feeling a bit Whitmanian, or maybe a bit Iqbalian today







Closing out the year on winter solstice


Midwinter Day – Part Six (b): ends with a sonnet

…interesting rhyming scheme at the very end: aabbcc, deed.  Is this a herald of a return to formalism in poetry that the modernists so soundly rejected? Or could there be a message in the “deed”?  
Or more to the formalism point, could it be that the whole thing ends in a sonnet?  The rhyming scheme actually starts much earlier:
Well, I have to close them
This paid incandescent light
Is like the vigil of a virgin
Last to tell before my eyes I’ll end.
From dreams I made sentences, then what I’ve seen today,
The past the past of afternoons of stories like memory
To seeing as a plain introduction to modes of love and reason
Then to end I guess with love, a method to this winter season
Now I’ve said this love it’s all I can remember
Of Midwinter Day the twenty-second of December
Welcome sun, at last with thy softer light
That takes the bite from winter weather
And weaves the random cloth of life together
And drives away the long black light!  
“From dreams I made sentences….a method to this winter season/Now I’ve said this love…”
The shortest day ends in structure and order preceding the longest night, the most total darkness…
Thanks, Julia, for leading us on this caravan!  

Midwinter Day – Part Six (a)

Filomena has been on me for weeks to write this poem. We have discussed it in bits and pieces. I was a Navy machinist mate in a former life; that is what qualifies this submission as part of the overall transition.  Tell me your thoughts.  

Midwinter Day – Part Five

For better or for worse, despite all the vast richness of Part Five, I peeped ahead to Part Six and found a passage I’d like to share today.  From p. 102:

“…Wagner felt he had to wear

Satin dressing gowns in order to compose

I am ashamed that death obsesses me

But death is just the usual

The obsessiveness is something I won at poker

Where I’m remembering what’s been played

So I can play my hand so no one ever dies

                                                                   How preoccupying

Is the wish to include all or to leave all out

Some say either wish is against a poem or art

                                                                       I’m asking

Is it an insane wish?

                               To be besieged, beset with,

To have to sit with, to be harassed, obsessed,

To be possessed or ruled by

                                            I am confused by

Fear, perfection and love, this poem,

Order, mourning, vigilance and beer

And cigarettes and directness

Or clarity, words, truth or writing

Or the sublime…”

Midwinter Day – Part Four

I gotta confess, it was a tough slog getting through Part Four of Bernadette’s Midwinter Day today (yes we are on a first name basis by now, silly!). But this gem at the very end made the slog all worthwhile:

“I have a sensation of waiting, you should call and tell me how the rest might go. Like an important letter, a whole different matter, if I only knew what I need to know. You call and I say in some way I already know all about it, I expected it. That’s a story that might happen today, I don’t dare to end as death is still bewildering, love might be trick and you are another. But to be beginning I’ll only say that to have you as love is like the history of this idiosyncrasy. If that is not a story then I who have so far listened so much and now am beginning to be able to say something, which is another story, am surprised.” 

Midwinter Day – Part Three

Today’s passage from Bernadette Mayer‘s Midwinter Day section 3 leaves me breathless (and it is December 18, the first anniversary of the lynching…).  It is from p. 46, as we lumber onward to the shortest day of the year…

“And the energy of the world mainly comes
From the hearts of the homeostatic people in it
Who hopscotch around, either picking up the stone or kicking it
And should be left alone without invasions or savings
Though there are masses and classes of people,
                                                                             I don’t deny it
What but the impulse to move and speak
                                                                Can change the world”

Midwinter Day – Parts One and Two

Loving this passage from Bernadette Mayer‘s Midwinter Day, section II.

“If we’re all wrong about everything, the life so short and the craft so long to learn, the assay so hard, so sharp the conquering, the dreadful joy that passes so quick and then being left alone again, what I mean is love astonishes my feeling with its wonderful working so ardently so painfully that when I’m thinking about such certainty I don’t know like the earth if I’m floating or sinking.”

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson!

I can’t ignore that poetry (and my love for it) is a huge part of this transition.  It is the oil that lubricates, cools and cleans the gears and moving parts of my thinking and action (Is this a poem?).

So, we (me and two ModPo comrades) attended Emily Dickinson‘s birthday celebration at the Folger.  Peter Gizzi was the featured poet.

OK. So he started off with #1286, There is no frigate. Then #373, This world is not conclusion. Next was #124, Safe in their alabaster chambers, followed by #448, I died for beauty.  Here he mentioned that Keats was ED’s favorite poet (never knew that, makes me want to go back and check out Keats (think I have his complete works here in the bookcase)).

Next he read #883 (but my collection, edited by R.W. Franklin, says #930; that’s why I write down the number and the first line, or at least try to), The Poets light but Lamps, then #778, Four trees upon a solitary acre. Here he riffed about the “deep interiority.”Then #591, I heard a fly buzz – when I died. Here he quotes WCW and Wallace Stevens (but I can’t decipher my handwriting: “A poet always ### with her poems” quote from WCW and “A new poem is a new mind” quote from Stevens). Next #372, After great pain, a formal feeling comes.

Here I felt he was beginning the conclusion…

#508 (but my collection has it #383) I’m ceded – I’ve stopped being Their’s.  Here he mentioned the Civil War, and how ED wrote 1000 poems between 1860 and 1865.  #290 (but my collection has it as #319), Of Bronze – and Blaze, and he riffs on “An Island in dishonored Grass” which he says may have been about Whitman, whom he says ED detested, though it may have also been about the green grass of the battlefields. I was blown away by the line, “my splendors, are menagerie/ but their completeness show/will entertain the centuries/ when I, am long ago.” Reminds me a bit of the poetry of the Gettysburg Address. He also said ED was 30 at the beginning of the Civil War.

Then #1679, the ditch is dear to the drunken man. Here he mentioned James Schuyler, his mentor/professor in the 80’s (looks like he was there at the birth of the New York School, with Ashbery and O’Hara). And he concludes with that awe-inspiring 3rd letter to Thomas Higginson (that, I think I have located in Susan Howe‘s My Emily Dickinson, though the only reference I vividly recall is that to Carlo, her dog, so it might not be).

My last note is a mention of Jack Spicer on the difference between ED’s poems and letters.




Information Literacy and Instructional Design


LSC644: Information Literacy and Instructional Design (final exam, in class-open book).

Question 1.

          ALA Information Literacy Standard Three addresses the cognitive/constructivist concept of building new knowledge onto the existing knowledge base and value system that already exists in the student. But applying that concept to an underserved population could add some complications to the equation, especially if one had previously assumed the existence of a homogenous population with a shared value system and a shared accumulated knowledge base. In responding to this issue, we should imagine a particular underserved group and the specific difficulties that may be faced in helping members to evaluate information.

      Let’s consider a newly arrived immigrant group whose members are refugees from a country in violent conflict, say Somalia. There is an immediate language barrier that must be overcome. There are existing values that need to be understood, as well as new values that need to be taught and inculcated. Suddenly, what may have been a simple problem of applying the constructivist model of discovery, guided design, advance organizers and metacognition (Grassian, 2009) morphs into a requirement to apply all three models we studied, i.e., the behaviorist model of active participation promoted by programmed instruction, modeling and behavior modification, the cognitive/constructivist model already cited, and the humanist model incorporating elements of self-actualization, self-sufficiency, and self-confidence values in order the overcome the barriers that otherwise would keep isolated this underserved group. We will look at each model in turn, and review common threads across all three as we discuss why a comprehensive approach is required in this case.

         First, why is a comprehensive approach required? We already mentioned the language barrier, a very fundamental bar to learning. Setting up language instruction, face-to-face, as well as online, will go a long way towards finding a way to overcome that barrier. Assuming that members are motivated to master English, as most members of refugee groups are, setting up on-line tutorials to supplement and complement face-to-face instruction will speed up that process, and in fact, may enable us to move past the behaviorist model and to the cognitive/constructivist model immediately. We wouldn’t want to dwell too long on behaviorist methods, anyway, as we are aware of the limitations inherent in the behaviorist model, i.e., a focus on observable stimulus makes it difficult to study other pertinent phenomena such as understanding, reasoning, and thinking (Bransford, 1999). But before leaving behaviorism too soon, we would confirm that active participation and readiness (including mastery of the subject material, level of complexity, and self-pacing) are common threads in both the behaviorist and the cognitive constructivist models, giving us a convenient transfer point.

          With the language barrier taken care of, we would want to consider other factors which could manifest themselves as barriers to learning and what we could do as librarians to overcome those barriers. Using the constructivist approach, we could present information to the group members that would help to ease their transition to the new environment. We would want to find ways to determine the parameters of their existing knowledge base, through evaluations, through conversations, through interviews. The survival skills they developed to endure the conflict environment they left might surprise us! It may also present a suitable and useful base of knowledge on which to build new information. Careful and painstaking research may reveal that members of such groups do remarkably well in a new environment of peace and opportunity, because of the acuteness of their basic survival skills and requirements. We would follow the outline of the cognitive model in designing online training in basic employment skills, computer training, and opening, so to speak, their awareness to learning possibilities. Free online MOOC courses could provide a great source of information on a variety of subjects, in addition to online courses available in the library. Through the use of guided design and metacognition, much like this online exam, for example, we could help them cement the knowledge that they had acquired, providing an avenue, at the same time, for transfer from the constructivist approach to the self-reflection considered primarily a part of the humanist model.

          Utilizing elements of the humanist model, we would encourage members of the group to experiment and interact with the information being conveyed, whether concerning job-seeking/finding skills, or just better understanding the cultural values of a new and different environment. Again, using direct instruction and online tutorials, we would gradually shift them into a mode of student-centered learning, shifting the responsibility for learning to the group members themselves in self-directed, self-regulated instruction based on their own interests and abilities.

       We have not addressed the central concept of evaluating information, however, which would be our most important task as information professionals. Grassian suggests that the combination of metacognition and self-reflection “resonate” with IL instruction (Grassian, p. 39). A solid grounding in information literacy equips students of any group, underserved or not, with “the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information” (Eisenberg. 2004, p. 5). Our goal, our primary goal would be to equip the members of the underserved group with solid information literacy skills, which, in turn, would result in their becoming competent, independent, and life-long learners. Teaching information literacy skills by definition includes critical thinking as well as other types of literacy, including visual literacy, media literacy, computer literacy, digital literacy, and network literacy (Eisenberg, 2004). Though traditionally part of a group considered underserved, these folks would have a good beginning on success in their new environment.

         We have not addressed the effects on these group members of the trauma they may have endured, nor of the learning disabilities group members might have developed from enduring that trauma. Perhaps that is the job of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, and not of librarians. It is our job to be aware of the possibility of such issues, and to be prepared to make recommendations and referrals to related community service providers for assistance in those areas. Again, online learning solutions may provide a key, just as it would for blind or deaf users, where mechanical accommodations (touch screens, pull down menus, large size fonts, speaker amplifications, etc.) can be made (Carlson, 2004). In one of the MOOC courses I took, a student severely disabled with autism was able to focus on the online videos and readings in ways that he never had succeeded in being able to do in face-to-face instruction. It may well be that online instruction can give the individual learner the individual attention he/she requires in ways that face-to-face instruction cannot. Similarly, students with emotional handicaps resulting from the trauma of war and violent conflict we have earlier described might benefit from a carefully prepared course of instruction provided in an online format.

Bransford, J. (2000). How people learn : brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C. : National Academy Press.

Carlson, S. (2004). Left Out Online. Minnesota: Access Press Ltd. Accessed at http://www.accesspress.org/2004/left-out-online on December 12, 2013.

Eisenberg, Michael. (2004). Information Literacy: Essential Skills for the Information Age. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

Grassian, Esther S. (2009). Information Literacy Instruction Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition. New York: Neil Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2009.