Monday, April 11, 2011

Retro-Blog #3: One Busy Week

I'm back from Banyoles with some new holes in my hands, but I am ready to do a little typing for the sake of catching up while my Cocoa-Courgette Muffins are baking. We're on to 8th week of Hilary Term, which was March 6-12, 2011. That Sunday I went to church at Magdalen College to hear a sermon that promised to be based on poems by George Herbert. ('"The Crosse" and "The Agonie": Human Suffering, Christ's Passion' was the title of the sermon, given by the Reverend Dr. Michael Piret.) The sermon was interesting, though less directly helpful to my paper than I had hoped, and the Magdalen College chapel (pictured) is just beautiful. The boys' choir, which comes from the Magdalen College School across the way, is really talented, and absolutely adorable in their little robes. After the service, we were all invited to lunch together, and I took the opportunity both to enjoy a free meal and to chat with some of the boys, as I had applied for a job at MCS and was curious about their students. They were quite typical schoolboys, from what I could gather, but very polite and well-spoken, so I was pleased. On my way out I wandered a little, just to see a bit more of the college, which is one of the wealthiest in Oxford and is quite pretty. It is famous for its sprawling deer park, but I didn't quite have the time to spend in such a place, so I didn't go into it. I left feeling full and happy, and went back to working on my papers.

Most of that week I spent in the Special Collections Reading Room with my good friend, MS. Rawl. Poet. 142, but there were a number of fun events to draw me out. On Tuesday 8 March, the second lecture by Professor of Poetry Geoffrey Hill took place in the Exam Schools. I went with W, who had missed the last one and was excited to hear Hill speak. The talk was entitled, ‘Eccentrique to the endes of his Master or State,’ which comes from one of Francis Bacon's essays, "Of Wisdom for a Man's Self." It was a bit more complex than the last talk, and I was not quite as riveted, but there were still moments of fun (such as when he defined the phrase, "shit-eating grin"). As I did last time, I have typed up some highlights below.

- "I would think 'oxymoron.' I wouldn't write 'oxymoron;' it would screw up the scansion, but I would think 'oxymoron.'"
- "I like the 'et cetera.' It makes him the E.E. Cummings of the 16th century. [pause for response, which was muted, and then, mocking his teen audience] Who the hell is E.E. Cummings?"
- "A critic of deep perception--not Meers or Webb, obviously--might have gleaned from Ovid's Metamorphoses that the poetic language of the coming age would be--had to be--expresions of man wandering brutishly about."
- "If someone were to rise up and shout, Nonsense! I wouldn't subsequently cut them in the street..."
- "We speak idly of Petrarchan sexual specialisation, which is unfair to Petrarch."
- "In Suckling, one meets faces, not people, and the faces are without name...He returns morality and compassion ti an environment that has none through oxymoronic vitality...Set Spenser and Suckling side by side, and Spenser's 'sunshiney face' appears drained of significance."
- "To read that line aloud is a terrific experience. Try it, but not here."
- "I'm sorry that there's a clock up there, because you can see that I'm going over by about 5 minutes...should probably have it covered up next time."
- "If I were allowed to set rules for poetry for the next twenty years, what an earmuff that would be. It'd be best if you regard me in my time in this chair as Socrates on his way to drink hemlock."
- "...Little miracles of literary ingenuity and blank intransigence. It is the blank intransigence I hope you'll carry away with you. In brief, what I'm saying to any young poet who may be listening is: produce us a black swan."
- "Full of good will, I even bought the PJ Harvey--here it is! [waves a CD] I had half the staff of HNB bowing me to the door. I know what they were thinking. If some old tramp can waste his money on PJ Harvey, the economy must be on the up."

The following day was the concert in the Sheldonian Theatre, in which the Oxford University Student Chorus sang the Brahms Requiem. Amusingly, the Sheldonian has fire codes that prohibit more than 100 people on the floor at once, and because we had 100 in the choir and 50 in the orchestra, the whole alto section and all the men had to go up into the seating area and sing from there! This made it difficult to see the conductor, and really, we felt a bit detached from the performance overall. We were also not as confident in ourselves as we had been for the winter concert, and we could have used another week of rehearsal to iron out some kinks, but somehow we made it through. There is a recording of it that Theo said he would post on the website; I will try to link to that if and when it happens.

Thursday evening the Lincoln W1 crew dated the Green-Templeton College M1, which was actually a lot of fun! I had been on a crew date before, and had not enjoyed it much, mainly because it was mostly drunken undergrads being loud and obnoxious. However, GTC is an all-graduate college, so when they scoped us out on the river and contacted us about a date, we were intrigued. We started the night at the Victoria Pub in Jericho, and then headed
across the street to have dinner at Bombay. I have no idea what I ate, but it was spicy and meaty and ricey and delicious. Then we walked with the boys through a back gate of GTC and had a fun and silly time walking on their grass (they were so confused when we got all excited and squealy over being able to walk on grass that isn't a Living National Treasure, hehe! We're such Lincolnites...) We finished the night in the GTC bar, where dancing, drinks, and hula hoops (yes, hula hoops) were the name of the game.

I was tuckered out by the end of that week, but I managed to make it to the final Welfare Tea of term that Friday at 5 p.m., where we iced and decorated biscuits and overindulged our sweet teeth with a large cuppa. This was my last adventure, as I more or less locked myself in my room (with occasional library forays) for the entirety of ninth week to work on the two essays. The B essay, entitled "Reading Willie's Notebook: MS Rawlinson Poetry 142," was due on Monday the 21st, and the C essay, "'The constellations of the storie': Sonnets in George Herbert's The Temple" was due Thursday the 24th...and my parents were due to arrive on Friday the 25th! I considered posting a sample paragraph from each essay, but I'm sure no one really wants to read them (including my professors!), so I will spare you. Mom and Dad's visit, on the other hand, was loads of fun, and is definitely fodder for another post.

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