1. “I’ve written a lot on Susan Stewart’s work, which takes as a starting point Marx’s notion that even the five senses are the product of historical forces—they have a history, and for Stewart poetry is a record of that history.”—Ange Mlinko, in conversation with Jordan Davis
2. Bill Berkson remembering John Ashbery in white denim (at the Poetry Foundation’s Alternative Press Original Multiples opening 22 September 2011)
3. The 1979 portrait of Walter Hopps that hung over Ashbery’s bar—
4. That Ashbery and Hopps must have passed each other at the opening of a show, somewhere (East Coast–West Coast; Ashbery writing for Art International and Art and Literature; Hopps curating at the Pasadena Art Museum and then the Washington Gallery of Modern Art and then the Corcoran; all of this, in time, between 1960 and 1972)
5. That Ashbery appears in an epigraph—
6. Students respond favorably to Levertov’s conviction that the poet writes more than “ knows.”
7. The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov (Edited by Robert J. Bertholf and Albert Gelpi)
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As an expression, the “Ides of March” entered our vernacular right around the rise of the modern. In ancient Roman daily life, the ides approximated mid-month—in particular, the ides of March heralded a feast day for Mars, god of war, often accompanied by a military parade. We associate it with the death of Julius Caesar, and with Shakespeare’s soothsayer, who intones near the opening of that eponymous play (Act I, Scene II): “Beware the ides of March.” Caesar, the Shakespearean character, of course dismisses the speculative fervor with a certain ease:
“He is a dreamer; let us leave him.”
We know how that story ends. The dream-life was a bit more Technicolored for medieval poets and bards, who took on the classical story of Caesar-the-superhuman’s death, and imbued it with portends better suited to middle times: Caesar’s horses stopped grazing and wept openly; a bull he recently sacrificed had no heart; a bird was torn asunder by birds of the same feather, while the Senate watched with eyes aghast; and flames lit forth from the palms of otherwise unharmed men. Soon, in epic poems, Caesar would mate with Morgan le Fay and produce the fairy king . . .
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Wednesday . . . the Slough of Despond of the week. Couldn’t we all use a pick-me-up? Could you make do with a pick-up instead? The taxi type, that is.
This week, Dmitry Samarov’s Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab rolls out of the garage and flips on its ON DUTY light. Presenting tales originally written for Samarov’s ongoing blog, the book offers a cabbie’s-eye tour of Chicago, traveling its late-night streets fare by fare, revealing the city and its people at their most vulnerable, open, and unguarded.
In his introduction, Samarov writes “Cabdrivers catch people at the most revealing moments—not when they have their game faces on, but with their guard down, unable to pretend,” and in his brief sketches of passengers, unusual conversations, and strange events, he gives us a privileged glimpse into those fleeting interactions that reveal so much about our fellow citizens’ hopes, dreams, and secret pains. Happy, clueless tourists on their way in from O’Hare; Clark Street drunks staggering out of Friday night and into Saturday morning; Cubs fans spilling from Wrigley after a win (or, more likely, a loss); the deserted streets of a lonely Christmas behind the wheel—Samarov brings his gentle, humane . . .
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What you can do right now: Donate $10 to the American Red Cross—charged to your cell phone bill—by texting “HAITI” to “90999.”
. . .
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Concerned about the current state of the American educational system? Then you won’t want to miss this webinar hosted by the authors of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:00 am. The authors’—researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research—will present the findings contained in their book which provides a detailed analysis of why 100 of Chicago’s elementary schools showed extraordinary progress in attendance and test scores over a seven-year period and why 100 others did not. The webinar will also feature an audience discussion and Q&A after the talk. For more information about the webinar navigate to the website for the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute. For more about the book read an excerpt.
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Yesterday on Good Morning America, former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge tried to quell the storm of reaction to his recent claim that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft pressured him to raise the terror alert level before the 2004 presidential election.
“Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld,” Ridge writes in his new book, an excerpt of which was published yesterday at ABC.com. “There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.”
But how, exactly, do threats of terrorism affect the opinions of citizens? Speculation abounds, but until now no one had marshaled hard evidence to explain the complexities of this relationship. Drawing on data from surveys and original experiments they conducted in the United States and Mexico, Jennifer Merolla and Elizabeth Zechmeister demonstrate how our strategies for coping with terrorist threats significantly influence our attitudes toward fellow citizens, political leaders, and foreign nations.
In their forthcoming Democracy at Risk, the authors reveal, for . . .
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The Times Higher Education recently published quite a positive review of The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire. Drawn from the prestigious Nebenzahl Lectures at the Newberry Library’s Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography and edited by the center’s director, James R. Ackerman, the book examines the maps of a range of cultures during the 17th to 20th centuries to illustrate the ubiquitous use of cartography by ruling bodies to claim their entitlement to lands and peoples.
From Valerie Kivelson’s piece on the early imperial Russian mapping of Siberia, to Neil Safier‘s exposition on Portuguese mapping of its South American territories, as THE contributor Sarah Bendall notes:
choices are excellent and his list of contributors impressive…. The essays all describe instances in which unequal power relationships between communities produced maps that represented imperial subjects for the exclusive benefit of the rulers. Together, the authors show that the picture of imperial mapping is complex, with religious doctrine, scientific exploration, commerce, ethnography, propaganda and administrative practice operating in different ways depending upon the context.… These are complex stories, but Akerman is to be congratulated on his editing. He has ensured that the reader is guided . . .
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In the past few weeks, several projects have arisen to photographically document the recession. Just today, for example, the New York Times launched Picturing the Recession, through which the paper is encouraging readers around the world to submit photos that use “creative ways of documenting the changes around you.” And last month, Slate asked readers to “Shoot the Recession,” in part because “economic times produce indelible images. The Great Depression calls to mind grainy news photos of bank runs and soup kitchens, and the harrowing portraits taken by Walker Evans.”
Of course, it also calls to mind the iconic works of Dorothea Lange, whose photographs for the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration have become the defining images of that time. Collecting never-before-published photos and captions from Lange’s fieldwork in California, the Pacific Northwest, and North Carolina during 1939, Anne Whiston Spirn’s Daring to Look presents images that had languished in archives since Lange was dismissed from the Farm Security Administration at the end of that year.
Unflinchingly portraying the last century’s major economic crisis, these photos set a high standard for all of those now documenting the current recession. As Lange herself said, this is a crucial standard to . . .
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Halloween is just around the corner, so after you put the finishing touches on your ghoulish Sarah Palin costume, cozy up with some of these spooky tales of demons, devils, and magic.
Walter Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief
On September 20, 1587, Walpurga Hausmännin of Dillingen in southern Germany was burned at the stake as a witch. Although she had confessed to committing a long list of maleficia (deeds of harmful magic), including killing forty—one infants and two mothers in labor, her evil career allegedly began with just one heinous act—sex with a demon. Fornication with demons was a major theme of her trial record, which detailed an almost continuous orgy of sexual excess with her diabolical paramour Federlin “in many divers places . . . even in the street by night.”
Alain Boureau, Satan the Heretic: The Birth of Demonology in the Medieval West
Boureau trains his skeptical eye on the birth of demonology and the sudden belief in the power of demons who inhabited Satan’s Court, setting out to understand not why people believed in demons, but why theologians—especially Pope John XXII—became so interested in the subject. Depicting this new demonology, Satan the . . .
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