Twenty Things I Learned on My Trip to Florida…

1. Pickle flavored sunflower seeds are very good.

2. BBQ flavored sunflower seeds are eh. Not bad.

3. My wife is like the recalcitrant whatever it is in Green Eggs and Ham. She would not try a single, pickle-flavored sunflower seed despite high praise for them from everyone else in the car.

4. I’m watching Fox News in the hotel breakfast area. In the exact same breath that they say we need to put aside our differences and unite behind Trump, they condemn President’s Obama’s actions toward Israel as being completely and uniformly wrong — when at most he’s issuing a long overdue, mild rebuke for some of Israel’s worst actions. You must think like a trained monkey if you can’t see through this.

5. My daughter Grace observes her environment, thinks ahead, and does her best to be helpful. She’s amazing.

6. I have been in the habit of buying everyone the same kind of gift every Christmas. One year it was watches. Another year it was pocket knives. This year it was fountain pens. My daughter Beka got everyone in the Mississippi contingent bobbleheads. Grace got Bernie Sanders. Penn got a Pokémon. Etc.

7. I got Cthulhu.

8. I-10 should be renamed “The Franz Kafka Memorial Highway.” I will start a White House petition for this when I get back.

9. Except that the Suawnee River sign has a little bar of music along the bottom edge of it, which is great for a state road sign.

10. It was hilarious watching my wife and youngest daughter do Yoga in bed together. I wish I had video.

11. But listening to the voice of the breathy, female yoga instructor without seeing the video was disturbingly like listening to a director’s voice-over for a porn video: “Now shake your head back and forth. It won’t hurt.” Or for a space-horror film like Alien: “Now breathe your legs into your chest.”

12. The Saga graphic novel is really very good, thank you, Steven.

13. To the exact extent that Extended Stay America’s “Continental Breakfast” is lame, Holiday Inn’s is very good.

14. If you’re traveling with five people, you may still save money by paying a bit more daily for a place with a good breakfast. We stayed at an Extended Stay so that we could make at least breakfast in the morning, but that didn’t work out too often, and you still need to buy groceries. I think we would have saved money or broke even staying at a better hotel that actually had a good breakfast.

15. Best of all, there is now a 3-D printer for pancakes at the breakfast bar. A Facebook friend of mine also called it a “Pancake Keurig.” That works too.

16. ALABAMA!

17. My friend Julian told me about this great record shop in Mobile in which the guy tells stories about the rock stars he knew. I shall have to visit when I’m not driving through.

18. It’s amazing how big a mess three kids can make in a car with sunflower seeds. Buy the kind without shells.

19. I have never looked forward to getting my car detailed until now.

20. When I told my wife that I was writing a list of everything I learned on my trip, she said, quietly and rapidly, “Oh God.”

Book Chat: The Life and Work of Diane Hoeveler

On 9 December 2016 Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions sponsored a book chat devoted to the life and work of Dr. Diane Hoeveler hosted by James Rovira.

Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions is an online, open-access, peer-reviewed website devoted to Romantic-era studies. Diane Hoeveler worked out of Marquette University, and her work focused on the Brontës, feminism, and the gothic in eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature.

The chat was held from about 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET. Three of Diane’s previous collaborators joined the chat to discuss Diane as a friend, a person, and a scholar.

Participants and their topics included

  • Dr. James Rovira — Chair and Associate Prof. of English, Mississippi College: Host.
  • Dr. Deborah Morse — Vera W. Barkley Professor of English, College of William and Mary: her own Brontë projects with Diane. Dr. Morse was ill, so James Rovira read her paper.
  • Dr. Beth Lau — Prof. of English, Cal State Long Beach: Romantic Androgyny and the Brontë project
  • Dr. Angela H Wright — Professor of English, The University of Sheffield: The Gothic Ideology and other works.

We used the platform Zoom for the chat, which was recorded and then archived with YouTube at the link above.

Silence Sestina

Silence Sestina*
 
In what darkened, 
ragged, 
screaming
fire
does the kiss
of silence never

see? Or ever
darkly,
kisses
raged
evening fire
that loves while screaming?

In what screaming,
never
fired,
dark, 
hot ragged 
tropic does your kiss

descend to kiss
my scream:
ragged,
nev’r
silent, dark
burning yearning fire?

You rise to fire
my kiss
in dark
screams
that never
suffer your ragged,

silent, blunt rag-
ing fire;
never
kiss
my screaming
silent darkness?

In my forced silence, I can never kiss 
your ragged fire, your oblique passion, 
in the shared silence of our screaming dark.

c 2016 James Rovira
16 October 2016, Brookhaven, MS
IHOP

A note on form and sources: I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman vol. 3 lately — many thanks to @DWhiteDaniel for lending me his copies — and came across Gaiman’s creation of an author being driven mad by ideas in vol. 3 (trust me, the guy deserved it. But better than trusting me, buy a copy for yourself and see why). One of his ideas was a “sestina about silence, using the key words dark, ragged, never, screaming, fire, kiss.”

Since reading that, I wanted to try my hand at such a sestina. This is it. I also invented a consistent syllabic rotation for this one (somewhat arbitrarily 4-2-2-1-3-5), which I follow through stanzas 1-6. The envoi is written in blank verse. I got up ridiculously early this morning, couldn’t get back to sleep, and decided I’d rather do this than grading. Many thanks to IHOP in Brookhaven for its similarly ridiculous attempt at eggs benedict and for keeping the coffee coming.

I think the best tribute to any author is to say that he made you want to write.