practical pedagogy: inside j mc’s H*DDL*M*RT


when I am hard-writing I must be also hard-living.

recently I was very hard-living I was wandering campus cracked out on no sleep

having taken a 6 AM power-yoga class, watched an episode of boy meets world &

promptly fallen asleep on the couch, woke up to write poems and had reminders

on my google calendar about a lunch I was supposed to be at at that very moment

so threw on dress/boots/hat & left.

after the lunch I was going to run errands, try to live like a non-writing human, etc.

but instead went to the lafortune student center which is at notre dame a sort of

hub of absolute normalcy. lafortune, or at it is called, lafun, is home to

the highest grossing subway in the nation, a burger king, a sbarro (hidden in the

basement, as is appropriate for a place serving only 500+ calorie pizzabricks),

the perfunctory starbucks in a faux-european alley complete with an electric gaslamp,

and the “huddle mart,” which I imagine is a reference to some football terminology

with which I am, and intend to remain, unfamiliar.

anyway joyelle mcsweeney who teaches at notre dame and with whom I had been

having coffee at said starbucks was having her class read harryette mullen-inspired

poems about various places in lafun at the actual locations about which the poems

had been written, in the middle of the lunchtime rush.

being, as we are, small and fashionable and fierce women, we stood

gangster-like at the entrance to the H*DDL*M*RT and awaited the arrival of her class,

many of which were large, fierce, notre dame football players. also some other

fierce women. we proceeded, mob-like, to wander about the space as each student

read their poems, which were most of them quite good. we were, at one point,

reprimanded for forming said mob in the middle of the hallway near the subway line.

that was the moment at which it became apparent that this was monumental.

what I mean is, it is hard to make the world engage with poetry, and it is equally hard

to make poets engage with the world.

and yet, by the glow of the burger-king logo, the wall in between Poetry and The World

started to come down with such intensity that minor law-enforcement-esque “officials”

felt the need to tell us to stop.

Poetry and The World are not fundamentally incompatible entities.

Poets do live in The World.

Poems could not exist without The World. The World perhaps could exist without

Poets or Poetry.

that would maybe be a utopia. or, a morally bankrupt society.

at any rate in this World there are Poets and there is Poetry but they are dirty.

The Poem has no place going grocery shopping or eating fast-food or even

bingeing on pizza in the basement.

as the performance went on these fledgling poets became bolder, more eager to move

to the location of their language, to speak loudly, to make fun, even, of the people

who were not similarly engaged.

in the H*DDL*M*RT, in between the Candy Counter and the Coffee Corner,

a girl read two poems and a woman who worked at the taco/ice cream counter was

leaning through a doughnut-laden shelf to listen.

she was wearing a green apron and a hairnet and when we moved to the next spot,

she sighed,

said softly, “oh, don’t go.”

this was the moment at which I became absolutely certain this was monumental.

I have learned many lessons about Poetry. I have been taught.

none of my best lessons have happened in a classroom. they happened on mountains,

on the brick walkway between the library and the dining hall at sweet briar college,

on a denim-covered futon, in the backseat of taxicabs (chainsmoking),

dive-bars in brooklyn, diner brunches, and now, in la fortune, in the H*DDL*M*RT.

 

burger king

 

candy

joyelle, teaching some students some things in front of the super-chic starbucks
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