Ed Freedman, a former FMU faculty member now at Zayed University, United Arab Emirates, brought a group of women students to FMU to visit today and tomorrow. They are visiting various college campuses in the southeast. I had asked for two of them to visit my English Honors class. When Kalnah and Noaf arrived, it didn't take long for them to undermine any stereotypes we held about Middle Eastern Moslem women. They wore no head coverings, and Kalnah looked as though she could have stepped right out of a Rodeo Drive shop. Both of them, Noaf particularly, were equally as fluent in English as many FMU students. They've traveled widely (though not in the U.S.), and they seemed thoroughly familiar with U.S. culture and food, thanks to American TV and movies, as well as a profusion of western fast food joints, the McDonaldization of the world. In short, they know far more about us than we know about them.
In the Fall 2006 issue of Cimarron Review I read an interesting essay by Diane Comer called "The Far Gaze." It evokes one of my favorite travel writers, Bruce Chatwin, in a surprising and somewhat bitter way--to bemoan the difficulty of getting around as a woman in the world. It's available online at the web site. More curious was the essay in the same journal by poet Mark Halliday, "The Tipton Awards--A Judge's Chronicle." It tells about his long and exhausting search for poems published since 1999 by three poets "in some danger of unfair neglect." He was supposedly commissioned to do this by Mercedes Minerva Tipton, who announced in 2005 that she would annually award a million dollars each to three poets who have published great poems of less than 120 lines. Whoa. Wait. How could this be? I can find no reference whatsoever to this anywhere. And besides, why wouldn't one of my poems be selected? He eventually claims to locate the six finalists and settles on these three as the winners:
"The Myth of Contentment" by Paul Guest
"Ago" by Tim Seibles
"Mediterranean" by Rosanna Warren