I just finished another semester of teaching. I was at three colleges this semester, all over New York City. I have a consciousness that as an adjunct I am an underpaid and exploited worker, but I love teaching. I love my students. I love talking to them about writing and books. These are the amazing final projects from a radical print culture class I taught this semester at the New School:
It was strange to be back where I did my undergrad, almost a decade later, on the other side of the table. It was also a challenge to figure out how to responsibly bring radical culture into the academic world in a way that was fair and useful for everyone. In the end though, it was a lot of fun, thanks to my wonderful students, and to my wonderful guest lecturers, Fly and Sascha Altman Dubrul.
Maya Angelou died the other day. I never had all that much use for her poetry, though I thought it was unfair when an undergrad professor of mine asserted that it was "greeting card" not poetry. But I've seen her memoir, I know Why The Caged Bird Sings, help and positively affect many students. She wrote about surviving sexual abuse in a way that helped-and continues to help-a lot of people. This was forty-five years ago. She changed the discussion.
She definitely brought a neglected/silenced voice and experience into the mainstream. While it maybe involved creating a poetry that was easily palatable to TV audiences and politicians, it was a way to validate and honor important, marginalized voices, and I appreciate her for that.
Something else I want to say about Dr. Angelou is that I remember meeting her once when I was kid in Philadelphia. It was at one of those Unity Day/ Stop The Violence events that blighted cities used to have in the '90s. One of my dad's buddies had connections to the mayor's office, so my mother and I got to go backstage to meet her. There was a small jazz band there, and a table covered with Tasty Cakes. She sat in a chair and there was sort of a receiving line. She knelt down to speak with me, but I don't remember what she said. But my god, that woman had presence. Those eyes. That voice. I learned a lot about how to shake a person's hand and look them in the eye from that experience.
Rest In Peace.
After the usual delays, the second edition of The Men Who Work Under The Ground is now available for order from the Keep This Bag Away From Children store. Run cop that. If anyone wants to review that chapbook, or my Punk history book, hit me up for a review copy.
I'm reading tomorrow night at Noir at the Bar in Manhattan, with a whole crew of other lit thugs. It should be a great event. Hope to see you there.