Remembering – Derek Walcott, 1930-2017

[from an interview conducted by Bryan Parys]

bp: You studied with Derek Walcott in grad school; how much did his tutelage affect your own work?

Mark S: Let me admit here for the good of my soul that I didn’t really know Derek’s work when I applied to Boston University’s graduate creative writing program. Or Robert Pinksy’s either. Just their names, which had appeared over poems I’d seen in Norton’s. I knew a bit of lore about Lowell and Sexton and Plath, and even Starbuck, but I also appreciated that their ghosts weren’t going to help me with my poems (James Merrill notwithstanding). What mattered most to me was that Boston University was only an hour’s train ride from my house. So my pedestrian (or commuter rail) motives were rewarded out of all proportion.

But what did Derek teach me? To rise at 5 and write for hours. To make the beginning of a line as vigorous as its end. To labor not merely for the line or word, but even for the letter. To write longhand. To read aloud both poetry and prose for their training rhythms—Edward Thomas, Hart Crane, Ernest Hemingway… One time Seamus Heaney and Joseph Brodsky came in to argue with Derek about the poems of Thomas Hardy—whose work they all loved and which we all read aloud. These things Derek taught, although they’re not necessarily things I learned. I don’t rise, as he does, at 5 and write for any amount of time. But my work was affected by his tutelage. I became more accountable for each word or phrase in my poems, so they got shorter, denser, better. And Derek liked my poems, which allowed me to believe in them. When he told me to send them out to The New Yorker and The Atlantic, I went ahead and did it. Derek didn’t believe me when I said they hadn’t landed. “Show me the rejection letters.” I showed. “It doesn’t matter. I’d publish them.” So I put that in my pipe and smoked it for a good long time.

He was an extremely alert and agile reader of one’s stuff. Once I brought him a poem which I felt went awry somehow at the end, and when he got to that spot he started saying, “Oh no, no, no, no!”—while I was saying, “I know, I know.” And that’s all we said about it. I was pleased and gratified by our mutual un-enumerated horror. Then there was his most impressive reading moment.

bp: Which was?

MS: You’ve heard this before, and you’ve probably made fun of me for repeating it. But, OK, briefly: once in a sit-down in his office Derek was quietly reading a poem of mine, one that was composed entirely of eleven-syllable lines. On that first reading—the first time through it, mind you—he looked up from the line “and the black lacquer table is peeling,” and said, “Top, I think. Table top is peeling”—thus bringing my errant 10-syllable line into the poem’s overall pattern. I hasten unnecessarily to add that he did this without counting on his fingers, as anyone who hears this anecdote must do.

bp: I remember that story.

MS: I know you do—but it was kind of remarkable. A bit like “The Princess and the Pea” in its way. And now my poem includes a word “written” by a Nobel laureate. It appears unattributed, of course.

-The poem Derek amended is here. Bryan and I did this interview a decade ago. My friendship with Derek warrants an essay I hope to write.

Essaying – Theatre Anglonauts

2016 marks our 21st trip since we launched the UK Theatre course in 1995. We’ve had 345 Anglonauts.

In years of yore, we traveled right after commencement, and our sometimes chilly itinerary included places like Dublin and Galway (Ireland) and, in England, Bath (with its Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge—twin to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence), Stratford-Upon-Avon (home to three very different theatres and to the Bard’s crypt), Oxford (with a cooling pause at the Inklings’ Eagle & Child pub), and Cambridge (there to savor an evensong at King’s College Chapel)—and, always, London. Day trips have taken us to Salisbury (tallest cathedral spire in the UK—at 404 feet) and nearby Stonehenge (big gray stones; little red poppies), to Ely (named for its eels, and home for a decade to Oliver Cromwell), to Coventry (with its massive Graham Sutherland tapestry behind the altar of the 1962 cathedral, itself verging on the ruins of the Nazi-bombed 14th-century cathedral), and, in Ireland, to the Aran Islands, to James Joyce’s tower in Sandycove, to Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery, chaste resting place for the 19th century’s greatest English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and to the village of Kinvara, where Dawn and John Sarrouf got engaged and began scheming up Elijah and Esme Sarrouf.

In 2004 we switched to an August trip that included a week in Edinburgh to take advantage of the thousands of theatre, dance, music, spoken word, and nearly unclassifiable performances in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. There we see as many events as we can in one week: Jeff Miller manages three shows a day on most days (when he’s not supine in Princes Street Gardens). In the lee of the Castle of Edinburgh another engagement occurred, Norm and Jean’s, and soon after that spot was memorialized in a painting.

We’ve honed our approach, so we can offer a lot of culture for a little green. Classes occur in the morning, usually with a white coffee, often in one of the several lobbies of London’s Royal National Theatre, or in an atrium at the foot of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Students live in flats-with-kitchens in the hearts of these two capitols, and the afternoons are free for museum-going, Beefeater-watching, punting, shopping, picnicking—all of which are endeavored. Evenings find us in the front rows of the UK’s best theatres, in the living presence of the English-speaking world’s great actors—Judi Dench and Ian McKellen, Mark Rylance and Maggie Smith, Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw, Helen Mirren and Michael Gambon—and some terrific young actors, too, whose performances mark them as tomorrow’s stars.

John Sarrouf adds: “We’ve written poems in the graveyard on the Avon-thru-Stratford; quaffed with casts at the Dirty Duck; sketched the courtyards of Kenilworth and Warwick Castles; interviewed WWII vets at Lewis’ house, The Kilns; candle dipped at Tintern Abbey; haunted open air markets in Portobello, Cornwall and Penzance; twirled late night pasta Bolognese at Denise’s Restaurant. We were in a West End theatre when John Gielgud died, and the lights were dimmed, and actors came on stage after the show to tell stories of his work and influence. We sat next to Tom Stoppard for the first preview of the revival of The Real Thing, which went on to win the Olivier and the Tony that year. We saw the Shape of Things, and History Boys, and Closer, and The Designated Mourner, and August: Osage County before they became movies.”

The two-week trip is a crucible of culture and conversation, one that inspires the leaders for another year of making art, and impresses some life memories into the still-soft sensibilities of the students.

-On this trip you can do an independent study in creative writing with me. It’s called “Writing the City,” and you’ll use London’s & Edinburgh’s cultural and artistic offerings as material for original compositions of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction.
See Molly Elias’s work at https://cleareyesfullpassport.wordpress.com/.

Tribute – to Matt Doll, John Skillen, and 20 Years in Orvieto

A couple weeks ago, actually it was January, 2002, my buddy Skillen sidled up to me and said, “Three things, OK? One: ekphrasis.”

I said, “Gesundheit.”

He said, “Not a sneeze.”

I said, “A skin disease?”

He said, “No, poetry.”

I said, “Ekphrasis—poetry?”

He said, “About art.”

I said, “Ah”—(sounding like him, suddenly)—“’About suffering they were never wrong’”—

He said, “’The old masters,’ esatto.”

I said, “Gesundheit.”

He said, “Not a sneeze. Item two, OK? You teach it.”

I said, “Ekphrasis? I don’t…”

He said, “You will.”

I said, “When?”

He said, “November.”

I said, “Where?”

He said, “Orvieto.”

I said, “Gesundh… Orv…?”

He said, “Il mio posto favoriàte.

I said, “But… Ma… Non parle… parlo…

He said, “Non ti preoccupare. Insègnerai bene la poesìa. … In Inglese … OK?”

I said, “OK.”

So I got busy studying… ekphrasis.

(BTW, did you notice in my chat with Skillen there were actually only two things? With Skillen, there are always three things, even when there’s only two things.)

The next November I did disembark from a plane, a train, a funicular, and a bus—on a rainy night, luggaged and tiny and daunted beneath the duomo’s almost audible façade—

a façade—and an edifice—and a town—that would furnish 17 years, 34 seminars worth of looking, and of loading into language what light reveals of artists’ handiworks.

Skillen’s ekphrastic impulse was prescient. Since we launched that course in 2002, scores upon scores of books on the subject—on the encounter between word and image—have found their way into print and onto Amazon. (A recent title is Ekphrastia Gone Wild: Poems Inspired by Art. Is that subtitle a letdown, somehow?) Only did luminaries like John Hollander and WJT Mitchell beat us to the museum gallery punch.

A veritable charm of poets, an exaltation of marvelous poet-teachers, and a few prose-ists, have brought rigor, vigor and love to our writing workshop-on-the-tufa: among them Christine Perrin, Paul Mariani, Julia Kasdorf, Scott Cairns, Hannah Badia, Robert Clark, and twice last year Jeanne Walker—all writers of durable works AND of ekphrastic poetry, some of which can be seen on our anniversary website.

By my reckoning, 175 students have written 1400 poems that engage artworks both notable and humble, and respond to locales and vistas they know by heart and by passeggiata.

I’m almost done. The ekphrastic pairings on the stairs here and above us come from my poetry seminars over the years, in San Lodovico, San Paolo, and the Servi. The writers engage both very old and very new artworks, with varying formal techniques and ekphrastic strategies. When you look & read, you might remark those strategies—the difference, for instance, between a poem that thinks about the artist or her studio or her materials or her model—and perhaps one that attempts to construct a verbal equivalent to the image, through formatting, say, or syntax.

This summer I sifted through files and assemble a portfolio featuring one poem from each student in all of my ekphrasis classes; you can download this if you wish as a PDF. (I’ve printed up a copy; it’s somewhere nearby.)

And now, at last, a word about Matt and Sharona Doll.

My thus-far purple pen pales, peters out when I turn to acknowledge and thank Matteo for his continued commitment to this program we love, and to the ekphrastic endeavors that have been a part of it for so long. Poetry, painting, and their tangling in history are clearly highly favored in our curriculum and in our daily lives.

And in his. Here’s a guy who launches the day with poetry, connecting our dots to words wise and beautiful (saying “you KNOW this”)—reading Seamus Heaney or Thomas Merton or (“but first”) Mary Oliver.

Matt, we love you back, immensely. Sharona, Alesandro, Emmanuella, Karen, Becky, Emily (great friends who allow us a glimpse across the limits of ourselves), thank you for your commitment and your welcome. Add to them John, Susie, Bruce, and Z(ingarelli)—thank you, multo grazie for your work which has allowed us this opportunity for a lifetime.

Delivered September, 2018 at the reunion in the Barrington Center for the Arts.

Introducing Mark Sargent (and a pitch for the Liberal Arts – on 11.18.16)

When they said unto me, “Mark Sargent is coming,” I said unto myself, Nice.

Then they said unto me, “The entire Bible department is at a conference: you have to introduce him.”

But don’t we want one of them at this moment?
-Like Mark Cannister: “Humanities aaaaaaand Mark Sargent, reunited and it feels so good, aha ha ha ha ha…”
-or Sharon Ketcham: “Pastoral care IS imagination, right? So is relationship??? Right?”
-or Marv: ♫ “Hiney matov. Our Father Abraham traveled from Ur. Our speaker Mark Sargent traveled from… wherever…” (Canister: Aha ha ha ha ha…)
-or Ted Hildebrandt: “OK, ok, you guys!—you and Mark Sargent are so, really Imaginative—ok—I just know Jerusalem, ok?” (Canister: Ah! Aha ha ha ha ha…)

Well, they’re not here.
So.
Here’s mine.

For 16 years as provost at Gordon, Mark—hang on, when I was a student here I had no idea what a provost was: let me tell you it’s the chief academic officer, the person responsible for stuff that isn’t fundraising, student life or budget—so, stuff like curriculum, extra curricular programs, faculty, accreditation—OK?

—And Mark Sarg—hang on, when I was a student I had no clue what accreditation was: it’s the establishment of an insti-blah-blah just kidding.

So: Mark Sargent was our academic leader from The Year You Were Born to The Year You Got Your License. (And in The Year You Were Two, he hired me, which was good for me, but maybe not… so good… for you…)

I wouldn’t think it’s the easiest thing in the world to be a provost: all those constituencies to please, intellectuals so passionate about their bailiwicks, lots of moving parts—plenty of room for friction.

But Mark was good at negotiating all that.

—Probably because he was a literary guy. He himself had come into the academy in the humanities, as a literature prof, and like all lit profs he’d learned to value multiple perspectives, and to evaluate contending claims—and how to employ words “to their best advantage.”

And this served Gordon well: though always, at heart, a book lover, Mark here championed
-the sciences, backing green chemistry before it became the usual thing,
-and the social sciences, broadening the scope of The Center for Faith and Inquiry and JAF,
-and education, bolstering our graduate Education programs,
-and the fine arts, endorsing life drawing and medieval mystery plays and difficult films.

By all of which I mean: he was championing the Liberal Arts.

Speaking of film, early on, Mark launched the Provost’s Film Series here, and during his tenure he caused-to-be-shown more than 120 films, by my count, each preceded by some provocative prose of his (maybe provocative is the wrong word)—and then followed by some thought-provoking discussion. (For CL&W credit.)

When he left to be Westmont’s Provost in his home state, I realized that he’d also done a ton of writing here—not just scholarly articles, but personalized pieces, to introduce new faculty, or roast departing ones, to offer congratulations on new babies or birthdays or anniversaries or attained degrees, to celebrate excellent teaching, and to memorialize the passing of dear colleagues.

Often, a friend of mine was heard to say, “Mark Sargent always writes things we wish we could have written.” Too true. Come to think of it, I wish he had written this introduction.

And now I’m nearly done with mine, except to add this: that I came to rely on the integrity with which he did his job—and to admire his “seemingly effortless artfulness, and playfulness,” to quote another colleague.

Earlier, I was hyperbolizing about great literature being one secret to his success. Hey now: great literature (and film) does train the imagination, strengthen the moral imagination, and thereby help us work out, with God’s guidance, a life that is worth leading.

Today I can’t think of anyone I’d rather hear speak to us on “Lives of Imagination” than Dr. Mark Sargent. Please join me in welcoming him back to Gordon.

-Thanks JL for the artwork.

Essaying – on Grady Spires and Normandy

I took Intro to Philosophy with Grady Spires during my freshman year at Gordon College in the early ’80s. Grady was jazzed by the subject, of course, which sort of got me jazzed, too, though it was clear that philosophy wasn’t going to be my dance partner. In class he would often play a bluesy version of “Rock of Ages.”

And Grady led 20 students (among them Dorothy Boorse and me) on a European Seminar trip through Western Europe in the summer of ’86. He got a nose bleed in the middle of the night in Nuremberg or Augsburg, and had to go to the hospital, where he lay around for a couple days while they tried to figure out the cause–and we soldiered on without him.

But my great Grady memory, the one I tell several times every year, concerns our arrival in Normandy.

We got to our camp site at Omaha Beach late in the day, and the weather wasn’t great, and we were all tired. I suppose because of the conditions, Grady decided we should find a local cafe for dinner. We quickly struck out: there weren’t many cafes around, or they were closed. We pulled forlornly up to a farmhouse with a sign promising food. An old-timer sauntered out to tell us that they, too, were closed. He tried a little French with Grady: no-go. Grady tried a little English: same. Then, Grady shifted into German. And the French fellow answered in German. And they suddenly began to converse IN GERMAN. The man tilted his head toward all of us stale, Keds-wearing students in the back seats and said, “Americans?” Yes, we answered.

Then he was booming something that meant, “Get out right this minute, you’re coming with me.”

“He’s making us dinner, let’s go,” Grady said. We all fell out of the vans and followed the man around to tables in his back yard, and his wife came out. They were going to fix us a huge meal of pasta and salad, and it was going to be free, and it didn’t matter that the cafe was closed–because we were Americans, and he would always welcome Americans, was viscerally grateful to our kin who had hit the beaches a mile away and liberated his village and his country. This he spoke to us in German, with Grady interpreting, as we sat to our meal, under-dressed and dumbstruck, with hands too small to handle what was being served up.

And he brought out a bottle of vodka, and poured himself and Grady a confident amount, and I briefly wondered, “Is Grady going to drink vodka with all of us watching?” And then they toasted and, thank God, Grady did knock back that glass, and did a patented Grady arm-shimmy and whoop, and our man poured them both a second, and Grady did his honorable best with that one, too.

Everything about Grady was equal to that moment. There he decided: Sometimes you grind grain on the Sabbath, or eat meat with publicans, or drink strong drink in the presence of your allies. Speaking German, by Omaha Beach, that’s what you do when you’re Grady Spires.

-There are a million great Grady stories. Some involve bottle caps.

Twelve Years On: a Toast to Kristina & Chad

Sometime Chad embarrasses me.
Strike that. Let me take ownership.
Sometimes I choose to get embarrassed, and Chad happens to be nearby.
Does that ever happen to you?

So, I’m talking with one of my young First-Year Seminar students, saying to her, Well, no, I don’t think Anne Lamott is a going to Hell even though she says swearwords—and suddenly here comes Chad, right up to me, slips his arm around my neck and grabs my nipple—yes, I said nipple, I have them, men have them—and right in front of her starts whispering, “Shhh, shhhhh, it’s okay, shhhhhh.”

My student, who has just re-read the Left Behind series, stands there feeling… conflicted. Me, too.

Like that true story of Chad? Here’s another.

Does Chad ever leave you *unusual* phone messages? “You have ‘14’ new messages. … ‘9th’ new message…”
“Yo yo, que pasa, what’s up where you been? Why I can’t find you? I’m ‘mon slap your side and so on.”
This as I’m hurrying to a candidate interview with Herma Williams and Mark Sargent—
“I’ll slap you all over your side etcetera you don’t call me. Why come you nevuh call me, Silly, I give you seven slappety-slaps about your face—”
“Oh—hi, Herma, be right in—”
“—already left you maybe 8 messages, you slappy-pappy-slapper—” *flute sound*
“Oh, hi, Provost Sargent; big interview, eh?—“ *loud flute* “Uh… can you give me a second?—”
*more flute* “You hear me play that flute and so on? I cuh play that all over your side, etcetera—”

I never know if he says anything important in these “MESSAGES” because I always delete them before I get there.

Once I got this email from Jud’s email address. Verbatim, it read:

MARK,
IT CAME TO MY ATTENTION THAT YOU HAVE BEEN HARASSING YOUNG WOMEN ON CAMPUS ABOUT THEIR UNDERPANTS. ONE GIRL CAME INTO MY OFFICE WITH TEARS IN HER EYES, HAVING BEEN, IN HER WORDS, “TORMENTED BY A FACULTY MEMBER.” I LIKE YOU MARK, AND I HAVE COME TO YOUR AID DURING A NUMBER OF MINI-SCANDALS WHICH HAVE SPROUTED WITH YOU SOMEHOW AT THE CENTER, BUT THIS CANNOT GO ON. PEOPLE AROUND HERE RESPECT YOU AS A CREATIVE DRAMATIST, AND YOU SHOULD NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT TO LOOK AT WOMEN’S ANATOMY. WERE ARE ALL FACED WITH THE SAME CHALLENGES AND EACH DAY IS A NEW BEGINNING. I’M GIVING YOU ANOTHER CHANCE, BUNNY-BOY, BECAUSE – unmentionable unmentionable —
JUD

The next day I got a real email from the real Jud: Verbatim:
Mark, I just turned on my e-mail and found this. Last time I saw Chad he was sitting at my computer at home. I’m afraid that this is the result! Sorry! Jud

This is what makes me ask: What must Chad have been like as a 10-year old? A 6-year-old? I picture his parents late at night:

JUD: Jan, what is this being we have brought into the world?
JAN: I don’t know, Jud, but love him—love him.
JUD: Yes, but—I want to be the president, and I’m worried—
JAN: Jud!
JUD: The big cheese, Jan!—head honcho, the smack daddy of Gordon College!—and if that little guy—
JAN: Then you practice, Jud; practice being president—of this troubled little college we call Chad.
JUD: You’re right. Help me, Jan?

OK. But for all this, (borrowing from Gerard Manley Hopkins)—but for all this, Chad’s good nature is never spent. There lives in him the dearest, freshness, deep down things. True.

And if, at times, I choose to be embarrassed in the vicinity of Chad, I also choose to feel—no, let me be accurate—Chad makes me feel good. This same Chad makes me feel good about myself. Makes me feel good about life.

He lives fearlessly. I’ve almost never seen him hang back or cop out, and he takes you along into discomfort zones that you can survive. —Like, for me, some spans of time in Latin America, a place I wasn’t interested in and now love. When this happens, you emerge a bit better and a bit braver.

He loves beauty, and poetry, and excellence. He’s got a great eye, in so many quarters and fields, and he helps us see beauty better, I think. And he makes beauty, too, in paint, in film, in theater, in words. In gatherings of people.

Chad’s an unfailing, shameless promoter of his friends: he’ll brag about you right in your presence. He can’t help himself; he’s drawn to the stuff about you that’s special, that’s extra, and by affirming it as he does, he makes you a little bit more of whatever it is. He improves you. What a gift that is. Because of Chad I think Will Whittlesey is the funniest guy on earth, but do I know him?

And, get this: for a year, Chad called his girlfriend “Doctor” Harter. Who does that?

I mean He’s proud of you.

And he’s a loyal fellow, which is also a way of saying he loves deeply. Why does he make fun of your quirks?—because he loves. As long as I’ve known him he’s been this way. Here’s sort of what I mean: one morning he and Jud and I went fishing, and because of a malfunctioning winch, as we backed down the boat ramp Jud’s brand new boat leapt off its trailer, slammed onto the asphalt, and went grinding horribly down toward the water. Jud shouted, “Oh no, not again!” And later, after repairing the boat, of course Chad had to make fun of Jud a little. “Oh no, not again!”—but he couldn’t really do it. He said, “It’s so funny, and it’s so sad I want to cry.”

Well. He has that in him, a sweetness that makes you put up with certain shenanigans.

And now I come to the reason for the season: Kristina. In a way, today these qualities that I admire—Chad’s joie de vivre, his celebration of his friends, his eye for beauty and excellence, his sweet loyalty—are matched and consummated by Kristina. I mean, get this: since he met Kristina, Chad has actually become a nicer person. The things I love about him are denser, and the things I detest about him are in need of professional care.

But I misspoke: not “since he met Kristina.” I should have said, since he fell in love with Kristina, because the latter happened when the former did. O how many pictures, how many bragging emails did he send me? How many nagging phone messages did he leave ordering me to instantly come meet her?

Kristina, I know that Chad does love nothing in the world so much as you.

And here this toast falters when it should be strongest and truest, because it doesn’t convey—I can’t convey—how ebullient, how giddy and grateful and peaceful I am about you two. I tried to say this when I said, “We will” during the service, and I’ll try to say it again by eating and drinking and dancing now, and I’ll try say it more by loving my wife. It’s the same thing Jud & Jan, and Susan & Russell, and Susan & Bob want to say today; it’s something we’ll all almost say, with our hearts lifted and our glasses charged with champagne. Something just like hip-hip hooray.

So, friends: here’s to Kristina & Chad—the most excellent couple.

-True enough, true enough twelve years ago; true enough this very month, too.

Cry Innocent – opening day

25 years ago today, “Cry Innocent” opened in Old Town Hall.
The 2016 season opens today.
Congratulations Kristina, and Norm, and these many brilliant Ha’Puritans.
CRY INNOCENT was originally presented by History Alive! (Norman Jones, artistic director) at Old Town Hall, Salem, MA, on June 20, 1992. The production was directed by Norman Jones; costumes were by Donald Daly; set pieces were by David Butler; graphic design was by Chad Carlberg. The cast was as follows:
BRIDGET BISHOP – Leigh Deacon
COLONEL JOHN HATHORNE – Patrick Gray
ALICE PICKERING, ELIZABETH NICHOLS – Elizabeth Eckert
JOHN LOUDER, RICHARD TRASK, SAM GRAY – Steve Baldwin
JOHN COOK, WILLIAM BLY – John Payette
SUSANNA SHELDON, CHRISTINA TRASK – Maryellen Nauman
MARGARET KING, MARY SHATTUCK – Dawn Jenks
REBECCA BLY, LYDIA NICHOLS – Kristen Weiss
JOHN BLY, REV. JOHN HALE – Mark Stevick
CRY INNOCENT 1993 (Norm Jones, director; Ann Levy, business director; Don Daly & Mary-Ellen Smiley, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on June 19 with this cast: Dawn Jenks, Eva Wilson, Steven Stuart Baldwin, Matthew M. Hillas, Kristen Weiss, Leigh Deacon, Patrick Gray, Philip Austin, Elizabeth Eckert, John Payette, Mark Stevick, and Carol Smith Austin.
CRY INNOCENT 1994 (Norm Jones, director; Ann Levy, business director; Dawn Jenks, production coordinator; Don Daly, Anita Coco, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on June 18 with this cast: Carol Smith Austin, Krista Cowan, Erik Rodenhiser, John Payette, Eva Wilson, Mignon Mason, Matthew Hillas, Jill Bowen, Steve Baldwin, Mark Stevick, Gabe Zucker, and Amy Robinson.
CRY INNOCENT 1995 (Norm Jones, director; Mark Stevick, associate director; Don Daly and Anita Coco, costumes) opened in Salem’s Old Town Hall on June 30, 1995 with this cast: Eva Wilson, Eric Vendt, Erik Rodenhiser, Steve Baldwin, Wendy Simays, Ryan Leach, Kristi Wacome, Brian Moore, Jon VanderWoude, Heidi Duncan, and Matthew M. Hillas.
CRY INNOCENT 1996 (Norm Jones, director; Mark Stevick, associate director; Eva Wilson, production coordinator; Anita Coco, Eva Wilson, costumes, Jessica Cogdill, box office) opened in Old Town Hall on June 22 with this cast: Heidi Duncan, Kristi Wacome, Erik Rodenhiser, Eric Vendt, Brian Moore, Eliza Benedict, Josh Kuhar, Eva Wilson, Jon VanderWoude, and Rebecca Hall.
CRY INNOCENT 1997 (Norm Jones, director; Mark Stevick, associate director; Eliza Benedict, production coordinator; Anita Coco, Eva Wilson, costumes; Ben Bensen, box office) opened in St. Peter’s Church on June 21 with this cast: Rebecca Hall, Brian Moore, Eric Vendt, Anneliese Stauff, Nate Moniz, Tony Martelle, Jenni Smaltz, Heidi Horner, Heidi Duncan, and Reed Mungovan.
CRY INNOCENT 1998 (Norm Jones, director; Mark Stevick, director of development; Eliza Benedict, production coordinator; Brian Moore, marketing; Anita Coco, Eva Wilson, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on June 20 with this cast: Jenni Smaltz, Tony Martelle, Nate Moniz, Lori Evans, Seth Henderson, Dan Buck, Ben Wolfe, Heidi Duncan, and Rebekah Clinard.
CRY INNOCENT 1999 (Norm Jones, artistic director; Eric Vendt, company director; Mark Stevick, director of development; Heidi Duncan, costumes, Chelsea Butcher, box office manager) opened in Old Town Hall on June 19 with this cast: Kristi Wacome, Rebekah Clinard, Tony Martelle, Amy Aldrich, Daniel Wall, Pete Holmes, Marc Fillion, and Shana Cassidy.
CRY INNOCENT 2000 (Norm Jones, Mark Stevick, artistic directors; Kristi Wacome, company director; Karen Burch, production coordinator; Heidi Duncan, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on June 18 with this cast: Amy Aldrich, Marc Fillion, Daniel Wall, Heather Cole, Jeremy McKeen, Adina Rowan, Nate White, Brett DeBose, and Shannyn Harris.
CRY INNOCENT 2001 (Norm Jones, Mark Stevick, artistic directors; Kristi Wacome, company director; Shana Cassidy, production coordinator; Heidi Duncan, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on June 24 with this cast: Heather Cole, Daniel Wall, Marc Fillion, Amy Aldrich, Bryan Olsen, Danielle Frederick, Jonathan Flanders, Rupert Dudney, Orion Couling, Brielle Montgomery, and Holly Couling.
CRY INNOCENT 2002 (Norm Jones, Mark Stevick, artistic directors; Kristi Wacome, company director; Heidi Horner, production coordinator; Kristi Wacome, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on June 16 with this cast: Danielle Frederick, Jonathan Flanders, Graham Messier, Daniel Wall, Brielle Montgomery, Warren Wegrzyn, Nathan Seavey, Elizabeth Thompson, and Natalie Hildreth.
CRY INNOCENT 2003 (Norm Jones, Jeff Miller, artistic directors; Kristi Wacome, company director; Lori Evans, production coordinator; Christine Alger, Kristi Wacome, costumes; Jenna Perreault, box office) opened in Old Town Hall on June 22 with this cast: Natalie Hildreth, Graham Messier, Paul Turbiak, Nick Neyeloff, Nora Henderson, Paul D’Agostino, Sue Brown, and Courtney Fitzgerald.
CRY INNOCENT 2004 (Jeffrey Miller, artistic director; Kristina Wacome Stevick, director of education; Lori Evans, production coordinator) opened in Old Town Hall on June 19 with this cast: Brielle Montgomery, Courtney Fitzgerald Maggs, Paul Turbiak, Graham Messier, Paul D’Agostino, Nora Henderson, Andrew Winson, Jill Rogati, and Sara Peterson.
CRY INNOCENT 2005 (Jeffrey Miller, artistic director; Kristina Wacome Stevick, director of education; Lori Evans, production coordinator, Meg Jones, box office) opened in Old Town Hall on June 19 with this cast: Audrey Peters, Kaitlyn Henderson, Jill Rogati, Grace Menzies, Anne Colpitts, Elizabeth Polen, Brett Johnson, Nathan Seavey, Jon Flanders, and Damien Jesperson.
CRY INNOCENT 2006 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Dawn Sarrouf, director; Dreme McClennan, production coordinator; Maria Stuart, production assistant) opened in Old Town Hall on June 23 with this cast: Trisha Hail, Julianne Richards, Victoria Cimino, Rachel Mayer, Rebecca Collura, Mary Seville, Anne Colpitts, Brett Johnson, Andrew Hoover, Stephen Humeston, Eric Stevenson, David Draper.
CRY INNOCENT 2007 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Dawn Jenks Sarrouf, director; Dreme McClennan, prod. coord.) opened in Old Town Hall on June 29 with this cast: Victoria Cimino, Anne Colpitts, Elizabeth Condon, David Draper, Jesse Gilday, Trisha Hail, Andrew Hoover, Hannah McBride, Brittany Perkins, Liz Polen, Julianne Richards, Mary Seville, Eric Stevenson, Joseph Stiliano, and Jacob Watson.
CRY INNOCENT 2008 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Mark Wacome Stevick, director; Allison Petrone, stage manager; Liz Condon, PR; Christina Brandano, a.s.m.; Carrie Midura, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on June 29 with this cast: Jenney Dale, Eli Donis, Bobby Imperato, Kim Kurczy, Alec Lewis, Hannah McBride, Kathleen McGovern, Natalie Miller, Kim Peck, Jay Pension, Julianne Richards, David Stickney, Joseph Stiliano, Rachel Strasner, and Jacob Watson.
CRY INNOCENT 2009 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; David Goss, historian; Sarah Hartlett, site & stage manager; Kaitlyn Prior, stage manager.; Jessica Hackett & Tori Cimino, a.s.m.; Cheri Grishin, box office; Carrie Midura, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on June 28 with this cast: Lurie Armand, Melissa Federico, Carol Grossi, Nick Hanlon, Bobby Imperato, Bruce Keye, Dennis Lemoine, Nicole Leotzakis, Hannah McBride, Natalie Miller, Daniel Parziale, Jay Pension, Chris Preyor, Nate Punches, Matt Schetne, Leda Uberbacher, and Kristina Walker.
CRY INNOCENT 2010 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Kathleen McGovern, director; Paul D’Agostino, October cast director; Sarah Hartlett, site & stage manager; Cheri Grishin, box office & sales manager; Lisa Landrebe, box office assistant; Carrie Midura and Jill Hall, costumes) opened in Old Town Hall on July 2 with this cast: Jenney Dale, Eli Donis, Marc Ewert, Andrew Hoover, Taylor Jones, Brittany Mitchell, Devon Rattigan, and Susanna Young.
CRY INNOCENT 2011 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Anne Colpitts and Jill Rogati, directors; Sarah Hartlett, site manager; Cheri Grishin, production coordinator; Christine¬ Kohli, box office) opened in Old Town Hall on July 3 with this cast: Conor Burke, Shari Caplan, Jenney Dale, Dominique Gobeil, Brittany Mitchell, Peter Murphy, Jasmine Myers, Jack Souweha, Armerys Suarez, and Steven Turner.
CRY INNOCENT 2012 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Jill Rogati, director; Cheri Grishin, production coordinator; Armerys Suarez, box office) opened in Old Town Hall on June 24 with this cast: Chelsea Borden, Conor Burke, Colin Colford, Kathy-Ann Hart, Sam Joyall, Sarah Mann, Britt Mitchell, Jasmine Myers, Thom Rash, and Keith Trickett.
CRY INNOCENT 2013 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Cheri Grishin, production coordinator) opened in Old Town Hall on June 18 with this cast: Colin Colford, Rachel Stigers, Ameila Haas, Sophie Lieton-Toomey, Diana Dunlap, Chelsea Borden, Carl Schultz, Max Sklar, Ariele Kaplan, Olivia DuMaine, Conor Burke, and Steve Pierce.
CRY INNOCENT 2014 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Cheri Grishin, production coordinator) opened in Old Town Hall on June 18 with this cast: Colin Colford, Rachel Stigers, Ameila Haas, Sophie Lieton-Toomey, Diana Dunlap, Chelsea Borden, Carl Schultz, Max Sklar, Ariele Kaplan, Olivia DuMaine, Conor Burke, Steve Pierce, Hillary Webster, Will Martin, and Pat Bridgeman.
CRY INNOCENT 2015 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Cheri Grishin, group sales; Will Frazier, production coordinator; Sarah Mann, assistant director) opened in Old Town Hall on June 20 with this cast: Colin Colford, Rachel Stigers, Ameila Haas, Nathan Burgette, Sophie Lieton-Toomey, Diana Dunlap, Chelsea Borden, Carl Schultz, Max Sklar, Ariele Kaplan, Olivia DuMaine, Heather Pasquazzi, Will Martin, and Pat Bridgeman.
CRY INNOCENT 2016 (Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director; Marc Ewart, production manager; Carl Schultz, shift supervisor; Sarah Tweed, box office) opened in Old Town Hall on June 20 with this cast: Molly Sidell, Daniel Alvarado, Chloe Eaton, Bradley Boutcher, Garrett Reynolds, Macey Jenkins, Patrick Cornacchio, Sophie Lieton-Toomey, Amelia Haas, Max Sklar, Heather Pasquazzi, Pat Bridgeman, and Sydney Taylor.
This list is missing some folks who were October season only.

Tribute – Loyatorio (for Donna & Barry)

LOYATORIO (link here to a video of the event)

MARK: One score and seven years ago, plus two, our Father brought forth on this incontinent a new administration guy—who was dedicated.

Today we are met in a great oversized New England church. We have come to celebrate a portion of that guy’s work—and make fun of his mistakes.

Is it altogether proper that we do this? Who cares?

But when you get down to it, how do we celebrate—how do we consternate—how do we harass this man?

Perhaps, in the manner of these things, the animated Disney musical will do.

Let’s try a few.

How about CindereLoy: ♫
“CindereLoy, CindereLoy,
Night and day it’s CindereLoy
We can keep him wicked busy,
He’s not relaxing, is he?”

♫ Or, make him the Barry Godmother:
“…doing things you should not do.
One poor decision, and what have you got?—
Barry and Terry and you.”

Nah. How about The Loyin King— ♫ Timon and PumBarry:
“I cook empanadas, for the best R.A.s—
And with my R.D.s, make daiquiris—
I cook empanadas.”

That’s inappropriate, Barry. “Daiquiris”?

Perhaps The Loyttle Mermaid— ♫ Sebastian and Bariel:
“…zooming around on those—what do you call them?—long boards…
Finally free – from Gordon C,
And digging for pottery”—

What?—


“At Gordon C, at Gordon C,
Darling, it’s better when you’re a debtor
Financially.”

…I just got fired.
No, in the end Disney is too limiting, there are just so many facets to Barry—so many Barrys… So many Barrys—that’s it. Songs by many Barrys – about Barry.
Yes. Let us begin, then, our strange celebration – with Barry Gibb & the Bee Gees’ tribute to our man’s distinctive sense of humor…

How Deep Is Our Loy
Barry Gibb / the Bee Gees

I see you try out another pun
I hear your listeners recoil in pain,
later on you horrify the faculty
when you go dragging out that pun again;
but I’ve come to see
awkward jokes like these
are your strategy to put us all at ease
and that’s one more way to show:
How deep is our Loy!–is our Loy
how deep is our Loy,
it took me years to learn:
when you’re living in a world of rules
Loy can abound;
he’s an awesome referee
who belongs to CSD.

MARK: Falsetto is manly.
Next, a classic by Peter, Paul & Barry—a ballad about our deep dean’s – dire need for hip replacement surgery…

Half the Man is Draggin’
Peter, Paul & Barry (the ballad of Barry’s hip)

Half the man is draggin’
limps violently
And falling for robotic hips
he’s intent on surgery.
Gimpy Barry prayed for
a lovely crutch or staff,
Then bought a Stephen Spielberg watch
and strapped it to his calf.
O, half the man is draggin’
limps violently
And falling for robotic hips
he’s intent on surgery.

MARK: Strange AND true.
Now bring on Barry White, and let him groove soulfully about our man’s unslakeable, unmistakable presence…

Can’t Get Enough of You Loy, Barry
Barry White

[spoken] I’ve heard people say that…
too much of anything
is not good for you, Barry…
but I don’t know about that…
as many times
as I’ve met Loy…
and I’ve greeted Loy…
on the quad…
or down in Gillies purchasing a tasty beverage…
it’s just…
it doesn’t seem to me like it’s enough…
it’s just not enough, Barry…
it’s just not enough…

[sung] Oh my colleague, I…
Can’t get enough of you Loy, Barry
Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know why
Can’t get enough of you Loy, Baa-rrry

MARK: Selah.
Then there’s Freddie MercBarry (and Queen), a rhapsody addressed to Barry’s most powerful facet – his wife, Donna…

Loyhemian Rhapsody
Freddy MercBarry / Queen

Donna,
just failed exam,
spent a ton of class in bed,
pulled all-nighter
but I’m dead;
Donna,
strife has just begun
’cause now I’m academic probaaa—
(tion)
Donna, youuu
you can help me bribe
the one guy here who’s never been bribed at all—
Barry Loy, Barry Loy:
Now’s when family matters.

MARK: When we put our hands to our ears like this it’s to compensate for sounding bad.

And then Earth, Wind & Fire & Barry—with a chorus deeply steeped in that keen pain you feel – after the Loy is gone…

After the Loy is Gone
Earth, Wind & Fire & Barry

Something happened along the way—
Did Britt Carlson go mad?
Something happened along the way—
Is Terry Charek breaking bad?
and O
After the Loy is gone
All I can do is yawn
Without all that fun around
O-O-O

MARK: Yes, these five Barrys celebrate our man with pun and panache.
But, another Barry remains, the sunum Barryum, whose melodies made up the musical-leisure-suit of a certain generation.

Manilow. And it’s to him we turn for a song sung by our Barry ManiLoy – about his long tenure as Gordon’s behavioral cop.
This is “I Right the Wrongs.”

NORM JONES – I RIGHT THE WRONGS
1. I’ve been around forever
I wrote up that very first wrong;
I bring good judgment and good humor together
I’m amusing
but I right the wrongs
(he’s a hoot but he still rights the wrongs)

-chorus-
I right the wrongs, I’m Gordon’s holy dean
I right the wrongs of love—don’t ask what I mean
I right the wrongs and make those youngsters cry
I right the wrongs, I right their wrongs

2. My wisdom flows like honey
and sweet justice drips from my tongue
how can my rulings be so fair yet so funny?
well I’m elderly
but inside I’m wicked young
(he’s still hip, and his right hip is young)

-chorus-
I right the wrongs, I’m Gordon’s older dean
I right the wrongs of love—stop asking what I mean
I right the wrongs that made those sophomores lie
I right the wrongs, I right their wrongs

-bridge-
When our students perpetrate
then I excommunicate—
though I showed some mercy once to Dorothy Boorse

And when they share their sins
then the gossiping begins:
they tell me, I tell you
you tell them, they tell we—
it’s a world of un-secrecy

-chorus-
I right the wrongs, I’m going rogue as Dean
[when] I right the wrongs of love I’m especially mean
I write their wrongs down in my dia-ry
I write their wrongs, I right their wrongs

-key change-
I right their wrongs, I’m Gordon’s CSDean
I write their wrongs—a one-man Mujahideen
I right their wrongs so you can turn blind eye
I right their wrongs, I write their wrongs:

I am Barry—and I right the wrongs.
__

MARK: Further, now, in our ManiLoy-atorio, we welcome someone pointedly absent from a fiesta like this: the student Barry expelled. Here he is, wealthy, wounded, and sick with regret, singing an anthem entitled “O, Barry.”

STEVE HUNT – O, BARRY
1. I remember student life
Staying up till four or five
Breaking into Frost
With force through a window
Stealing an exam
The light means it’s a
Boring just another day
World of Warcraft game to play
Boy was I surprised
When you came for me
I never realized
That you would J-Board me
Oh Barry

Well you flayed me and fried me like bacon
And you sent me away
Oh Barry
Did you dis me and were you mistaken?
I still need you today
Oh Barry

2. I’m standing in some airport line
Hoping just to pass the time
Nobody is here to rule or reproach me
What I wouldn’t give for you to life-coach me
Oh Barry

Can I pay you to fry me like bacon
Can I rent you today
Oh Barry
Help me bathe and to shave when I waken
Be my Jeeves for a day
Oh Barry

-bridge-
Yes, student dean, I’ve wasted money
Crime cannot appease
To pay this college
Oh Barry

Can I fly you to flay me like bacon
I’ll expense you today
Oh Barry
Will you dress me and stop me from drankin’
Intervene me today—
Oh Barry

Did you make all those rules I was breakin’
I repent me today
Oh Barry
When you speak seems a prophet hath spaken
And I’ll heed you.
__

MARK: So we’ve heard from our Loyjahideen; we’ve heard from the Barry-banished.
But whence cometh this long preponderance of Loys? How did a Carolinian and a Canadian – become the groovy duo of the behind-the-scenes set?
Attend, and learn the history of Loy…

NORM – GORDOCABAMPUS (the story of the Loys & Gordon)

1. Her name was Donna – she was a snow girl
She loved the caribou and trees
and those Canada geese;
When she flew southward – she spied a Barry
A creature famous for its wits
And a hankering for grits
(which she would overlook
’cause he could fix her truck)
they got hitched and they started hiking
up the path they took
To the Gordo—Gordo-cabampus (ca-bampus)
Near the highway you’ll find (off the ramp) us
(here) at the Gordo—Gordo-cabampus:
Goose poop and ocean
affect your emotion at the Gordo:
They had heard of— (Gordo—Gordo-cabampus)

STEVE
2. His name was Barry – he wore a shy grin
And he and Donna settled in
him in Lane and her in Winn
She greeted patrons – he started dean-ing
And, yeah, he seemed so meek and mild
But every student crime got filed
into his attaché
till there was Loy to pay
CSD is a slight misnomer
he’s a CIA
At the Gordo—Gordo-cabampus (ca-bampus)
No place for your grandmas or grandpas (here)
At the Gordo—Gordo-cabampus:
Who’s in a prison
is someone who isn’t at the Gordo—
Push came to shove… (Gordo—Gordo-cabampus)

MARK [during bridge]: Barry and I once hosted a talent show on this very spot.
Mid-show, backstage, he says to me, “Hey, I have something good for the next transition.”

We come back out, Barry turns to me—and then his mouth says, “Mark, why don’t more faculty attend chapel?”

*Here’s a picture of Barry asking me that question.
…With no warning, in front of thousands.

*Here’s Barry just after he asked it. “Heh heh heh…”

MARK
3. Their name is “Donry” – or maybe “Bare-na”
For thirty years minus one
they’ve made academic fun
Now they’re migrating – to Carolina
Or so they want us to believe
—they’ve got someplace up their sleeve
where the sand’s pure white
and you cha-cha all night:
but there isn’t a Dunka-caDonuts
so we hope they might
Visit Gordo—Gordo-cabampus (ca-bampus)
The South ain’t as cold and as damp as (here)
At the Gordo—Gordo-cabampus:
Boy I’ve
enjoyed my
employed time
with Loy I’m
at the Gordo—
We’ve felt in love. We fell in love.
__

MARK: We have fallen in love, each with the other.

And now what? After they’ve gone, what do we do?
We carry on. We brighten as they have.

It is for us to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is consecrated—it is hallowed—it is Kingdom work—
to be carried on toward completion.

Yes, it’ll be hard without them.
But we can.
We can.

DAVE ROX – I CAN SMILE WITHOUT YOU

You know I can smile without you
I can smile without you
I can laugh – and I can sing
I’m sure that I’ll find – I can do everything

You know I feel glad, so glad
for fine years that we’ve had
but I never knew
I’d be someone who
would have to smile without you

-verse 1 (Dave)-
You came along, rightening [sic] our wrongs
and brightening RAs
who couldn’t see that you’re the heart of a team
so highly esteemed
we wish you could stay

-chorus (everyone)-
But still we can smile without you
we can smile without you
we can laugh – and we can sing
I’m sure that we’ll find – we can do everything

I know we’ll feel glad when you’re glad
for fine years that we’ve had
but here’s what is true
you’re the one who
taught us to smile without you

-bridge (Dave solo)-
Some folks might say
et tu, Barr-ay?
but they are not our kind
when you leave here you’re not
leaving our love behind – you – and you know

-chorus (everyone)-
you can smile without us
you can smile without us
you can golf – and you can swim
play racquetball – and climb on a limb

and yeah we’ll feel glad when you’re glad
we’ll feel glad – but we’ll add
this feeling is new –
it’s not easy to –
but we can smile without you.

Letter – In Praise of Andrew Logemann

I’ll begin with the obvious and true: Andrew Logemann is a lovely, optimistic, intelligent, thoughtful and affirming person—someone we’re all pleased to know and work with.

These several (of many) attractive traits mattered significantly when Andrew arrived at Gordon as a new hire: at the time our English Department was (how to phrase this?) in the final moments of what had been a fairly prolonged period of stormy weather, and Andrew’s new presence helped usher in the brighter day we now enjoy. I pay tribute here to the delicate and diplomatic work done by Janis Flint-Ferguson and then Andrea Frankwitz as department chair—work that kept our craft right and directioned under difficulty. I might even say “under duress,” because in the first year or two of Andrew’s appointment our department meetings were enough to cause a fellow two migraines—one before and one after. I feared at the time that Andrew might abandon our shaky ship, and though I couldn’t blame him if he did, I kept murmuring to him some version of “I hope we keep you.”

This is all well and good, but why did I murmur this to him over the years? I murmured because Andrew’s commitments and excellences became quickly apparent—his competence as a teacher, his commitment to scholarship, his gyroscopic impact on our English department, his engagement with the ethos of the college and of a liberal arts education, and his discernible commitment to improving as a teacher and scholar, a colleague and a Christian.

The previous wordy sentence only headlines a few of my reasons for my murmurings, and now I despair at being able to trace in fine detail the wide-ranging and salutary impact Andrew has had on our people and programs. Fortunately for me, Andrew’s achievements are well known.

Still, let some specifics here insinuate the pattern.

Andrew’s leadership in our department has been capable from the get-go, and it’s been a pleasure to see him grow in confidence as chair. This is right and good: he has obvious administrative gifts and interpersonal savvy. He can think broadly and in detail equally well, and he gracefully directs our conversations, soliciting and heeding comments while keeping us on task. This is no small feat, gentle reader. Despite certain perennial stressors , morale among the literati is quite high—higher than I’ve ever known it to be. (And I’ve been around for 30 years—since 1983.) Andrew is in large part the reason for this: it’s quite remarkable how his can-do attitude has altered the atmosphere, and this in turn has made possible other small blossomings. (“It’s a new day!” Borgman barked at me, cheerfully, over the salad bar one day, and he meant because of Andrew.) Andrew’s influence is working through our whole batch.

I’ve appreciated Andrew’s clear, consistent communication with our students and our department members. This has involved Andrew’s collating and making available information about the major and its relationship to GEO and JAF and the Elijah Project—relationships that have needed clarifying. I think more than ever both students and faculty can grasp the specifics and the nuances of our major. All of this is done for our students’ benefit, of course, and Andrew has consistently looked for authentic ways to improve the English major’s experience at Gordon. His careful communiqués to our majors demonstrate in substance, syntax and tone that we care for them.

As a teacher Andrew has been a pace-setter in his use of technology in his courses. Students mention this to me (as if I didn’t already know it). Several times I’ve attended presentations Andrew has made to students, and he’s superbly competent with Blackboard and PowerPoint. He even blogs, and is touted as one of the two or three blogging profs that students should follow. I’ll say more: he tweets as well, and here, too, he directs students and colleagues to essays on the humanities, the liberal arts, the challenges facing higher education, and on what you can do with a degree in English. I’ve enjoyed reading some of these essays, and enjoyed as well the conversations among colleagues that have ensued as a result. Thus Andrew enlivens our discourse even through blogs and tweets, gentle reader. I know students give him high marks for such things, and well they should, at this stage of the game.

And, what matters more, they give him high marks for his teaching—and specifically for his efforts to find ways to reach more students, to reach them better. I’m humbled, awed, in fact, by how good Andrew is at designing a course and laying it out in a syllabus. What a gift to our students! I’ll note here what you must already know: Andrew is clear about his expectations; his expectations are high; this is appreciated. There’s admirable, useful sequencing in his assignments, and there’s a deliberate attentiveness to learning styles. Andrew is conscientious about the proper use of class time and about returning student work on time. And he attends carefully to his course evaluations, making adjustments consistently to enhance the students’ experience. In these things he is faithful in the small so as to be faithful in the large, and students know this. Students crave to be in a classroom taught by someone who asks much of them, more perhaps than they think they can deliver, and who at the same time communicates by his demeanor, his attentiveness, his organization, his stewardship of their time that he values their minds and expects them to grow.

This is not so common a thing, methinks. In fact, I regard the blending of skills and domains that Andrew represents as quite rare.

What haven’t I mentioned much here?—Andrew’s willingness to assume leadership positions (on difficult sub-committees), his creating of new courses (in response to curricular needs), his broader contributions to his discipline (again, in positions of leadership). I’ve also not much mentioned his Christian faith: I will now, by saying merely that I believe it to be active, alive, real—all the adjectives that seem so unsuited to characterizing what is mysterious but manifest, and trusted. We have already come to rely on him for this real faith. Thank God for Andrew’s leadership in this, too.

We need him here in Wenham; the times were never so good in our precincts, say I. And should he manage to campaign us a new faculty member*, then our joy would be complete.

If anyone can, it’s Andrew.

*He did “campaign us” a new faculty member: Chad Stutz. And then another: Kerilyn Harkaway-Krieger. Next we hope will be Jennifer West.

Letter – In Praise of Chad Stutz

It’s a pleasure to mention in these paragraphs some of Chad’s qualities, habits and achievements which are doubtlessly already well known to colleagues and administrators. I’ll try to include a few less-well-known snapshots of Chad in action to justify our mutual high regard for our man.

Starting with his tryout lecture when he was a candidate. His aim was to convey a sense of the shifts in English literature through the 19th-century, and he did this ably—astonishingly, even—by bookending his lecture with two bird poems (poems about birds), composed at either ends of the century. Not only were students shown how to read a poem alertly, but they were then invited to compare formal, topical and tonal elements in the poems with Chad as he took them from the bucolic odes of the Romantics to the more brutal lyrics of the Industrial Revolution.

It was a tour de force, so good, in fact, that Paul Borgman was flummoxed. (Borgman, gentle reader, is not big on lecturers: he prefers a more Socratic mode of teaching.) After the class, at lunch in the Pendragon, Paul gave Chad his assessment: “It was such a good lecture that I’m going to vote against your candidacy.” He went on to explain that, in his view, Chad’s dazzling presentation had left no room for students to develop and insert their own readings.

We know, of course, that Chad won the day, and here is why this anecdote has further relevance: Chad’s good nature, his gentle spirit, his receptive attitude and good humor were evident in that exchange and have been reliably so in the years he’s been in our English department. If he took umbrage at Paul’s eyebrow-raising remark, he never gave a hint. And in fact, he has worked warmly, gracefully, effectively with Paul (and the rest of us), and we are better for him.

This warm demeanor he also brings to the classroom and the sidewalk. My advisees speak affectionately and admiringly of his approachability, and I have been present for several quad-side encounters with Chad, and have observed my students brighten at his approach and relish a lively chat. He is clearly held in high regard for his willingness to engage.

And also for his intellect and his teaching. Unbidden, during advising sessions, my students will effuse about Chad’s teaching. They appreciate his expertise in the literature and his skill in unpacking it (both of which I witnessed firsthand); they appreciate the larger and smaller motions of his courses, and they give particular praise for his ability to orchestrate conversations during class. (What a delightful irony in light of Paul’s objection.) My advisee Will Martin has signed up for several of Chad’s courses and declares that Chad is great at this: he manages to include many voices but somehow keeps everyone on point, keeps the discussion moving forward productively. He does this even in courses with lots of students in lots of desks.

Let me preach to the choir: this is good news for our classrooms, our major, our college. When a prof who knows his stuff can engage students thus, and entice them into owning the material for themselves, and direct them deftly toward what is difficult and what matters, then we have graduates who can think, and who can transfer that ability to any setting.

But we know this about Chad. We know he can be relied on to lead in a quiet, effective way. We’ve seen him do this at English department convocations and prayer sessions. We’ve seen him appointed to committees (like the Governance Committee) where his gifts and affect are in need and in evidence. We watch him in meetings with prospective students and their families, and are grateful for his winsomeness and credibility as he champions the major and the college. I want to credit and thank him here for regularly volunteering to be our ambassador at more than his share of these meetings, and to appreciate how he receives all comers—warmly, alertly—even those who bring bristling questions like, “You don’t read books like Catcher in the Rye, do you?”

This is a service, and it is a mark of his character, his faith, his commitments.

Chad enriches our community and elevates our conversations. His scholarship and teaching are leavening our English major, and will continue to do so as he settles into his courses and continues to add exciting, challenging, important new ones. His service and spirit are leavening our committees and considerations. We will turn to him increasingly, as we do in large and small groups, to pray aloud for us, to offer a wise, concurring or countering view, to carry and shape the ethos of a place we love together.

We need him. Let’s let him know.

-Chad was on a sabbatical leave this semester.

Family Drama

Our family, on a Saturday morning in PJs, recorded the opening 90 seconds of Goodnight, Captain White. (Click and chuckle.)

Using a program like Audacity, you can record everyone all together, or you can, like I did that morning, record in little chunks. The latter works well when your actors can’t read. And with fewer overlaps in the recording you’re freer to move lines around and make rhythms your ear wants.

After recording, we downloaded some music for the start and for background, and we made the sound effect of footsteps using their wood blocks.

This was lemon squeezy.

Here’s a script. Read along as it plays.

CAPTAIN WHITE SCRIPT

FRANK. Well. The Captain looks in perfect health tonight, wouldn’t you say?

ABIGAIL. Yes, I would, perfect.

FRANK. Yes.

RICHARD. Would you.

FRANK. Sorry?

RICHARD. I would say he looks like a trout.

ABIGAIL. Lovely.

FRANK. A trout?

ABIGAIL Frank, dear, some of the guests are leaving, let’s see them out, shall we?—since Uncle’s gone upstairs.

FRANK. By all means. Please excuse us. And, do help yourselves to the uh—oh, I see you have, yes. Well. Mr. Crowninshield. Miss Muchmore. [leaving] A trout? (FRANK and ABIGAIL exit, murmuring)

PENNY. What kind of trout?

RICHARD. Doesn’t matter.

PENNY. No? I think it does. Makes it more interesting. Details. Give me the gory details.

RICHARD. The only detail that matters here is the belly.

PENNY. The belly?

RICHARD. Yes, the soft, pliable white underbelly of the fish.

PENNY. Ah.

RICHARD. The trout is floating—belly-up.

PENNY. Yes, I see. [Noises off, ABIGAIL and FRANK bidding goodbye]
Oh!

RICHARD. Have I frightened you?

PENNY. No—well, yes of course Richard, but I’ve cut myself on this little clasp, I think.

RICHARD. Bleeding, are you?

PENNY. Well I can’t tell yet. Perhaps. Will it need a bandage?

RICHARD. Let me see. [Goes to examine her hand] I don’t see a cut.

PENNY. You’re right of course. It’s nothing. Tell me, why did you come here?

RICHARD. Because I wasn’t invited.

PENNY. But you were–there was a note in the Gazette. You do read, don’t you, Richard?

RICHARD. Only obituaries. Of men I’ve killed.

PENNY. Oh!

RICHARD. Shocked?

PENNY. Have you?

RICHARD. Killed?

PENNY. Yes.

RICHARD. No.

PENNY. Oh.

__

-cast-

Frank Knapp: Me

Abigail Knapp: Yelena

Richard Crowninshield: Wyn

Penelope Muchmore: herself

__

History Alive, Inc., is seeking comedic actors for all six roles in the play, which will be directed by Sarah J. Mann.
AUDITIONS will be at Salem’s Old Town Hall on February 19th & 20th at 6pm, and February 21st at noon, with call backs (if needed) that evening.
As this is a stylized whodunit comedy, all ages (18+) and genders are considered for all roles. The play is interactive and relies frequently on improvisation; actors should be comfortable with physical comedy and improv.
The production dates are 3/31, 4/1 & 4/2 at The Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, with an additional weekend TBD over the spring in Marblehead, MA. Additional performances could follow if desired. Actors will be paid a stipend for rehearsal and performances.
For the audition, please prepare a 1-2 minute comedic monologue (preferably classical, but not required), and be ready for cold-reading from the script.
To schedule an audition please e-mail s.jplaywright@gmail.com with your name and preferred audition time.

Captain White – “May your first child…”

“And may your first child be a masculine child.”

Brilliant Friends, I’m trying to sell 30 tickets to my play, Goodnight, Captain White, at the Hawthorne Hotel—end of this month. This is a benefit for Saltonstall School, where many small people I love attend. The show will feature the school principal, Mr. G, and several teachers and parents, as The Deputy.

The dates for this run are March 31, April 1 & 2 at 7:30 p.m.
(Buy tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2503042 )

If you can, please attend on April 1 or 2, and save March 31 for Bryan Parys’s event and book release at the Cabot Theatre.
https://www.facebook.com/events/473350742864445/

Here’s a further diversion:

The Goodnight, Captain White script pilfers lines from films, plays, TV shows, and short stories. For the next week or so, I’ll post one of those lines here each day. If you recognize its source, be the first to identify the title. The big brain (“on Brett”) who first identifies the most titles gets a free ticket to one of the April shows, courtesy of my very deep pockets. (No company or cast members allowed—and I’m sure you all won’t cheat… Right, Crowninshield?)

We’ll start with the “masculine child” quote above. Where’s it from?

Love and thanks.

-photo by Social Pilates Photography. Featuring Lauren Feeney, Arielle Kaplan, Zack Reardon, Matt PerusseChris Martel, and Will Martin

Goodnight, Captain White

Audition for GOODNIGHT, CAPTAIN WHITE

Goodnight, Captain White is a comic whodunit that re-imagines the infamous 1830 murder of wealthy Salem sea captain Joseph White. Guests to the Captain’s party are served up the long-brewed grudges and brazen schemes that led to the Captain’s untimely death. Six of the historic characters conspire during the play’s first act until the murder is committed. During act two, audience members may reconstruct the suspects’ movements and grill them on their motives. Then the guests help Sen. Daniel Webster ferret out each evening’s killers. Which of the play’s five endings is performed depends on the vicissitudes of its audience.

History Alive, Inc., is seeking comedic actors for all six roles in the play, which will be directed by Sarah J. Mann.

AUDITIONS will be at Salem’s Old Town Hall on February 19th & 20th at 6pm, and February 21st at noon, with call backs (if needed) that evening.

As this is a stylized whodunit comedy, all ages (18+) and genders are considered for all roles. The play is interactive and relies frequently on improvisation; actors should be comfortable with physical comedy and improv.

The following roles are open:
Lavinnia Beckford, the Captain’s excessive and exacting housekeeper
Abigail Knapp, Lavinnia’s daughter, the Captain’s capable grand niece
Frank Knapp, Abigail’s hapless husband, the Captain’s former employee
Richard Crowninshield, a dangerous outlaw type
Penelope Muchmore, an amorous harlot type
Daniel Webster, under cover as hired help. During the play he is mistaken for the manservant, and is wrongly thought to be deaf (doubles as Captain White).

The production dates are 3/31, 4/1 & 4/2 at The Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, with an additional weekend TBD over the spring in Marblehead, MA. Additional performances could follow if desired. Actors will be paid a stipend for rehearsal and performances.

For the audition, please prepare a 1-2 minute comedic monologue (preferably classical, but not required), and be ready for cold-reading from the script.

To schedule an audition please e-mail s.jplaywright@gmail.com with your name and preferred audition time.

__

Some reviews of Goodnight, Captain White: “An ideal production for a dinner theatre” (Essex County Newspapers); “a provocative script…dialogue with the tone of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta” (Lowell Sun); “A hysterical whodunit…both comical and personal” (Salem News); “Quick-witted, playful…a brilliant script” (Weekender); “a spritely murder mystery…dashedly clever” (Georgetown Record); “A zany who-done-it…it captivates you” (Eagle Tribune); “a tour de force…a fun worthwhile evening out” (Daily News of Newburyport); “Rich with innuendo…relies on a talented cast for improv and audience interaction…a night of good fun” (Destination Salem).

Poem – Just This

ii. Just This

Pines on a February afternoon.
Is this enough?—the salt-white road, the half-
hearted walls piled with cinders, a few leaves
leaping up. No one has been kissed, nothing

written. Between towns, an ocean glimpse
is aqua-marine, extravagant. Leaves
leap up. There is water, and sky, then just this
wide light on the needles beneath the pines.

-Published in The Lyric.

Tribute – to Peter W. Stine

What won’t Stine say?

-The chicken, though adequately cooked, is sadly under-seasoned. Is there any lasagna, instead? I don’t sanction miniature corncobs.
-Not a bad speech, but let’s try to lose the accent, Mr. Mandela.
-In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, right, Mr. Bocelli?
-Speak up, Mr. Hawking!—Carve your words and spit them out, like me when I shout this command!
-Hats off in the classroom, your Holiness.
-Mr. Devito, stand and deliver! Stand and—oh… Well, then: stand on a chair.
-The short hair doesn’t really favor you, Ms. Degenerous. Something softer, more feminine, perhaps.
-I would have thought you could have turned out a larger audience for our turtleneck reading of Murder in the Cathedral here at the First Baptist Church of Harpswell, Maine.

 

Something like that last one most likely got said on a Princemere Readers trip into the depths of the Bert-and-I State.

When won’t Stine begin a prayer on just such a trip?

Me: Hi, I’m Mark Stevick from Lancaster—

Stine: FOR THESE GIFTS, AND ALL THY MUNIFICENCE—for these seven residents of the hamlet of Harpswell, Maine, who will host and feed our twelve Princemere Readers—and their servant leader in a separate home because sharing a bed is unseemly in my considerable book… Lord, we thank you—♫ PRAISE GOD FROM—am I the only one spontaneously pray-singing?—♫ BLESSINGS FLOW—next song-prayer: ♫ THE LORD IS MY LIFE, AND—I can’t hear the women—♫ SALVATION!—have you got any more of those cupcakes, I’m a diabetic, but I could use cupcakes, diabetes, lots of jimmies, find my insulin bag, with frosting, if you’d be so kind… No? We’re out of diabetes-cakes? More’s the pity. That’s an expression that means “too bad.” You lobstermen don’t “readie muchie” do you? It’s all right—that’s why we’ve come to your small wooden church with our 3-hour rendition of The Scarlet Pimpernel. No need to feel embarrassed. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t read—AUSTIN?—are we saving some crabcakes for others? Fine.

[continuing] Breakfast tomorrow at half five—that’s 5:30 for you “Mainuhs”—and I know you’re already up then, trimming the mizzenmast, as I myself also constantly am—for the Men’s Matins Meal, or the Clerical Collar Choir practice—♫ WHOM THEN SHALL I FEAR?—or Racquetball for the Recovering—mm?—what’s that? No: I don’t drink coffee, especially not in Harpswell, Maine, ho-ho! I’ll have some tea if it’s English Breakfast, with milk first, not cream, otherwise just sea water in a small conch, I’m not hard to please. No, it’s “conk” actually, not “conch”—thank you very much, you’ve been malapropping it for centuries. If it’s worth correcting, it’s worth correcting loudly. Why compound ignorance with inaudibility?

__

Here at this retirement dinner, I hear you asking: How many such Stineian sayings have occurred on similar Princemere trips? 525 thousand 600 vignettes—no; let me do some accounting: since 1976 when PWS founded the Princemere Readers, two dozen productions have been uttered by a hundred-and-a-half voices for an audience in toto pushing 20k—in nearly half our states (22), and eight countries—thrice in England, (nearly) twice in Kenya, plus Korea, the Philippines, China and Japan.

Begun with a $500 budget, which had increased to $900 when all was read and done in 1999, Princemere was a blue chip investment, certainly. With a few hats and a good script, the Princemeres could perform in slippy black stockingfeet anywhere; and the scene, in the audience’s mind, could look like the Mississippi, or Hell, or Hester’s scaffold in the Puritan marketplace. And because Stine & Co had brought these settings & stories to their front stoops, a goodly number of high school seniors signed on for a Wenham address—and then paid their 6 or 12 or 21 thousand dollars a year for four-or-more years to its only-and-frugal college.

Princemere paid dividends for the Troupe, too. We were, most of us, sow’s ears, being measured and stretched against great literature: the hypotaxis of Hawthorne, and the figures of C.S. Lewis, the phonemes of Dylan Thomas, and Mark Twain’s metallic twang. We were buffeted by the texts, and by the tyrant director, too. What did he teach us but how mark with our voice and breath, as he did, every flick of punctuation, every emotive vowel, every, every minute?

And, watching him, we learned, too, in talk-backs after the shows, that one may engage an entire room with bluster and finesse, teasing its members into a different kind of play, a tautened alertness, a finely suspended joy. He was at his best, burned cleanest, I think, in those give-and-take afterglows.

And he, he himself, the Stine carved the roast b—no, he himself adapted all but one of those two dozen productions. Is it too much to say that those 23 publications (for the first public performance of a script is, in the writs of copyright law, a publication)—too much to say that they mattered more to kingdom and college than the several squat volumes on minor Victorian poets that might have borne his name on their infrequently-handled spines? It’s not too much to say that. (Though it was wordy, I lost my grip on the sentence.) Those 300 productions, 300 play-full, literary interludes, were his scholarship, and his reasonable service.

In 1979, Peter was given the Faculty Award by the student body for, among other things, his work with Princemere. In 1999, after missing two consecutive spring tours with foot sores and sickness, he retired from his adapting-of-lit and his troupe-of-readers. I know he would love for the shows to go on; and he had hoped that I could take up the van keys, but, alas, I couldn’t manage it all; maybe if I’d been married, with 4 kids and a pastorate to boot, I’d have had the time.

How valuable, for me, Patrick Gray, Carol Smith Austin and her man Philip, for Dawn Jenks Sarrouf, and Mark Frederick and Jennifer Hevelone Harper to have started out with Princemere; a troupe founded to “make great literature the handmaiden of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Thanks to Stine I feel like I wrote The Great Divorce and The Scarlet Letter—books I quote often, and impressively, in my classes. Which returns me to my theme. What won’t Stine say. With the slightest of provokings, Stine will deliver a brief, hortatory essay on the value of such literature—and of the amiable word, the vigorous sentence, the paragraph “in the trim.” What he says will be imageful, figurative; it will sound like he’s wholly quoting when, in fact, he isn’t, though he will sample from Heaney or Churchill or Achebe to fine effect. It will be vintage Stine, and it will tingle you under the scalp to hear it, so that you’ll think, If only I could say that the next time I’m called on. As if.

What else will Stine say? Given the merest flash of an opening he will remonstrate with us not to abandon the teaching of public speaking at Gordon. “I speak for the trees, my wooden pupils, for the trees have no tongues.” And O, he is agonizingly right. Should you ever require penance, yours shall be to attend a senior breakfast and hear near-grads speaking cudgels when blades are required.

And this else will Stine say: “Here’s $150 for your Chemistry text; here’s $200 for the student emergency fund; here’s $500 to help get Anne aboard the London theatre trip—I know she can’t afford it, and I have some money from Betsy; but I don’t want anyone to know”—to which one says, “OK. No one will know.” Until your retirement dinner.

All those things will Stine say, along with lots of lively expressions that one hears, as a freshman from Lancaster, PA, for the first time, attaching them foreverafter to their ironic and bearded speaker: as it were; not to say; so to speak; memento mori; carpe diem; tempis fugit; carry coals to Newcastle; set the Thames alight; versatility is the hallmark of genius; fast nickels are better than slow dimes; non illigitimi carborundum; I’m not the bastard I seem to be; WELCOME TO COLLEGE. And that last bellowed phrase signaled welcome to new corners of poets, playwrights, novelists from the world’s wide four; and welcome to nutritious sites of historic and literary significance, narrated from Stineian memory; and to his home, and table, there to relish the easy, expert hospitality of his wife and family. And in my case, to England for the first time. Welcome to Dover, Mr. Stevick. I’ve got some things to show you.

At such a time as this, one wonders where to turn for language to help commemorate and reckon with his retirement. One tries to imagine a Gordon without him, and one remembers his important directives: Stevick, go to grad school; get your language requirement done; try radio; teach my oral interp class; apply for the position here; marry her, don’t wait too long; don’t wait too long—children are a blessing. These, too, Stine will say. How to gather the fruit of all that into words at once true and lovely? To quote usefully, “language staggers here”—or stumbles: at least mine does. Plus I’m afraid I’ll blub or do something ridiculous—

—because this spring I find myself toggling between “Stop all the clocks” or “Mark Stevick, are you grieving over Peter Stine soon leaving?” and what that means for us, for me in my 44th year to heaven

—toggling between that and lines by Wordsworth, unveiled by Stine in his class:
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

Perhaps Peter is finding Wordsworth was right. Through God’s grace and Sue’s kidney, I trust he’ll continue to find strength in and among his loves: family, friends and students; reading, writing, performing (from these may there be no severing)—and, next summer, traveling back to England to lead a 10-day literary excursion. The aged eagle’s wings have plenty of spreading left in them.

And though much is taken, much abides at Gordon after Stine. Innumerables. For starters, two essential courses in the English department, Nobel Prize winners and African Literature; a theatre major and a black box theatre with a plaque bearing his name; and most notably, row upon row of alumni, I among them, whose lives have borne out another of his sayings—that with a liberal arts degree, especially in English, you can think and write and speak ably, so you can do anything.

Some would say, about a legacy like that, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

What would Peter Stine say about it?
“Not bad.”

Here’s to my professor, colleague and friend, Peter W. Stine.

-Delivered at Peter Stine’s retirement dinner in 2008. He passed away August 5, 2011. We carry stones, and pile them on his.

Toast – to Paul Borgman

I see him across the quad. His walk, like the silhouettes of certain birds, is distinct: athletic, alert, mit backpack, a posture and gait suited for distance, for lapping the miles, the texts. It is the walk of Thoreau, or maybe a tennis player, which, avidly, he was.

And he’s tending my way. What will this mean? I wonder because my friend Paul Borgman is liable to say anything, to speak truths I’d be too timid to utter.

—e.g: “Waiter, you’ve totally used the wrong vermouth in these martinis. Can I see the bottle? …No olive for me, thanks; I’ve brought my own sprig of basil.”

—and: “Just before we cast our final vote, this CORE curriculum is, to my way of thinking, totally wrongheaded. I’ve brought my own CORE…”

And, now, suddenly, this truth-teller is before me.

PB: Stevick! You young scoundrel.
ME: Hi, Dr. Borg—Paul. (old student habit)
PB: Stevick, when are you and that Kristi Wacome going to start having kids?
ME: Oh, ah ha ha ha…
PB: Don’t wait too long; Abraham waited too long, almost!
ME: Yeah, that’s—kind of true… What are you eating?
PB: Well, I was juicing for years, but these are locusts.
ME: Locusts?!—Oh, ah ha ha ha ha… Are they really?
PB: Absolutely, crunchy wings and all. Have one.
ME: Paul, are you a prophet?
PB: Nowwww, come on… Me, a prophet?
ME: But, Paul, the locusts, the sandals by Birkenstock, the fairly unusual camel-skin jacket, the hair shirt with hints of pastel—who are you preparing the way for?
PB: WHO, INDEED! Oh, Stevick, that’s good!
ME: It is?
PB: Yeah, Graeme, did you hear this?
GRAEME BIRD: Hi, Paul, Hi, Mark—you guys eating locusts?

At this point I slip away blissfully into the night, even though it’s noon.

 

Who is this locust eater, this sandal-wearer, this truth-telling, tennis-talker?

He is a fellow one meets in 1983 when one is 19 years old. He is teaching literature—of a pre-Renaissance, European flavor. He stands at the foot of MacDonald 109, looking like a certain engraving of Walt Whitman, loafing in cotton shirt and a hat—and he is roughly the same build, too, with the same manly beard, the same soulful eyes, the same famous hands. Famous, in this case, in how they shape themselves toward an argument—and around a text. Deftly, sure-footedly, though the room takes on the pitch-&-yaw of Odysseus’s boat, this man bravely conveys us through passages of prose and poetry—

“Bravely” because (now hear me) in these sessions, with Homer or Moses or Faulkner, he does not turn away from what is difficult or distressing in the work—nor even from what is dangerous. He goes toward it. And asks that his charges do the same. Let us be accountable, he says, to the text, and one-to-another. Is there trouble somewhere? There we must attend. Except thou bless me, I will not let thee go, he says. It IS hard: How else can literature be adequate to our lives?

When we were young,
     the petal of the rose it was that stung.
Now we crave
     the sweet of bitter bark and burning clove.

 

So, what do we finally learn about this coy conveyor, this captain courageous?

A friend of mine, former student of Paul’s, recently said “Borgman was the ideal teacher; he made me want to try to teach like that.” So now he does try.

You know what else he said? “Paul was awesomely welcoming in his office. I loved going up there and talking books and ideas with him.” To which I replied, ditto. 

Further: who has not heard Paul say, “What a life! To get paid to teach what I love—to students who I love to teach! And that’s a chiasmus, Robert Alter!”

What is more infectious than this? Who is more effective, more astonishing, in landscaping a terrain so that students can walk themselves into a revelation? No one I know of.

Several times I have gone into a room full of people blandly interested in literature, mildly informed about this-or-that book—and felt that room absolutely arcing with expectancy because Paul Borgman was about to engage it.

Our man stepped to the front. With only his voice and his bearing, he began, warmed to his subject, pressed a few students into service, picked up steam; extolled, confessed, shouted, lobbed & volleyed—and then brooked a dissent from some brazen smarty.

SMARTY: BUT blah blah blah [*your view is endearingly wrong, here’s a revision*].
PB: Good, but where do you get that?
SMARTY: From blah blah, so that means blah [*total opposite of what you think*].
PB: You may be right, that’s [*from memory*] verse 37, so can you read that out to us?
SMARTY: Sure, ‘Blah blah came to pass, that blah-blah-blah blahbetty blah.’
PB: The end again?
SMARTY: ‘Blahbetty blah.’
PB: [waits]
SMARTY: Ohhh.
[audience amazement and respect]

 

Friends, Borgmans, sidemen, I have not the skill nor the learning to do justice to that scene. I will say it was like watching a prestidigitation, or a minor miracle, maybe like Nathan getting King David to incriminate himself—without the gold throne and the finger pointing. And the result was a little detonation of insight and delight that spread out and is still rippling even to this very moment.

One of my colleagues says, “Paul is, hands down, the best teacher-in-the-classroom I’ve ever seen.” Today an alum said, “Of all my teachers, perhaps all the people I’ve ever met, Paul is the one who most genuinely believes that literature not only can but should alter your life. And that we read because our lives depend on it.”

“Words draw him,” says another colleague. “English draws him to uncover the overcharged empty space of the human soul. Words are what he has.”

Words are what he has.

 

Which brings me to words I don’t have. Words I have not been able to muster about Paul’s willingness to look into the darkness. I’ve wanted to reflect and speak truly on this vital aspect of my colleague—

     a man who has been acquainted with the night,
          and with a certain slant of light—
          with heavenly hurt
     that wakes the heart to the darkness and into the sadness of joy.

But I can’t manage it this time around.

Instead, I’ll finish with these words. Writer. Speaker. Thinker. Model. Mentor. Raconteur. Provocateur. Defender. Advocate. Confidante. Supplicant. Communicant. Colleague. Friend. Prophet and Professor—

Paul Borgman, who, for 34 years, has climbed into and out of his corner office, like Ahab, or Father Mapple, leaving the rope ladder down for us.

For English majors, the evening sight of his high lamp in Frost has meant he’s been busy—leading youngen folk on this pilgrimage, helming our trim ship toward landfall, toward understanding (through humility and zeal and faithful attention)—toward truths that are dear because dearly-bought.

I stand here, unfit representative for hundreds, nay, thousands of his students whose voices speaking together their tributes would make, indeed, a noisy throng, rising from hither and yon, from hallways, headquarters, cooperative farms, council chambers—and from the many households where the Word is welcomed to lead and to interrogate us.

It is the Word that Paul has served,

     the Word written and read,

          eternal and begotten.

On this day we are emboldened by his service, we are keen to extend his legacy, we are grateful to celebrate all these things, and, yes, we are crushed to see him go.

-Delivered at Paul’s retirement party in Phillips Music Hall (with Bert Seager and The Why) in December of 2014. Paul and Marsha are living it up in Florida this winter while Paul keeps writing books like David, Saul, and Godwhich we all worked on…