7 December 2020

Dear Everyone:

At last Friday’s final Friday Forum Open Executive Committee meeting, I shared a poem by Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, “It’s Kinda Cold Out Here” written in the aftermath of José Esteban Muñoz’s death, the seventh anniversary of which was last week. The poem is comprised of pieces of text and email and other informal notes JEM sent to friends and colleagues. I’d not only been remembering JEM coming up to the Open Exec meeting, but also had been noticing how the transcriptions of chats in the seemingly endless zoom meetings we do these days often (for me anyway) take on the cast of found poems. Like Cortiñas’s work, the assembly of momentary thoughts and spontaneous utterances in the chats remind me of the small, quotidian, informal, casual ways we constitute a life – as an academic, a teacher, a student, simply a person in the world. The poem ends with the question, “Are you alright?”, and I’m reminded of the manifold and heterogeneous ways you’ve all asked each other – and practiced the form of care and relationality embedded in the question – some version of that since we entered pandemic mode last March.

I’m opening this final, meandering message of the semester with all this to express thanks for your acts of care, however casual and quotidian, for all of us and each other, and to acknowledge that it is at least in part through those small acts (in addition of course to the small axe of Caribbeanist revolutionary thought!) that the act of creating and holding up worlds proceeds. I want to acknowledge, too, loss and mourning and just plain missing people, including you all and our groupness in non-virtualized form. The etymology of pandemic – from Greek pandēmos (from pan ‘all’ + dēmos ‘people’) – is so distinctly lived through the experience of it, which resoundingly insists we understand allpeople in this compounded form as the fundamental state of being. The writing you’re doing, the grading and commenting, the meeting with students and each other, the attention to logistics and administration – all of it, deepest gratitude and appreciation for making world in this truly, often maddeningly, absurd semester!

I want along these lines to offer kudos especially to everyone serving on committees this year: big applause to you all! And of course to Nancy Silverman – gigantic appreciation for making so much possible for us!  And to Kent Yuen for sticking with us as College Assistant through the vagaries of the past year! And brava to all who took exams and wrote dissertations and defended them, and who attended classes with presence and engagement and generosity. A special thanks to the people with whom I’m working on exams and dissertations, and who were in my seminar this semester, for patience and good humor and such robust thinking in the face of my distractedness by the business of EOing. 

Additional thanks in advance to program faculty in anticipation of our meeting this coming Friday – details and reminder to follow separately.

I’ll write with more news and information as we transition into spring semester – about such things as the rhetoric and composition appointment, Friday Forum scheduling, a curriculum transformation grant we’ve landed from PublicsLab, and graduation (which will be virtual again), among them.  For now, though, just, thank you again for everything– including indulging me in my meandering messages and recognizing them as my own small gestures – your responses have been endlessly kind. Though I daresay I’ve not met in person the vast majority of people on this distribution list, I feel some sense of neighborliness with you all; I’d lend you an electric mixer for sure, and would not hesitate to borrow yours.

Warmest best to all in winding down the semester, including hearty wishes for deep and restorative rest.


p.s. those who were at Revels, please note that (of course!) Wayne Koestenbaum was right in thinking I got the button wrong in remembering his book Figure It Out; but it wasn’t the beard I was thinking of, it was the bracelet!  I will ascribe to zoom-fried brain the transmogrification of bracelet to button, and offer thanks to Wayne for his characteristic graciousness in not calling out my mistake too loudly. (I think somehow Figure It Out melded with Frog and Toad stories – anyone know the one about the lost button?!)  Figure It Out in any event is filled with all kinds of insight as to how the quotidian and casual intersect with the incisive and erudite to produce figures of life, perfectly appropriate to thinking about electric mixers  — xx!


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