a little project

A few of the rare books I’ve purchased recently arrived with mylar film protective covers. It looks snazzy and protects the books from damage due to wear, dirt, and light, so I started looking into gathering the materials that would be needed to do this myself. After watching this instructional video, I assembled:

  • 2-mil thickness archival film in individual foldable sheets
  • 3-mil thickness archival film on a 100′ roll
  • hobby knife
  • self-healing cutting mat
  • ruler
  • tape

It was quite relaxing! I forgot how much I enjoy crafting. I started with my oldest books and then ended up creating covers for some of the paperbacks I use most in the classroom, to prolong their shelf life. I used the thinner film for smaller and newer books and the thicker film for the bigger and older ones. For the new books and the paperbacks I taped the film to the book, whereas I left the film loose for more rare materials.


I have a new note out at The Explicator [free epub / permalink] on the section of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen that engages with Robert Lowell’s Life Studies. My note, “Claudia Rankine and Robert Lowell, Again,” supplements a PMLA article by Kamran Javadizadeh by pointing to a little-known or unknown prior version of the Citizen section, published in the poetry magazine AGNI. I provide a full collation of the early publication with Citizen’s text.

This is the first scholarly output from the contemporary half of my current book project, Unheard Melodies. My book brings together fourteenth- and twenty-first-century poetics.

alliterative verse / avant-garde

I have a new curated collection of poems, premodern and contemporary, up at Poetry Foundation. Come for the Anne Carson; stay for the Piers Plowman. This was a lot of fun to pull together. It is inspired by my current book project, which likewise juxtaposes premodern and avant-garde contemporary poetry, but there are many poems in the collection not discussed in the book (and vice versa).

From the introduction:

So many of the poems brought together here, premodern and contemporary, travel that circuit between paying rent and creating art: the demands of the aesthetic economy balanced uneasily against the demands of the economy-economy. The 20th- and 21st-century poems in this collection broach a transtemporal communication through which readers can receive “a modern letter sent from antiquity” (Willis, “Tiptoe Lightning”). Certain time-bending passages in St. Erkenwald and other alliterative poems anticipate the linkage, as if these distant poems were expecting us all along.

PhD pay

I have a new statistical article in Profession and a companion op-ed in Chronicle of Higher Ed reflecting research I conducted last year into English PhD stipends. I learned that many English PhD candidates make only $25,000 (the national median), or less. A cost-of-living adjustment makes many programs located in expensive cities and suburbs look less generous.

I thank the many Directors of Graduate Studies and other administrators and department leaders who shared information and discussed my report with me prior to publication.

Middle Carson

My current book project has a section or two on Anne Carson. Originally this was narrowly devoted to a close reading of The Beauty of the Husband (2001), which uses Keats to remediate the detritus of a fictitious marriage loosely based on Carson’s first. Keats is the presiding genius of my book. But Carson is addictive and all-consuming, so the Carson pages of the book have been metastasizing as I read more. There’s no one like her.

From “Essay on What I Think about Most”:

Hunger always feels
like a mistake.
Alkman makes us experience this mistake
with him
by an effective use of computational error.
For a poor Spartan poet with nothing

left in his cupboard
at the end of winter—
along comes spring
like an afterthought of the natural economy,
fourth in a series of three,
unbalancing his arithmetic

and enjambing his verse.
Alkman’s poem breaks off midway through an iambic metron
with no explanation
of where spring came from
or why numbers don’t help us
control reality better.

In order to curb my own completism and not pore over four decades of work in order to add two footnotes (I would do this. . .) I have needed to distinguish some tranche of Carson’s career that will be in play for me, given Carson is not one of the six authors my book is primarily about. I’ve come up with what I think of as Middle Carson, 1999-2010. The books of and about poetry in this period are Economy of the Unlost (1999), Men in the Off Hours (2000), The Beauty of the Husband, If Not, Winter (2002), Decreation (2005), and Nox (2010; written 2000).

Middle Carson was the period when her engagement with Sappho, Keats, and lyric peaked. It is the perigee in her eccentric orbit around these three objects of concern. Much of the rest of Carson’s career before 1999 and since 2010, both original work (whatever that means, given the way her texts play off the classics) and translations, is given over to Greek drama. I’ve excluded squarely dramatic works from the purview of my book as requiring a different approach and a different sensibility from my own. That’s no value judgment, just me knowing my limits. So until I write a whole book on Carson I’ll stop here.

Update December 2022: I did not stop there.