Statistically Improbable Phrases

idyll winter engine: retreat to RL

Came back from our annual winter writers’ retreat to Raquette Lake (RL). RL is in the Adirondack Park (upstate NY) between Old Forge and Blue Mountain, about three hours from SUNY Cortland and, as it happens, not far from my family’s homestead in Speculator NY, where I spent many a summer as kid. My playful pun on RL (real life) remarks on the "nature" of the retreat and the RL site.

The Huntington Camp was one of the first great camps built in the Adirondacks a century or so ago. In fact, the camp was recently identified as a national historic site.  In many respects it is still a very naturalistic place. The camp is accessible only by boat (or ice bridge in the winter). There is snow shoeing and x-country skiing in the winter, kayaking and canoeing when its warmer.  It is comforable, but it is still a camp. It ain’t a hotel, which is a good thing. However it has high speed wireless networking across the camp, video conferencing — all the technologies that are now integral to education.

In short, it is a wonderful contemplative environment.  But it is hardly a space not interpenetrated by information technologies. One of the primary tasks of our retreat this weekend was to work on our undergraduate literary magazine. This meant we spent a good amount of time working on laptops. Students played mp3’s and IM’d their friends back on campus–just like they would if we were in our computer classroom in Cortland.

So this is RL. Nature. Technology. Meditative contemplation in a snow bank. Networked composition in a modern log cabin-style classroom.

I also had the opportunity to write a poem. A decade or so ago, I was a "poet," in that I wrote poetry nearly every day. It was my "thing." I haven’t written a poem in three years, and only a handful in the last ten. One of my mentors at Albany, Don Byrd, a poet and philosopher himself, once told me that he couldn’t work on both poetry and philosophy at the same time. Trying to work through philosophical concepts interfered with writing poetry, those concepts had to distill in the mind over a period of time before they could become a source for poetry.

I think that’s been the case for me.  But it was interesting to find myself in the middle of poem, to find that my method had refined itself but generally still operated.

Anyway, I’ve attached the poem (I would have posted it directly, but I didn’t want to bother doing the HTML to layout the poem properly). I’d appreciate any feedback.



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