Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Monday, September 29, 2014

Learning from West Chester

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #25
     Do poets need to be interesting?

     No, but their stories do.

     If you lack the skills needed to perform or present your work you can network with those able to bring your pieces to life on stage and/or video.  At the same time, you may be the life of the party but no one can help if your material or perspective is boring.  Take the two greatest poems of our time as examples.  "Studying Savonarola", written by Margaret Ann Griffiths, is told in the voice of a modern gay man infatuated with a cleric burned at the stake in Florence, Italy 516 years ago.  D.P. Kristalo's "Beans" involves a woman delivering an English language eulogy to Salvador Allende in a politically supercharged atmosphere where any partisanship could cost her life.  What made these poems interesting, along with the copious, dazzling prosodic pyrotechnics, was the writers' ability to imagine a viewpoint other than their own.  "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" was about a man's midlife crisis.  T.S. Eliot was all of 21 when he began writing it, 27 when it was published.

     Let us test your ability to do this, shall we?

Kim Bridgford
     The Internet is abuzz with opinions regarding the West Chester University fiasco.  There is a petition to express "support for the former Director of the WCU Poetry Center and Conference, Dr. Kim Bridgford."  Calmer voices are advising a wait-and-see approach, given the lack of details from Kim Bridgford or Dean Lori Vermeulen.  All we know for certain is that much beloved organizer Kim Bridgford was reassigned to teaching, such that the 2015 Conference will be cancelled while a new project leader is installed.

     The beneficiaries of Ms. Bridgford's efforts are legion.  Many are demanding details.  Consider this statement by Patricia Valdata:

Patricia Valdata
    "I was taking minutes on August 25 at the Poetry Center's 3rd quarter Advisory Board meeting (for the rest of you, I was there as a temporary employee from mid-February through August 29). The board's financial committee requested an audit for two reasons: (1) it is good financial practice for every organization to be audited on a regular basis and (2) audits are required on most grant applications. The Center had never been audited, so it was long overdue. The advisory board approved the audit, quite enthusiastically, I might add.

    "As soon as the meeting concluded, the dean left the room like she was shot out of a cannon, without a word to any of us. Three weeks later, Kim was removed, ostensibly because she didn't 'work closely enough' with the WCU Foundation, which is ridiculous."

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #128
     In sharp contrast to Kim's vociferous supporters, those of Ms. Vermeulen have been as tight-lipped as the two principals themselves.  Forget the conference for a moment.  As an exercise in imagination and empathy, can you surmise what the Dean's supporters might argue?

     For the sake of this challenge, let us regard the organization as a Section 501(c)(3) charity and frequent grant applicant which, contrary to the bolded print in Ms. Valdata's statement, would require considerable financial disclosure, including audits.  In this hypothetical scenario, assume that both her Advisory Board and Kim Bridgford herself were well aware of this compliance when they made their demand.

     Even as a devil's advocate, can you write a cogent, convincing defense of the Dean's actions based on these circumstances?

     Ready, set, go!

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