Category Archives: Ogle County Poet Laureate

Release from a partial view: Notes and photos 18 Feb. to 30 March

 

View southwest from Holcomb Road, east of White Rock Road, 7 March.

News media start from a position of generalizing (three instances of something make a trend, and then a trend-story can be written, I once heard a reporter say). Particular instances — what one person’s going through — don’t matter. But my writings are always just my ideas, my/Matt’s/one person’s ideas, words, and texts. That’s their limited position, and that’s their power — the power of one person’s words is linked to the reputation of that one personThis is what’s implied by the advice to “consider the source.” (27 Feb.)

Woodman’s, Rockford, 4 March.

“Guys, he’s old, give him a break,” said a student in my creative writing class when I introduced essayist David Sedaris by saying he was famous as an author, which means he isn’t as famous as pop singer Candi B. My students corrected that to “Cardi B.,” and laughed at me, before my student defended me with the statement above. (28 Feb.)

View inside a corn-crib building at Heritage Farm, Byron Forest Preserve. 15 March

There seems an impulse in the society/culture to distinguish oneself. I’ve felt that way at times. But as a teacher, I’m a little like a monk, living that monkish life of service, of no advancement, but of fulfilled (whole) moments. Perhaps our moments seem full because we aren’t reaching to ambition, to some next thing. If I’m doing the monk-like work of just being here with students, then I don’t need to brag how much I’ve accomplished or how I distinguish myself from others. This need to reach for more and make myself stand out is perhaps a capitalist-culture value. (5 March)

The monk-model of my job goes along with what I’ve said in recent weeks about being more interested in the continuous than the unusual (and thus, avoiding news) and not needing to accomplish (not do, but be). Somehow humility mixes in here, too, because we teachers don’t do anything special, accomplishments-wise. We’re not, for example, making new knowledge, like college profs do. There’s no competition, no winning or losing — it’s Carse’s infinite game! (6 March)

Big ol’ stack a’ sugar. County Market, Byron, 18 Feb.

School buses look about the same now as they did when I was starting to ride them almost 40 years ago. Computers have changed, but other things haven’t. (7 March)

View west from the Stillman Bank drive-thru, Stillman Valley, Ill., 28 Feb.

“Where are the air-jellyfish?” my wife asked, going on to ask why there aren’t more animals just living by floating around in the air, as there are floating in the oceans. My guess is that water contains more dissolved resource-chemicals than air does, but I don’t really know. (7 March)

It’s nice that my dog doesn’t complain about my footsteps being louder than his when we’re in the woods. (9 March)

Why should an attitude of certainty seem to help an advocate win an argument? Is this a flaw in the arguments process? (14 March)

All the things I do to get ready for school — all the things I do that a dead man couldn’t. (14 March)

Church Road, approaching Holcomb Road, White Rock Township, 7 March.

It’s a sunny spring afternoon and my grandpa’s gone. The world’s still here, even though he’s not. (14 March)

Detail of east wall of house of barbed-wire inventor Joe Glidden, DeKalb, Ill., 15 March.

Perhaps there’s a fine line between being skeptical of others and being self-righteous. (16 March)

View of Joe Glidden house, east-wall and addition, 15 March.

Meditating may not take my mind to a truer view — but I’m briefly released from a partial (my usual and limited) view. (21 March)

The problem of audience — we can try to appeal to those who aren’t similar to us (though there’s a risk of stereotyping and pandering to people we don’t know well), but that attempt may be futile. (21 March)

A view into a cooler, Potbelly Sandwiches, DeKalb, Ill., 15 March.

“What is real” isn’t an idea — it might be the idea, the only idea — the idea that is at the center of any moment of consciousness. (23 March)

Ambiguity — going beyond simple statements — is poetic? (23 March)

When we learn something in the formal setting of school (or workplace, etc.), we expect to learn technical things (things that won’t necessarily be intuitive) and we know we’ll have to use this info in certain ways (memorize it for a test, use new equipment properly, etc.). We have that formal-learning context — as distinct from the personal, experiential learning we do informally and, perhaps, unintentionally in the rest of our lives. (25 March)

The view down a corrugation in the metal sheathing of a storage building. A gap between the corrugation and the trim below allows light in. 15 March.

A Sunny, Snowy Commute

After a day of snow and cold, the sun came out today and created some cool scenes and shapes along my Ogle County commute this afternoon:

Railroad crossing on Bethel Road.

Just west of railroad crossing.

A tin shed at southwest corner of Route 64 and Church roads. When I first noticed the fellow in the barn window, I thought it was a cat.

But then I was pretty sure it was a fox.

Snow dunes.

View from just south of Route 64 and Church Road intersection. View is toward the northwest, and the nuclear power plant’s steam cloud is just above the horizon on the right side. Also, Illinois is a flat sea of dirt clods.

A clod mountain shadow.

Two buck deer on south side of Holcomb Road, east of Meridian Road.

Bridge over the frozen Stillman Creek, facing north from Holcomb Road.

View of Rock River west from the bridge at Byron.

The Fine Print on STOP Signs

A new series:

My student Ali gets published!

My creative writing student Ali Van Vickle recently took initiative and submitted a short story to TeenInk.com, which published her story! Here’s the start:

I was born in New Orleans into a wealthy family who gave me everything I needed. I’m your typical 13 year old. I love to ride my bike with my friends. As long as I can remember I’ve been happy. I remember my first day of kindergarten was terrifying because I didn’t want to leave my momma. I remember meeting all of my friends and all of the people who weren’t my friends. There was this girl named Sara. She has tortured my friends and I everyday from kindergarten to seventh grade. One day my friends and I were riding our bikes down by the bayou even though our mommas always told us not to. Sara and her friends came and told us that this was their bike path, and if they ever caught us there again they’d throw us into the bayou to the gators. I never road my bike so fast away from something before. I’d never been so scared either.

See more of the story here. She also dedicated the story to me:

My biggest inspiration is my Creative Writing teacher Mr. Hagemann. He has always been encouraging, supporting, and helpful with any of my questions. And he always gives me his honest opinion on my work.

Thanks, Ali! Keep writing!

Making a text is strange: Monday 18 July 2016 journal

Lately I’ve been thinking of texts that are written to be published, written for an audience, as performances, and as performances, these texts have a level of artifice that I’d like to question. So what follows below is selections from a text I wrote for myself in my journal. It’s not organized by topic, and it doesn’t fit a typical nonfiction form, but it’s an experiment in editing, in seeing how what final shapes a minimally shaped text can take. I’m wondering why someone might choose to read such an unlabeled, unformed text, and what someone would get from having read it.

At home, a little after 8 a.m. — It’s humid. There’s still much dew-fall on the sliding glass door. More light comes in from the lower half of the door, where rivulets have run.

Just read a piece at New York Times’ The Stone that talked about how brain science seems to suggest that we use the same faculty to look into — to model, presume — our own minds the same way we try to read and model others’ minds. There is no 1st person, the writer says. This piece didn’t upset me in the way that some new theories bother me. I hadn’t thought of it before, but this idea goes along with my previous ideas about the unknowability of my own mind. For example, I don’t know where my ideas or the words that I write come from. “The Greeks” Episode Two talked about Greeks taking ideas from other cultures they met while trading and making colonies. “Ideas” is a word that comes to English directly from the Greek. It suggests that an idea is what could be taken from others without them getting pissed. An idea is not property like a ship or a pot is. Of course, you’re not taking at all but making, making your own concept of what you see others doing.

And perhaps an idea isn’t property (a copyrighted work is “intellectual property” in legal terms, but an idea-qua-idea can’t be copyrighted). But maybe the idea of “the idea” is itself Greek. The notion that we can form ideas, that ideas are things that can be labeled, identified, as much as “rock” or “tree” can be. Though, of course, we still can’t see, touch, or taste ideas.

A dog sticking out of driver's window of this van. This is from my McPerspective at my McSeat.

A dog sticking out of driver’s window of this van. This is from my McPerspective at my McSeat. (This dog is different from the the RCA dog mentioned below.)

At Oregon, Ill., McDonalds, seated alongside the wall of windows along the south side of dining room, with a view of cars leaving the drive-thru, about 10 a.m., after dropping my wife off to conduct a real estate closing —

At the diner yesterday, talked to Ashli Waitress’s husband, Jason, who’s working to demolish a building in the Chicago suburbs. There’s a steel structure for moving product inside this old warehouse, and he’s using a hydraulic shears for cutting this steel. The shears can cut steel up to 2 inches thick, he said.

Jason also told me about a former job delivering and repossessing furniture for a rental store in Rockford. How he once had to step over a passed-out dude in the hallway of an apartment building, and how he once got intentionally hit by a woman in a car and he was carried along until his feet got loose, and how he got shot at. Once sofas were repossessed, the employees had a way of opening them with wedges so as to not get stabbed with drug needles. Employees also called cops after discovering certain images on repossessed computers, he said.

“… 40 years old, dropped of a cardiac arrest … they revived her in the hospital after shocking her seven times … she passed a month ago — had her 42nd birthday” at the hospital, said a 60-year-old-ish man to an 80-year-old-ish man sitting at the table west of me.

“I couldn’t hold a frickin’ gallon of milk,” said the 60-ish man, who had slipped and fallen during a winter and thought he’d have to get rotator cuff surgery, but he didn’t.

“Could I get a discount, please?” said McSally. A dark-haired 30-ish McManager came over to a register where another McWorker was on the client side of the counter.

“I’m gonna run up to Rockford. I gotta jump on a conference call,” said 60-year-old guy. “Alright, pop,” said the 60-ish guy. “Alright, kiddo,” said the 80-ish guy as both left their table.

A certain customer will “ask for a senior coffee. He can’t hardly hold it … he should NOT  be driving,” said McSally to McKaren, who responded that the old man might cause an accident and not even get hurt himself.

Dark-haired McManager said, “lunchtime” at 10:30. She said it in a low-energy shout, like “Lunch. Time.”

I was thinking this spring that it IS hard — emotionally upsetting — to have one’s beliefs challenged, as I was challenging my high school students’ beliefs during our philosophy unit.

“Can I help you, hun, now that I’m done complaining?” said McKaren to a customer about how she thought the humidity at 6:30 this morning was bad but it’s worse now.

Not that the statement above is such a great quote. Rather, it was a little distracting, so I wanted to get it out of my mind. But also, there’s something about how she really said it — it’s somewhat banal (not entirely, since it does reveal character), but also … I don’t know. I just wanted to record it as a real statement that was really said, a small moment but now it’s recorded. It was made a “moment” by my recording it? That maybe there is something special about me writing real things down — that writing them down, that making a text, is an act that is strange — estranged from? — living life, regular life. It’s normal for me to write, but maybe I forget how weird it is to write, actually.

There was a short-coated dog hanging out a passenger window of an SUV — it looked a little like the RCA Victor dog.

“They got it off Pinterest or somethin’,” said McSally. Pinterest is a thing, now.

I try to figure things out sometimes and shut out — mentally shut out, ignore — my surroundings. Yet, why bother? So many texts are written that way. And when I read, I like to shut out outside input — like, just now, the horn solo of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing” and like McSally saying, “What are cheeseburger cupcakes?” and McDark Hair Manager saying, “They look like cheeseburgers.”

Ogle County soldiers' memorial, in front of the county jail and, further back, a church spire for the First Presbyterian Church of Oregon, Ill.

Ogle County soldiers’ memorial, in front of the county jail and, further back, a church spire for the First Presbyterian Church of Oregon, Ill.

Shutting out one’s surroundings, being able to focus on the text, both as writer and as reader, can be really nice at times. But also, it could be nice to read texts where (like this text), the writer is out in public and includes what he hears and sees going on around him while also writing whatever ideas come into the writer’s head.

A dude asks the McCounter workers — he’s new to the area, he says — and he asks how to get Internet and/or cable. They name some utilities for him, fulfilling their community-information function.

What I write — I’m of this area, this county. I publish on my own blog rather than submitting my writing to edited websites. There’d be a sense in leaving my community, of having to go away to make it big, in submitting my work to others. I saw corn plants in a certain field on the drive to McDonald’s today — Ogle County is cornfields, and is not people and culture. I’ve developed as a writer while living in this rural area, without much influence from other writers, and that lack of influence is perhaps a result of, a mark of, having developed while out here in this open place. Sometimes this place can feel desolate, empty of smart people who share my interests, but this morning I wasn’t feeling that. I was feeling that there’s something meditation-promoting about this cornfield. I didn’t feel desolate. I felt that this corn — tassling out, the row curving — was as good as any. That I could stop and meditate there.

“Do we have cookies back, Sal?” asked McKaren. “I don’t think so,” said McSal. “I’m taking the last of the chocolate chip,” said McKaren, as a client stood at the counter. The client wore pajama pants printed with what looked like heart-shapes with sashes across them, with the sashes reading “LOVE” — upcloser (I used the ruse of getting napkins), I saw that there was a sword through the red shape and a flower and that some of the designs were mirror-imaged (or flipped?) so that “LOVE” was spelled “backwards-E,” “O,” “V,” “backwards-L.”

There’s a sense that people who write about rural areas have to do so in the forms approved y city-dwelling editors — intellectuals, in other words (although right-wing propaganda, less so, I’d think).

Having my own website is less glamorous than publishing with the imprimatur of an imprint, but publishing on my own website is wonderfully direct.  These are the words coming directly from this author, without intercession.

At the Diner, noon:05, after having picked up my wife after her real estate closing and taken her to lunch — I could post this day’s writing. I don’t need to write on a topic, so I could put up whatever. But I also don’t need to blurt.

But if the point of publishing isn’t to tell a message but just to share my mind, share a text that comes from my experience, to share a bit of my mind — a mystical aspect of a text.

“I don’t think Lucinda cares for him too good,” said a 60-year-old-ish woman to another woman eating across from her in the booth behind my wife.

Back at home, 10:45 p.m. — I typed in some, not all, of today’s journal. I was tempted to cut down what I entered — I had the idea to take just one paragraph’s worth of idea out of any one day’s journal. But then I thought, I’m not sure I should cut down. Give it a try, type in a long piece. There’s no need to include everything from the journal entry, yet I wonder if I’m judging by traditional, too-narrow standards if I cut down my texts. Leave it long, don’t talk yourself out of doing it before you try it.

Of course, what I like is to write. I write for the engaged writing experience — publishing comes second as a priority. But maybe what I want is to have a text that reveals a nimble mind — maybe that’s my organizing guideline. I could even have a long version and a short version (an Abstract, or a “TL;DR” section).

‘Weird things are already happening’: Byronfest 2016

This is the latest post on my town’s annual festival. See posts for Byronfest 2014 and Byronfest 2015.

Carnies at repose.

Carnies at repose.

Before Byronfest 2016 had even begun, my friend Nina said a Greek food booth’s proprietor had brought a tin can of olive oil from Greece as a gift for one of the festival’s organizers. Nina said, “It’s 11:30, and weird things are already happening.” 8 July.

Festival goers.

Festival-goers.

Surveying the food-booth line-up, my wife said, “everything about this says gastric distress to me.” 8 July.

Crusty weiner.

“Is that someone’s crusty weiner?” I asked as I sat down next to my wife and our friends.

Nina said she normally doesn’t respond to a certain angry friend, but she had responded the night before. “I got mean back — it was the WHISKEY! [she whisper-shouted, and then paused] and maybe the Rumple Minze, too.” She’d puked Saturday morning. “And THEN you ate crab cakes?” from a festival food booth, I asked. She said, “I felt like a DREAM after I threw up.” Also, her dad had tasted the crab cakes and he’s fine, she added, quoting him: “‘Well, it’s not the worst one I ever had.'”

Someone with the band Amperage asked the few fans sitting in the noontime sunlight Saturday, “has anybody every heard of a band called AC/DC?” which question was not answered, so the band guy said,“we’re gonna play it anyway, even though they suck, apparently,” and he laughed. 9 July.

Drew Baldridge

Performer Drew Baldridge and his crew as they launched into a medley of songs celebrating lady-butts: “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and “Baby Got Back.”

Drew Baldridge said these things from stage during his set: “This is so much FUN, y’all!” and “I have a brand-new album, y’all — SO exciting!” A few minutes later, his band played a bit of “All About That Bass.” Later, when Drew sang “Friends in Low Places,” I realized that I remember hearing that song at high school dances back before Drewwas even born. I felt old.

Is anybody in the crowd from Byron, asked a singer with the band “Whoa Nellie” at about 4 p.m. Saturday. Then, “can you walk home from here? Then head over to that beer tent, please,” he said. 9 July.

crowd

Edge of the crowd of fans at Saturday night’s Drew Baldridge concert. I had fun saying his name as my neighborhood’s kids would have said it: Dwoo Bawdwidge.

Nina said of the crowd hearing Dwoo Bawdwidge, “this is good people-watching. Lotta crop tops.”

One of the people working the festival to earn community service hours said, of the beverages on the reefer truck, “the beer I’d give away. The Pepsi I’d guard with my life.” 9 July.

A can of America with Mexican food.

A can of America with Mexican food.

Saturday afternoon, I heard over the walkie-talkies used by festival organizers that there was a child who’d lost his mom. The mom’s name was Anna, and the child’s name was Gabriel, we heard. “Does Gabriel know his last name?” asked one organizer. Gabriel did, and we were told his full name, and a few minutes later, we were told that there was a mother and child reunion. “Yay!” walkie-talkie’d someone at headquarters. 9 July.

Linden tree

Linden tree at the edge of festival grounds Friday night. The building on the lower right is city hall.

“You sound familiar,” I said after first hearing my wife’s voice as the voice of headquarters over the walkie-talkies. “I’d better,” my wife said. Saturday 9 July.

Later, when I went to headquarters, someone there said I take notes on everything. No, “just when people say stuff,” I said. Then my friend Becca said I should write that down.

Goldfish in stroller

Goldfish wedged in stroller

“Stop giving my kids goldfish!” one festival-goer said she told, or felt like telling, one of the carnival booth workers. 9 July.

“Could I have an officer [go] across the street from McDonald’s to talk to a lady about a situation?” asked someone on the walkie-talkie. My wife said she heard people in headquarters debating what “situation” could mean. A naked 70-year-old might qualify as a situation, someone said. 9 July.

Feats of strength.

Feats of strength.

When my friend Becca, whose husband is a sheriff’s deputy, was offered an alcohol beverage, she declined by saying, “I don’t want my own husband pulling me over. It’s such an awkward thing.” Saturday night.

Chamber of Commerce beer tent.

At the Chamber of Commerce beer tent Saturday night. Earlier, I’d heard one festival official tell beer tent volunteer servers, “You’ll probably have your friends come up and try to get a beer for two tickets or three tickets — tell ’em that they’re cheap-asses.”

“I don’t criticize the help, unless it’s you,” said one festival committee member to another, who’d just teased the volunteers. 9 July.

“We’re going to Disneyland in four days. We’re NOT going to Byronfest,” said Caitlyn Two Waitress about her son wanting to ride on carnival rides. 10 July.

A neighbor's feet with goldfish in a box.

A neighbor’s feet with goldfish in a box.

A singer with the band Soap Stone explained his band’s name this way: “‘Soap’ like you lather with, and ‘stone’ like you might chuck at people.” 10 July.

After learning how much beer was consumed by the servers themselves at the Lions Club beer tent, the beer distributor’s representative said, “How were you volunteering?” 10 July.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s ‘Eternal Indian’ Statue

Wrapped statue, photo taken 30 June 2015.

Wrapped statue above the Rock River, photo taken 30 June 2015.

Zoomed-in image of 30 June 2015.

Zoomed-in image of 30 June 2015.

Art fans in my county can look at another example of artistic wrapping (see earlier example here) by driving on Route 2 north of Oregon, Ill., to see Lorado Taft’s “The Eternal Indian” statue, commonly referred to as the “Blackhawk Statue.” What looks intriguingly like a green monolith on a green hillside is actually the statue under protective wraps while it undergoes restoration work to repair cracking concrete. The picture below doesn’t give a sense of the statue’s scale, but it does focus on some of the disintegration:

Photo of the 48-foot tall statue from below, taken Sept. 2011 and showing some of the damaged concrete.

Photo of the 48-foot tall statue from below, taken Sept. 2011.