8 March 2021

Dear Everyone:

Here we are, facing the anniversary of the transition to remote mode. I’ve been trying to figure out what or how I feel about this — really, whether I have feelings about it that are distinct or distinguishable from the general muddle. Maybe unexpectedly, I find I’m mostly annoyed! — by all the reminders that we’re now a full year into pandemic life — the prompts to remember the last time we went to a theatre, traveled, conferenced in person, to mourn freshly and publicly and so on.  I realize that annoyance comes in part from the fact that a full year characterized by loss and difficulty has indeed passed, but it’s irritating to be prompted to believe that that isn’t always the case, and that that gorgeousness and love and even happiness persists even inside such a year, and that our feelings should be appropriately grave. I don’t mean to diminish the fact of immense loss and of the meaningfulness of having made it through the year — I know that’s been huge and perhaps everything for some, to be here yet and still — and I want to gratefully, loudly marvel at how people — how you/we/us — make it through every day and week and year with grace and courage and laughter and ugly crying and celebratory dancing and, for us, dwelling in and with words.  So, what I want to say this week that is (not) distinctive is, perhaps we might refuse the demand for proper feeling and memorialization and revel instead in the fact that this is just another day, another week, full of the ordinary demands of living and holding all the promise of joy and mourning that is simply a condition of life — and how phenomenal and miraculous and marvelous that is!

This week will close with a couple of big events!  Our virtual visit day for admitted and (some) waitlisted applicants, with huge thanks to Siraj Ahmed for guiding us through Admissions this year, and the ESA conference, beautifully organized by Miranda Hajduk and Emily Price. The conference, taking place on March 12th from 9:30am-6pm, is titled “The End Times: Approaches to the Apocalypse” and features Dr. Julie Sze, Professor of American Studies at UC Davis and author of Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice, as keynote speaker. The conference website is here and the link to register is here. Registration is free and open to the public!  I’m super looking forward to all of it.

Two things with which to close:

First, do some of you associate “just another day” with Jon Secada?  I can’t resist sharing this link: https://youtu.be/rbBR4KIPfXg!

Second, this poem, below, by Naomi Shihab Nye, that captures something of the present, the year, the ordinariness and amazingness of sharing syllables with you all.

Abundant well wishes, as ever —


Every day as a wide field, every page

By Naomi Shihab Nye 1

Standing outside
staring at a tree
gentles our eyes

We cheer
to see fireflies
winking again

Where have our friends been
all the long hours?
Minds stretching

beyond the field
their own skies

Windows   doors
grow more

Look through a word
swing that sentence
wide open

Kneeling outside
to find
sturdy green

glistening blossoms
under the breeze
that carries us silently


And there were so many more poems to read!
Countless friends to listen to.
We didn’t have to be in the same room—
the great modern magic.
Everywhere together now.
Even scared together now
from all points of the globe
which lessened it somehow.
Hopeful together too, exchanging
winks in the dark, the little lights blinking.
When your hope shrinks
you might feel the hope of
someone far away lifting you up.
Hope is the thing …
Hope was always the thing!
What else did we give each other
from such distances?
Breath of syllables,
sing to me from your balcony
please! Befriend me
in the deep space.
When you paused for a poem
it could reshape the day
you had just been living.

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