Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Grace as chance": teaching notes on elegy

Needing an elegiac sonnet to show my poetry workshop yesterday, I opened a selected Seamus Heaney volume in my office to find "Clearances," a sequence Heaney composed for his mother (M.K.H., 1911-1984). Tucked in between two pages of the book was a single piece of paper, dated 27 October 1992; on it were notes toward a class on Heaney, typed in printer-generated Courier type, old school. The first line read, "Travel plans."

My father died on November 4, 1992. This plan described the class I taught before leaving for northern Virginia's colorful autumn (wide curtains of brightest oranges and reds) and several days in the hospital with him. "You came!" he said when I arrived.

I can't describe what came over me in my office yesterday. Sharp intake of breath says it best, perhaps. Or, according to John Ashbery, in "The System," a sense of "the obscure workings of grace as chance" that happens more often in teaching than merits the word "chance." Call it grace, then.

Frederick W. Schultz, 1913-1992.

1 comment:

Laura said...

That sharp intake of breath is unmistakable. I am also a fan of "the obscure workings of grace as chance." Thanks for this.