Thursday, February 12, 2004

It's official: beginning this fall I'll be an assistant professor of English at the University of Toronto.

It's a somewhat unexpected, but very gratifying, end to this whole crazy job search thing, which has been pretty much my full-time occupation since September (and at least somewhere in the back of my head for, oh, the last five years). Earlier this week, in a presentation on Ed Dorn, someone evoked the image of the "academic nomad," which seems a pretty apt description of the academic jobseeker: having little idea where--if anywhere--one is going to land, and realizing, distressingly, that one often has very little control over that choice. I certainly didn't imagine, though, that the process would take me across the Canadian border.

But my visit to Toronto last month turned out to be a complete delight, even if I did have to navigate snowy paths in my suit and inadequate dress shoes. There's a wonderful, lively faculty, a fantastic library, and if I had any doubts about the interest in poetry there, they were dispelled when I found myself sitting down to lunch with Simon J. Ortiz (there on a visiting professorship) and peppered with cheerful challenges to my readings by George Elliott Clarke.

The position is one in "Asian North American" literature, which, as if navigating the conjunction "Asian American" weren't perilous enough, requires a triangulation of the "Asian," the "American," and the "Canadian." And there are some interesting differences: it seems, for instance, that some of the best-known Asian Canadian poets (like Fred Wah or Roy Miki) have had a much closer and more productive relationship with the avant-garde than the Asian American poets who tend to get most widely read. Wah's training with Olson and Creeley hardly seems to have marginalized him in Canada; it's hard to imagine an American writer with the same style and background winning the boatload of prizes Wah has.

But the very fluidity of the category seems to translate into a great freedom as to how I pursue and teach the topic--which might not have been the case at a comparable American institution--plus I'll be teaching poetry and American literature classes as well.

While Toronto is closer to Chicago than some of the other places I was considering, it does mean hopping on a plane (albeit for a one-hour flight) and crossing a border; with Robin staying here in Chicago, it's going to be a little complicated. But we'll make it work. I'm banking on the fact that Toronto has more vegetarian restaurants than Chicago does to lure Robin north of the border.

So (digging through toppling piles of papers) I guess that means there's a dissertation around here somewhere crying out to be finished...

No comments: