Pittsburgh’s self-styled Premier Poet answers the door in a shimmering, jewel-blue blouse, hair teased into a softer version of a mullet. He’s wearing understated make-up and a mild perfume, something between vanilla and baby powder. On his fingers, rings set with blue jewels catch the early evening light.
So here’s the thing: I didn’t learn how to diagram a sentence until I was twenty-eight.
Sometimes, not often, I’ve found the writing of a story or a novel to resemble Nansen’s smooth and well-planned voyage. Sometimes I know, roughly, where I’m going; sometimes I can also guess the routes by which I might reach that destination. Usually, though, my experience has more closely resembled that of the hapless souls aboard the Tegetthoff.
Oh, the energy of autumnal days! Summer has its blisses, winter its purities; spring lays out romance and adventure, but these short weeks, the light falling like a voice into the distance—they grip me like nothing else. These are the days of the private pleasures of the mind opened into conversation, days in which I thrill at blank pages, new music, appointments fulfilled in the noise of crowds, and my breathe materialized in the cooling air. It’s a time of study and practice. It’s a time of education.
Today, when I read student work that relies on a clever conceit—such as a piece of fiction that is, ultimately, an elaborate joke; when I read stories that are technically functional but devoid of insights, I cringe. I prefer a piece that is overly sentimental but that is trying to get at something true to the undergraduate’s experience, such as love, longing, heartbreak.