these come to you, today, courtesy of a sudden flurry of activity in our garage. to say that my art files are a bit mixed-up is -- well, actually, they're not really that mixed-up, but these pen and ink drawings were not where i expected them to be, so it was a joy to come across them. all were done a dozen or so years ago. two of the pieces were created for the gap (i contributed art for several seasons in the '90s, and it was great fun to walk into the store and see it on children's wear and various other items). i also did quite a bit of personalized stationery and invitations, which explains the luggage (for a graduation party) and the houses (christmas card for a family).
Can we talk about Sue Hanna for a minute? She was a teacher who changed lives. Taking her poetry class, freshman year, pretty much convinced me that my life would be dedicated to [fill in some blank here] and the only way to achieve that was to be an English Major. (English Majors: are they people who write? Read? Opt out of the studio art degrees they were supposedly going to school for -- or was that just me?) Back to Ms. Hanna (she was the only professor at our school, in 1977, that insisted on that prefix; ahead of her time, always. But she'd have winced at me saying that -- she hated cliches). She read poetry. Loudly, somewhat. She insisted we read it that way, too. Maybe not loud but like we were invested in it and not just mildly considering it: we needed to feel the words come out of our mouths. We needed to be able to hear the poet. Who cares if anyone in the dorm thinks this is odd? she'd have said. This is the way you read poetry. My roommate told me, some time into that first semester, that I was reciting poetry in my sleep. (She wasn't super-thrilled.) That still embarrasses me a little, but not for the reason you'd expect. I wasn't reading it aloud, in the dorm, as much as Ms. Hanna insisted, and I supposed then that my conscience got the best of me and poked through even the shroud of sleep. And it was impossible to remember what I'd been reciting. Because of Sue Hanna, the Harlem Renaissance and Pauline Kael and Rupert Brooke became, a little or a lot, guiding forces in my life. Because of Sue Hanna, I am on guard always but not often enough for some clanking metaphor or niggling cliche. Most of all, because of Sue Hanna, I will never see words without realizing that they can be employed in a way that could change a life (or many lives, as hers did). So many words, so often thrown around -- and yet, with care, what good they can do if well-employed. Thanks. Some teachers deserve to be remembered. It bothers me that she might not have known how grateful I was for her teaching. If you still have time, maybe you can go thank someone who changed your life. Thanks, Ms. Hanna. Somewhere, I hope, you hear this. Aloud.