the cops and Tom McGrath because North Dakota. 

Thing the Third

This one is a bit top secret, but I want to share it with loyal readers to this blog.

On Monday, The Digital Press will release Rebecca M. Seifried and Deborah E. Stewart Brown’s Deserted Villages: Perspectives from the Eastern Mediterranean. This book is brilliant and brings together nine substantial papers on deserted and abandoned villages in a wide range of contexts (including North Dakota). 

If you want to download a copy for free, in advance of the official publication date, go here or you can be the first to receive your very own paper copy here.

1 Deserted Villages book cover

Poetry

It was wonderful to see the excitement surrounding Amanda Gorman’s remarkable poetry during yesterday’s inauguration. I wonder whether this will spur people to read more poetry – especially contemporary poetry – and support its publication?

Over the last few years, I’ve been reading much more poetry than ever before both for myself and as the editor of North Dakota Quarterly. I’m convinced that poetry speaks in unique ways to our contemporary situation. I has the capacity to be ambiguous, elusive, and shifting while also speaking significant and, at its best, profound truths to the world. It reminds me that being true shouldn’t be a watchword for a kind of desiccated empiricism or descriptive practices that value reportage over judgement, interpretation, and understanding. Despite recent calls to embrace “truth,” poetry makes clear that being true doesn’t mean being tidy or straightforward. Truth is messy and, in most cases, unclear.

Anyway, maybe we’re living in an age where poetry matters.

My colleagues and I post poetry regularly at the NDQ blog. You can check it out here.

If you like what you read in NDQit would be really great if you subscribed. Poets need venues for poetry to thrive and one way to make sure that the next generation of poets have places to publish, to be read, and to be discovered.

This week, I’ve be reading my way through the latest issue of Rattle, a poetry journal with an impressive circulation, some remarkable poetry, and an enviable track record. Check them out here.

I’m always excited to get a copy of the Beloit Poetry Journal and read through the remarkable collection of poets that it assembles each quarter. NDQ’s stablemate at the University of Nebraska Press is the wonderful Hotel Amerika, which always features provocative and new poetry.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the poetry of Sun Ra (here’s a nice little essay on what they can be like) and I’m looking forward to getting a copy of Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal collection of Black poets published in 1968: Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro American Writing, which is currently published by a Black owned press, Black Classic Press. You can get a copy here. It’s worth remembering that Alain Locke’s classic anthology of African American literature, The New Negro: An Interpretation, that sought to capture the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance just as Baraka and Neal captured the anger and frustration of Blacks in New York though the Black Arts Movement.

In any event, I’m not trying to convince you to read any particular poetry or to subscribe or purchase any particular journal or collection. At the same time, I AM trying to encourage you to channel your admiration for Amanda Gorman into supporting poets and poetry more broadly. So please, at very least click on one of the links and maybe you’ll find something amazing to read. 

Louise Glück’s Poetry, The Bakken and the Quarterly

It speaks volumes that a fly will overshadow the announcement of an American poet, Louise Elisabeth Glück, winning the Nobel Prize for literature.

If you don’t have some of her poetry on your shelf, I recommend it (for whatever that’s worth). A few years ago Farrar, Strauss and Giroux published an anthology of her work. Here are some of her poems as well. I also like the essay, “Against Sincerity”:

“…the source of art is experience, the end product truth, and the artist, surveying the actual, constantly intervenes and manages, lies and deletes, all in the service of truth.”

~

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of downloads that Kyle Conway’s edited volume, Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota, 1958-2018. It has already outperformed my expectations and continues to generate interest and excitement.

Kyle is also a great interview (and conversationalist). I did a little interview with him and posted it to the Digital Press blog. We discuss the book and the past and future of his Bakken research. As always he saves elevates my banal questions with his insightful responses. 

Read it here. Or download the book here, buy it on Amazon here, or get a copy from a small bookshop here.

~

Last but not least, I’ve posted the table of contents for the next issue of North Dakota Quarterly over at the NDQ blog. You can check it out here.

If you like it, you can download volume 85 for free or our latest issue 87.1/2 here.  

As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. If you can, consider buying a book from a small presssubscribing to a literary journal (like our UNP stablemate, Hotel Amerika), or otherwise supporting the arts.

We are currently reading poetry and essay and are always reading fiction. You can submit something to us here. If you already subscribe, you should get receive your latest copy of NDQ in November. If you’d like to subscribe, please go here

Three Things Thursday: Digital Utopias, Poetry, and Everything is Fine

It’s the last Thursday before the last weekend before the start of classes. It feels rather momentous as we brace ourselves for the COVID-inflected start to the 2020-2021 academic year.

In an effort to preserve a sense of normalcy, I though it appropriate to drop a Three Things Thursday. A little alliteration never goes astray when your grasping at the new normal.

Thing the First

A few months ago, David Haeselin, a co-conspirator and buddy of mine made the observation that writing was a utopian project. It assumes readers, expects some kind of mutual understanding, and engages in  shared world building. (As I sit down to write this post, I also wish that I had read my friend and colleague Mark Jendrysik’s new book Utopia, rather than just congratulating him for it over social media.)

Recently, for various reasons, I’ve gotten to think that the kind of digital archaeology that I practice which focuses on the recording of information in the field through to the publishing of archaeological data in an open and granular format, is also a utopian undertaking. If I had more of the “little grey cells” I might be able to expand this observation somehow into a full blog post, if nothing else, but right now I’m content to offer it as a half-baked thought on a Three Things Thursday. 

I think our assumption and hope that we can record what we do in the field in a way that is useful in the future and, actually more than that, used in the future recognizes shared values between the present and future. Even a casual reader in archaeological methods and theory recognizes this view as a bit naive, but the hopefulness of this view perhaps lends a bit to what Shawn Graham and others have called the “enchantment” found in digital archaeology

Thing The Second

On Tuesday, The Digital Press released a new book titled, One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920. You can read about the book in more detail here. Since then, quite a few people have visited the book’s page at The Digital Press website and this, of course, is exciting. 

What has been a little disappointing is that most people aren’t taking the time to download the book. This, on the one hand, is understandable. The title and description reads as something intended for a fairly narrow audience. But I want to encourage anyone interested in US history, African-American history, or – and perhaps most importantly – public history to check out this volume! Or at very least read this poem. The book is free!

In the sane spirit, I would also encourage you to check out the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19. This project has commissioned 19 new works by women composers that debuted with the Philharmonic in February just before COVID-19 disrupted our world.

What I didn’t realize was that the Academy of American Poets also contributed to this project by commissioning 19 poems by women writers. You can read and listen to the poems here or download the 19-page book here.

Thing The Third

Like many people, I’m struggling to wrap my head around the upcoming semester, the risk associated with COVID-19, and the looming budget challenges facing my institution and our college in particular. 

To help me deal with this, I’ve adopted a new motto for the fall 2020 semester and I plan to produce some kind of poster or sign celebrating it over the weekend. 

The motto is:

EVERYTHING
IS
FINE.

Stay tuned.