Saturday, February 21, 2009

Me the iPhone

It's an old metaphor, or older at least, the body as machine. Somewhat newer is the body/mind as computer. It's a metaphor I have shied away from. Chalk this up to the intense love of my iPhone, or just the insidious influence of Apple in general. I've been thinking about the way we compartmentalize ourselves, and the various roles we perform in our daily lives. As I was doing this, I was scrolling through apps on my iPhone (it's right there in the name for crying out loud, I, Phone, like I, Robot or something) wondering what my apps would be if I were an iPhone.


The first two are obviously very closely related, but certainly require different skills.

Poetry Student
Doctoral Student
Lazy Scholar

These overlap on an almost daily basis. As I was walking around AWP, I found myself split between my Publisher and Poet selves. I was pimping Sage Hill books, but wondering why nobody was doing the same for me. So I would approach tables sometimes as publisher, sometimes as writer. It was weird. When I got back, I was telling my dad about the trip, and he asked "Would you rather be writing books or publishing them." For him it was a pragmatic question. To me, he was asking would you rather be Ed Ochester or Richard Hugo. It's a tough question. Almost nobody knows the work of Ed, or other publisher-poets (Sam Hamill, Matthew Zapruder, etc.) but they do know Pittsburgh Press, Copper Canyon, and Wave Books. I suppose they are mutually exclusive. But I feel as compelled to be a publisher as I do to write, and what it comes down to is that I couldn't stop doing either one if I had to.

Music Fan
Fantasy Sports Nut
Baseball Fan
Football Fan
Frisbee Golfer
Amateur Carpenter
Neophyte Woodsman
Bad Hunter
Bad Fisherman
Camping Enthusiast

I'm not sure why, but since I was young, I've always had to do things the long way. I'd love to come home and pop some dinner in the microwave, slap in on the table, and just eat. Or throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot or slow-cooker, let it go unsupervised for a few hours, and come back to serve up the tasteless glop. But I want my food to taste good. I can't let other people publish books if I think I can do it better. In junior high, I had an algebra class with Mrs. Wong. When we were learning proofs and theorems, I could almost always find another way to do the problems, and I would come up with new proofs that always worked, and were often short cuts, once I figured out the trick. It was extra work to figure out, but I didn't care. And I annoyed the shit out of her with my constant, "But I found a better way to do it..."s. I had detention most of that semester.

Writing Teacher
Creative Writing Teacher
Faculty Member

These seem interchangable, but they aren't. Being a faculty member is it's own headache and kind of work. A class I recently proposed may get shot down because of department politics, so I have to spend a week smoothing ruffled feathers in the art and communication departments, assuring them that my class on book-making and copyediting is purely literary, and will not steal students from their departments.

And teaching lit and creative writing courses are certainly different functions as well. In that same class with Mrs. Wong, I eventually pushed her too far, and after pestering her in front of the whole class, she said, "If you can teach this better, get up here and do it." So I did, just to show off and be the smart kid. That's still how I feel when teaching a lit class. But not in creative writing. I just love those kids, and want them to do well. I want the lit kids to know how smart I am.

Web Browser
Email addict
Social Networker
People Watcher

Without even trying, my whole week is usually completely full by Monday morning. Meetings, classes, readings, games to attend, ballet classes for Emma, shopping, groceries, grading, reading, prepping...

It doesn't end. We're always in motion, always on our way to the next thing. Entropic. As I go through my day, I am constantly switching foci, switching language and persona, adapting to whatever button I have to push, whatever function I have to or get to perform. It's tiring. But that's the life we create. And I don't know how to do it any differently, and probably wouldn't if I could.


  1. Department politics are awesome. Awesome awesome awesome.

  2. You forgot the alarm clock function.