Friday, February 24, 2017

In Celebration of @ElizabethBoquet @FairfieldU - Nowhere Near The Line

One of my favorite pictures of a wonderful colleague
Last night, I had the honor of attending Dr. Elizabeth Boquet's reading from Nowhere Near the Line: Pain and Possibility in Teaching and Writing, a publication of The University of Colorado Press and a part of their "Current Arguments in Composition" series. I have known Beth as a mentor, campus leader,  community-engaged thinker, and great supporter of writing conversations and activity ever since I arrived to Fairfield University. Her text, written partially in response to the violent event occurring tragically at Sandy Hook Elementary and with years of teaching college composition, is partial memoir, partial essay, partial reflection, partial modeling of writing with and for students, and (as pointed out in last night's talk), partial argument, although the argument was never the intent of her craft. Making an argument was not the point.

What I loved when I first read Elizabeth Boquet's book and then hearing her reading from it last night, was the sincere exploration of thinking through the prose she committed to page. As if listening to Cat Steven's On the Road to Find Out, Boquet's text presents words written for self-discovery and better understanding of a complicated world. The insight is appreciated.
None of us is in an inevitable position. I am implicated. We are all implicated. As our institutions shape and shift, we struggle to make sense of these changes. Perhaps pain is an inevitable part of that picture. If so, we can at least acknowledge that it is simultaneously regrettable. We can gesture toward healing. We can speak to each other's humanity.
A man in the audience asked a question about genre, reflecting that Beth's writing was not a style he's explored himself (personal? narrative?) and he asked her to posit what she'd call it. I thought this was interesting, too, as I often wonder about genres and what they do for us. I realize, in the end, that genres provide familiar structures from which communication is made possible, and a writer becomes a writer in the presence of other writers. I was not hung up on the genre because I was simply engaged with the thinking she committed to the work.

Reading Nowhere Near the Line: Pain and Possibility in Teaching and Writing helped me to contemplate my own healing as a writing instructor, especially in shared proximity to Sandy Hook, and violence I've experienced in my classrooms and with students in both K-12 schools and on college campuses. There have been suicides, murders, cancer, and accidents -- all of them tragic and none of them occurring at a time or location where I was ready to make sense of them. The loss of our colleague Gisela and her husband José was a tragedy shared by many on our campus. Beth writes,
Gisela and her husband found the time and the money, even when both were quite scarce,  for good food, good drink, great music, great conversation and great fun with their friends and family close to home and all over the world. As it turns out they were write to live life wide-open, full-tilt. That these two people, with two of their most beloved people, met such a violent, tragic this moment, it feels inconceivable in its scope, comprehensible only in the particulars...
I love that Beth brought me to her final thoughts by asking, "What are you going to do?" She writes,  "We keep going. We keep going." It is with words, texts, and processing of a complicated world that communities are created. It is through reflection, inquiry, wonder, and exploration that we find ourselves knowing what we do and this brings us in proximity of one another.

Writing makes this possible. Writing through pain, looking to possibility, exploring unplanned obsolescence and institutionally-literate lives, finding wayfaring strangers and wayfinding companions, we get to a gathering place to heal.

I feel fortunate to have gathered, and continue to heal, with Elizabeth Boquet. It was a wonderful way to spend an evening.

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