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What's that, a fairly large recap is called for? Why, so it is. I've been busy like mad lately, wrapping up grades for my students and my own semesters-end assignments, and there have also been Things Going On.

Thursday, I kinda went to JazzFest. I parked at Whitney's house and walked with her and Kat down the block to the Fairgrounds, where we camped out under a large shady tree and watched Florence+the Machine for free on the other side of the fence. The stage they were on faces out toward the road, so we could see the stage and the big screen and the crowd and it was awesome. She's an amazing performer, all fired up and engaging the crowd. "Shake It Out" live was breathtaking. They "closed the show" with "Dog Days Are Over," but I put that in quotes because they came back out and played "Never Let Me Go" and "No Light, No Light" as an encore. And closing on that song, with her all bouncing and dramatic ... it was glorious. The note she holds out on "to say to you out loud~" was intensely loud and compelling. If anyone wants to see a poorly recorded video (it jumps around and the audio is strangely quiet) of it, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Jn7oFuCleY "Tell me what you want me to say" all emphatic as her last line of the show? Fucking yes, please. Also I want the dress she wore. Like, a lot.

Friday I drove to Shreveport to see my family. Teresa and Cris, her boyfriend, came in from Houston, too. We went to see The Avengers Friday night with Rachel, my friend Daniel, and one of Teresa's friends who lives in Shreveport. Teresa wore her Loki costume, which has SO MANY zippers - we totaled it up and it was something like 38 feet of zippers. And she looked like a total badass. I wish Cris had brought his Hawkeye costume too (the quiver looks amazing), but he didn't. The movie was fantastic in a serious way, although I spent the first couple of minutes going "THAT IS NOT A FUCKING TESSERACT. THAT WORD MEANS SOMETHING AND IT IS NOT A GODDAMN GLOWING BLUE PLOT DEVICE, YOU ASSHATS." But then Loki showed up being all badass and sexeh and I got over it ^^;

What was the predominant impression I took away from this movie? How much Joss Whedon's dialogue is immediately recognizable and also how much incredible gayness is implied in this movie. Captain America and Iron Man take UST to new levels; it's like watching Castle and Beckett except with more muscles and prettier eyes. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner? Come on. For that matter, having seen this franchise and the Sherlock Holmes movies, I'm starting to think that it's just Robert Downey, Jr. - he appears in a movie and other male characters kind of swoon. Jude Law practically admits in interviews that he has a man crush on Downey. I find this adorable.
But it's not just Iron Man - the foe yay between Loki and Hawkeye is dialed all the way up to 11. What foe yay, you say? Well, in their first meeting, Loki touches Hawkeye with his staff and changes his heart, and Hawkeye spends most of the movie doing whatever Loki says. Then, near the end, Loki grabs Hawkeye's arrow and it explodes all over his face. Shoulda used protection. I'M JUST SAYIN. Hilariously, Teresa and Cris's favorite characters are Loki and Hawkeye respectively, so many debates of who is whose bitch ensued.

Saturday we went to the Norton Art Gallery and had pictures taken, because that's what Mom wanted for Mother's Day. Then there was visiting of various family people, including Pappaw, then going to a used book store for Teresa to replace some of her Tamora Pierce paperbacks that she's literally read to pieces (and for me to buy ... everything that looked interesting). And THEN I went to Meg and Robert's apartment, met their two black cats (Eli and Samedi). We had a good time just hanging out and catching up, talking about what we've been doing since school, how working in the firm is going (for Meg), how the semester is winding down (for Robert and me), and what I plan to do when I graduate. Then they gave me a graduation present @.@ Meg and Robert converted to Judaism a year or so (I think) ago. I asked them both possibly a lot of questions because, you know, I'm nosy. So Meg got me The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism, to feed my curiosity. They also gave me a notebook that's green and black and covered in Celtic designs, and Meg found her old copy of An Acceptable Time and gave that to me, as well. It was ... this is how things were in high school, or at LSU before everything went wrong. We're friends. They like me, so they do nice things for me. I've got my eye on a bottle of Streetman's favorite rum for the next time I'm in town as a thank-you, for the gift and for having me over. When I left there, I met up with Daniel and we went to a park by the river to watch the "super moon", and I got all eaten up by bugs, and then I went back to Mom's and went to sleep and got woken up three times in six hours before I gave up and got up.

The last four nights combined I've gotten not quite 20 hours of sleep.

My dad rescued a tiny newborn squirrel in our backyard about three months ago. She's adorable and I got to play with her a lot this weekend. Last time I saw her, she was so tiny she could curl up and sleep in my palm. This time, she's actually squirrel-sized, and she's all frolicsome and scampers everywhere. And she seems to think I'm a tree. Dad says he's never seen her take to anyone like she did me; I had my hair pulled back in a bun and she ran up my arm to sit on my hair. She rode on my shoulder and she ran all up and down me, dangling from my clothes and leaving tiny scratches all over my shoulders, arms, stomach, and back. I don't even care; she's freaking adorable. And if you feed her pistachios and she's not hungry, she runs off and hides them in places such as 'under Dad's collar', 'in Mary's ear', 'in Mary's hair', and 'in Mary's cleavage'. Yes, really. She pats the area down like she's burying them and everything. Dad's reintroducing her to the wild and letting her go this weekend, which is good for her but sad for me, because she's so cute.

Tomorrow, my students take their exit exam. Wednesday, I turn in my poetry portfolio, recite a poem, and read three others - in public, at a public reading downtown. Yikes. Thursday I go to Delgado and grade exit exams. Thursday night, everything will be done and I will be sleeping for ... until I wake up. It will be glorious. After that, I just have to pick out the poems I want to read at my graduation banquet, in front of Mom, Dad, Rachel, and a lot of my classmates.
Today, I defended my master's thesis.

I prepared for this by rereading my thesis and the notes I've made on it about particular decisions or changes. I then copied by hand a file of poetry lines and quotes I've been collecting for the past couple of weeks into the notebook Laura gave me for Christmas. I reread those quotes walking around campus trying to be calm and not shaking and stuff before the defense.

I was interrogated (politely) for roughly an hour about things ranging from the predominance of male scholars I cite even though I'm writing very female-centric poetry to the tone in particular poems to whether the third section should even be included. It went well, I thought, and then my committee had me wait outside while they deliberated on my results. It took them about six minutes before they called me back in. Kay greeted me with, "Well, Mary, we'd all like to congratulate you on not just passing, but passing with distinction." (There's a possibility I made a very wibbly sound at this point. It was definitely not a squeak. Malfoys Bamburgs do not squeak.) "We feel like your work has really earned that recognition."
Dr Loomis added, "So this means they add a huge gold seal onto your diploma and announce it with your name at the awards banquet."
And then there were hugs all around, and Carolyn and Dr. Loomis left and Kay and I stayed to sign paperwork, and she talked to me a bit about the decision.

She asked if I had expected it, and I told her, quite honestly, no. I wanted it, because if you tell me that there's a pass option and a pass-with-gold-star option, obviously I'm going to want the gold star. But I really thought that I was still in the process of revising and polishing so many parts of this that pass-with-distinction was an option but not, by any means, a likelihood. She told me that two of my three committee members had wanted to award me distinction on my comps, as well, but it has to be a unanimous decision. She said that it's usually frowned upon for the thesis director to raise the possibility of distinction, because directors are more invested in the result - apparently Carolyn, my current workshop professor, was the one who brought it up. That's pretty awesome and betokens good things for my grade this semester.

Kay said she had explained what qualifies as distinction for an MFA thesis to Dr Loomis, who'd never done one before, so I asked her to tell me, too. She said I got it because of the depth of my scholarly knowledge of both critical studies and the source material, the rigor I demonstrated in my formal poems and the variety of forms I used, the creativity and variety of my interpretations, and my "overall ability". I just sort of got redder and redder. It was amazing to hear.

Kay also told me that she doesn't remember the last time distinction was awarded (presumably within the CWW, but she didn't specify). And she said that I had chosen an incredibly hard, demanding, and strict committee, so I should be extra proud of this result.

I am. I am full of relief and giddiness and, yes, proud of what I made.

so here's to drinks in the dark

Spring Break is finally giving me a chance to catch my breath a bit. Monday I defend my thesis and find out if I graduate. Wow. It's uh, it's only five days away. Excuse me while I go have five days' worth of freaking out.

A lot of people asked about reading my thesis when it was done. I haven't had a chance to format the file properly for distribution, but I hope to have that done within the next couple of days. If anyone who reads this wants it, let me know (even if you have already, because I've probably forgotten).

It's National Poetry Month. Last month was basically a solid month of poetry for me, so I'm not sure I want to do what I've done in previous years and write a poem a day for the whole month. Instead I'm focusing on reading and memorizing. I actually have a fair number of poems memorized, compared to the, you know, zero that most people can recite, but I want to have a whole catalog of them, especially the poems I love most. Currently, I have memorized and can recite "To Earthward" (Frost), "Fire and Ice" (Frost), Sonnet 116 (Shakespeare), Sonnet 130 (Shakespeare), "She Walks in Beauty" (Byron), "First Fig" by Millay, "You Fit Into Me" by Atwood, Puck's closing soliloquy of Midsummer Night's Dream, and the first three stanzas of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (Eliot).

I had a list at one point, somewhere, of other poems I wanted to memorize. Stars only know what's happened to that; odds are it'll turn up right about the time I get it reconstructed anyway. To that end, I figure the easiest way to find it is to rewrite it, so here goes:

the first 18 lines of Chaucer's Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, in Middle English (I knew it once)
I uh... I kinda want to memorize, you know, all of Shakespeare's sonnets. For the sake of my sanity, though, I'll narrow it specifically to 1, 18, 29, 55, 60, 65, 109, 144.
"Whoso List to Hunt" by Wyatt
"Ozymandias" by Shelley
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Keats
"When You Are Old" by Yeats
"The Second Coming" by Yeats
"Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by Eliot
"East Coker IV" by Eliot (well, all of the Four Quartets if I'm feeling particularly, you know, insane)
certain passages from The Waste Land by Eliot
"Acquainted with the Night" by Frost
"Desert Places" by Frost
"The Waking" by Roethke
"I Knew a Woman" by Roethke
"Helen" by HD
"Spring" by Millay
"Dirge Without Music" by Millay
"Beacons at Bealtaine" by Heaney
"Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" by Thomas
Sonnet 17 ("I do not love you as if/No te amo como si fueras") by Neruda, in both languages
"The God Abandons Antony" by Cavafy

I know there are others; I'll keep adding to this list as they come to mind. Still, I think that's enough to be going on with, for now.

And yes, this is what I do with my spare time. Now you all know how sad my life is :P

I set fire to the rain

My beautiful black cat, Midnight, died Sunday night. He was fifteen years old. He's been sick off and on the past few months, getting better and then getting worse again. A few days ago, he stopped eating or getting up; he snuggled down on his blanket and purred when my mom entered the room, and that was all. We had the vet check him over again and had Doss, who is going to veterinary grad school and who has known Midnight since my kitty was four years old, take a look at him too. The unanimous verdict was "He's old, he's tired, and he's basically just finished. You can let him waste away over the next weeks, starving to death and probably getting sores, or you can end it peacefully for him before he gets to that point." Mom had Doss put him to sleep Sunday night. Doss said he sat with him and petted him, and he went peacefully.

It sucks, but it's worse for my mom than for me, because I haven't lived with my cat since I graduated high school. Mom is the one he's been sleeping with and mock-attacking and meowing at (Midnight was an absurdly loud cat; we could hear him outside and down the driveway when he *purred*, much less meowed) for the last six and a half years. She's taking it pretty hard, so I'm glad I already had tentative plans to go to Shreveport this upcoming weekend.

When I got home from teaching yesterday morning, there was a black cat halfway up the tree on the other side of the fence right in front of me. He turned his head to look at me, and his eyes looked just like Midnight's, a peridot blend of pale green and washed gold. I smiled at him and opened the car door, and in the time it took me to get up, he'd slid back down the tree and vanished into the bushes. I saw the end of his tail wave, and I opened the gate and went through. I couldn't find the cat anywhere; I looked under the bushes and everything. I think it was Midnight saying goodbye, which might be sentimental but too bad ^^;;

I'm much more okay with this than I thought I would be, actually. It hurts a little, but Midnight was old and fading, and that's been apparent over the last year. I think I was kind of prepared for this without being aware of it. So ... yeah. I'm not devastated or anything, but I wanted to say something about it. I do miss him, which I knew I would.

Dai stiho, Midnight.


between the drinks and subtle things

lilium inter spinas - the lily among the thorns

I want to watch A Knight's Tale again. Chaucer, man. So clever and Cereus-looking; Paul Bettany is just beautiful. He's only ... oh snap, he's sixteen years older than me. Well. Moving on >.>

I'm pretty much working my butt off every single day. I worked at the conference, read cards, had an amazing time - and got invited to apply to U of Alabama (Tuscaloosa)'s Shakespeare PhD program ... by the director of said program. Apparently I impressed her. I'm fairly positive that I don't want to throw myself into another academic program just now, but it's flattering to get the offer, and I'm not opposed to going back for my PhD in a couple of years. And I do love Shakespeare an awful lot ^^;

My students are taking their midterm exam and turning in the final draft of an essay Friday. I'm finishing up the last book from Dr Loomis's recs and revising the preface to my thesis, which I plan to have finished by tomorrow night. I've also completely redone the third/final section of the thesis itself. That section is going through its fourth revision tomorrow. I plan to send preface, section, and two (possibly three) extraneous poems to my advisor tomorrow night, which will then give me the weekend to grade my students' work and catch up on homework.

Friday night Patricia Briggs is doing a booksigning here in town. Becky and I are going; I'm taking, uh, all of her books that I own, I think about ten. Dunno if she'll sign them all, but I refuse to get there and her be like "Oh, would you like some more signatures?" and me say "WELL OF COURSE but I left all the other books at home." I'd be so grumpy.

Next week I revise thesis, assign essay #3 to my students, and teach them about objective reasoning and also commas. Ideally, I finish my thesis by next Friday (March 23) and go to Shreveport for a nice relaxing weekend with my friends and family - and get to meet my almost-three month old nephew, Harper, whom I still haven't seen in person.

So ... that's how my life is going. Tons upon tons of things, all the time. But the end is in sight, at last, and in two months I'll have a master's degree. Assuming I don't have a homicidal breakdown before then ^^;
Daniel spent this weekend with Kevin and me. We had dinner at Port o' Call (so much food) and walked down Frenchman St, listening to the street music and a couple of rock shows. We found a bluegrass all-female quartet playing in a doorway and hung out to watch them for a few songs. Saturday was Morning Call for coffee (Daniel) and hot chocolate (me) and beignets (shared), and we stopped at Izzo's for lunch. Kevin stayed at home and slept in, my silly boy. Friends came over, we watched TV, I finished the first book Dr Loomis recommended for my thesis. It was very, very dense; I'm hopeful the others will go faster.

So, um. My students have midterms next week. I have five more books to work through for my thesis. My committee members will be returning their comments to me within this next week, so that I can do more revising. Next weekend (March 8-10) I'll be volunteering at the SCRC and doing tarot card readings for the Queen Elizabeth I Society's annual party. Speaking of, Dr Loomis wants to pay me $100 to read cards for two hours - and she was apologizing for how modest a fee it is! And I get free lunch at the conference the next day! Fantastic stuff.

I have notes put together for the last part of my thesis. It's a series of connected poems, and it's not done - well, it's kind of done, as in the end is written, but it's not complete. I have, I think, three to five more poems to draft for it. I have one poem to draft as a companion piece to a poem in the first section of my thesis, and I have one poem to revise, likely extensively, and retitle. And that's my list of changes; that's without having seen what my committee members have to say, which I'm sure can be summarized as "Lots of things to change".

On the plus side, though, Dr Loomis (she's on my committee as well as doing all the other things) wrote in an email, "I'm being haunted by some of your lines, which is my personal test of good poetry." That's pretty much the best thing I've been told, like, ever.

I want to sit around and talk and organize and clean things and walk around in the sunshine. The next month, though, is one of those points where I just ... can't. I have Things To Do in a serious way, so now I get to srs the hell up and do them. I am a leaf on the wind.

Watch how I soar.

you always knew to wear it well

I'm coming out of my "omg thesis" mode a little - I did laundry and cleaned the bathroom today as well as organizing a handful of notes and grading the rest of my students' papers. I'm sure I'll fully relax back into general productivity right about the time I get this draft back from my committee and start revising. I'm trying to milk this brief break for all it's worth, basically.

The days that it's warm and/or sunny (I can put up with slightly lower temperatures if there's sun pouring down on me), I've been running, and it's been going really well. I say this next bit with the caveat that I'm not really in shape and haven't been for years and even when I was competitive I wasn't a distance runner; I was a sprinter. I have a three mile path through my neighborhood marked off that I run, and my average time is currently about three minutes better than it was last semester. Personal best (don't laugh at me) is 3 miles in 31 minutes. And I know a ten minute mile is nothing to brag about x.x More than the speed, though, is the simple issue of pace. Again, I was a competitive sprinter; making the transition from 200 yard dash to 3 mile run is ... difficult. It's something I've been working on for the last six years, so really I should be better at it, but it's been very difficult for me to accommodate running with the regularity that I want in my schedule. Still, I love it.
*examines how far off-track this paragraph has gotten*
I was aiming at a totally different statement here. In the past month-ish, I've finally hit a point of *feeling* the pace I need to be maintaining, which is, I think, contributing considerably to my improving times. There's a difference (for me at least) in knowing a pace in terms of "2 blocks should take a minute and fifteen seconds" and feeling in my muscles how hard I need to be pushing to achieve that time. I'm not entirely sure what finally clicked into place, but I thought of it about a month ago as a "wolf pace" - as in, wolves have this ground-devouring gait that doesn't exhaust them and that they can maintain for ridiculous amounts of time. It's clearly running, not walking, but it's gentle in a way. Something about the image of wolves in the snow somehow translated directly into muscle effort, and it all came together for me. And it's stuck nearly perfectly since then - I now think of it as "wolf pace" and "cat pace", the steady endurance lope and the stretching-my-legs, chasing-the-wind speed I let myself use three or four times while I'm out. Sprints still make me happier; throwing myself forward without regard for conserving my strength or breath is just ... it fills me with joy. I find myself grinning fiercely at nothing while I run. But the ease that I'm now developing with the longer run/slower pace is a different kind of comfort, where I can feel tiredness that isn't exhaustion ebb and flow at the edges of my energy.

In other trivial-things-no-one-cares-about news, I ran out of shampoo yesterday and washed my hair with my Bath and Body Works sandalwood rose body wash, which I was really nervous about because my hair gets stupidly oily if I don't clean it adequately. But my hair has been super soft and silky and glorious today, so I'm tempted to just switch over entirely :P At least I know if I unexpectedly run out, I have a backup stash of suitable soap - B&BW doesn't carry this fragrance in stores anymore, so Mom ordered me three bottles of it from their online store for my birthday. I've still got like one and a half left.

Mardi Gras was a lot of fun with Rachel - we went to parades and caught tons of things. I sent her home with a blinky light guy on a necklace from Endymion; the rubber figurine is, like, the size of my hand, and there's LEDs in him and also in the necklace itself. It was obnoxious as hell, lol. I got a tiny patch of sunburn on the back of one shoulder, which is now peeling and annoying me because I can't reach it. In true New Orleans fashion, the first parade we went to was freezing ass cold and raining, and the last one was brilliantly sunny and hot. They were four days apart ^^;

the rush is worth the price I pay

Teaching: Delgado sent out an email the day I was supposed to get my first paycheck announcing that adjuncts wouldn't actually start getting paid until TWO WEEKS later. I am deeply unexcited about this, even though Kevin, my family, and I managed to get money moved around enough to cover my bills.

Health: I got stupidly sick this weekend, running a serious fever through midday on Sunday. As a result, I'm now playing catch up and I had to push back the due date on my students' final draft of their papers.

Things: A friend of mine from Shreveport, Daniel, stayed with Kevin and I this past weekend. It was lots of fun and I hope he comes back soon. Mardi Gras starts tomorrow. I don't know if I'll make it out to Muses, the first big parade, because I'm meeting with a friend of mine to talk about the poems in my thesis. I need to revise poems and preface and have a coherent draft to send to two of my committee members. Rachel's coming down Friday and staying 'til Monday. Basically I'm looking at a very busy week coming up. I'm online in my built-in study breaks, the ones I have to have lest I go crazy, but I'm also spending longer stretches of time offline, primarily for things like cleaning (which I apparently suck at while sick) and grading papers (which I am disturbingly good at while sick).

never never felt like this before

I wound up only teaching two classes this semester. This means money is going to be quite tight; I should be able to do things like send out the presents I have left in my apartment (because yes, I suck that much at getting Christmas presents out on time). But I probably won't have much if any to spare for things like traveling, which is disappointing. Possibly my textbook gig will make up for some of that.

My poetry workshop this semester is taught by the one member of my thesis committee I hadn't taken a class with yet. Tonight I have to recite a poem in front of my class - joke's on my teacher, though, because she let us pick the poems and I've had "To Earthward" memorized for nigh on six years. Overall the class looks like a perfectly good time and I think I'll enjoy it. There is pretty steady homework assigned, but I'm thinking it will be manageable as long as I keep up with it.

I graduate in May. Rough draft of my thesis is due ... Friday. I'm pretty anxious, but I'm also very excited. At least, I'm excited pending getting my financial aid straightened out - I didn't realize I had a minimum enrollment requirement, so my adviser and I are working that out now. Hopefully we can get it settled by the end of the week and my financial aid won't be affected, since I need that money to, like, pay bills with.

I got an email from my Shakespeare professor, who's a member of my thesis committee. The Southern Central Renaissance Conference is happening in New Orleans, March 8-10 (Thursday thru Saturday). Dr Loomis needs volunteers to work registration tables, delegate wrangling (as she put it), and similar things. I volunteered, partially because why not and partially because volunteering for one 4-hour shift means free admission to all the panels. BUT THEN I READ THE MOST AWESOME PART. Attached to that email, she had another request: the Queen Elizabeth I Society will be having their fete+auction (read: yearly party night) that Friday, and they need a tarot reader. So I volunteered as fast as fucking possible, and she joyfully accepted! SO I'M GOING TO BE READING CARDS AT THE QUEEN ELIZABETH I SOCIETY HOLY SHIT. And she wants to pay me for it! I tried to explain to her that just being there was more than enough of a reward, but she insisted, so I'm going to let things rest until March and then argue with her again. Reading tarot cards for a bunch of Renaissance scholars, guys. I'm, like, out of my mind with glee. This is almost too splendiferous for words.

On May 3, I'm trying to lure Laura to New Orleans because Florence+the Machine is playing at JazzFest. Operation Ginger Bribery is a go :P Phase 1 consists of Kevin's fantastic bartending abilities, featuring such favorites as wedding cake martinis and tequila sunrises, as well as my beautiful library which I swear will be clean by then. Phase 2 is where I start talking about glorious sunshine and live oaks and St Charles Ave mansions.

what's it gonna take to confess

1. The Saints lost today, meaning I'm done caring about football until next August. Yes, I'm one of Those Fans, the ones who only care about their local team and have no interest in the sport for its own sake.

2. Somewhat relatedly, I watched the final period of a hockey game with Kevin today. He played hockey for eight years and adores it, and I ... don't care about sports, but I can learn to care since he does. It was fun ^^

3. I got offered three classes to teach next semester. Theoretically, that would be enough money for me to not be broke all the time (maybe), and they're fairly tightly scheduled. Downside: Monday thru Friday I start teaching at 8am, and I am so far away from being a morning person that it's absurd. Upside: MWF I'll be home by 10:30am; T/Th I'll be home by 9:30am. The only class I'm taking is Wednesday night, 6-9pm, so I could easily come home from teaching and go back to sleep for another two or three hours, every single day. I don't know if that's particularly sustainable long term, but I guess I'll find out!

4. I GRADUATE IN MAY. This gets allcaps because I'm really excited about it, even though it means I need to do my thesis which I have been badly procrastinating x.x

5. The semester starts Tuesday. I can't decide if I'm totally ready to get it started so that I can get it over with, or if I badly want another week or so of vacation (hint: probably that one). Unfortunately (or not?), those decisions are not up to me, and I've gotta get ready to roll.

Title of this semester? "Let's be awesome."