Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fwd: Dear Professor Susan Harris:

John French: mosshead7@yahoo.com; wrote:
Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2008 03:30:13 -0800 (PST)
From: John French mosshead7@yahoo.com;
Subject: Dear Professor Susan Harris:
To: skh5@ku.edu

Dear Professor Susan Harris:
The other evening I was at an old prestigious private club which is actually noted as one of the finest urban clubs in the country and in a recent article about a member of one of Pittsburgh's old wealth families Vanity Fair called the club "a sanctuary for Pittsburgh's wealthy elite" - and, at any rate, I was speaking with a professor of high caliber and relayed to him and his guest this anecdote which directly involves you and they both suggest I should most definitely contact you -(as does just about everyone I share this anecdote with).
When I was taking your Poetry 101 class at Penn State University's main campus you had assigned the class to write a paper on a poet and to provide some background on this poet and include direct lines of their poems to interpret. I actually thought this was a cool assignment and enthusiastically spent allot of time on this assignment and composed a well-written paper for you to review and grade. Never expecting the result I received I was astonished when my paper was returned to me with an "F." Of course, I came to you in question and you coldly stated, "Jim Morrison is not a poet. He is a rockstar. I asked you to write a paper on a poet and you wrote a paper on a rockstar."
Ok, sure I wasn't your typical student. And there was that time I came into your class a few minutes late in faded Levis which had a hole or two, black desert boots, a tee-shirt that read, "Charlie Don't Surf!" and a fur vest (which happened to be a removable lining from a leather jacket I had purchased for myself as a Christmas present from a store in Chicago) and, well, even though your class was around 1 pm I had sun glasses on and wore them throughout class --- It was a long night which bled into day as, Tara, one of my girlfriend at the time who was on the Mainline in Philadelphia and whose parents also had a home in Martha's Vineyard drove me to the building your class was in and was just dropping me off from one of our evening's out in Happy Valley / State College, PA.
But that's not the issue.
You gave me an "F" on a well-written paper on the grounds that Jim Morrison was not a poet and you had asked the class to write this paper on a poet.
That's the issue and why people strongly encourage me to contact you.
The rest of the story is as follows.
A few years later while I was pouring through titles in a bookstore which I so often frequented, I came across a title called "The Rebel as Poet: Rimbaud and Jim Morrison" by Wallace Fowlie, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of French and Italian Literature, Duke University. The book was published by Duke University. I purchased the book and voraciously devoured every word like a ravenous dog whose call of the wild only required he be fed organic meat off of the bone to survive.
Never mind that the title James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of French and Italian Literature, Duke University, trumped your title (by far) and I was encouraged that this book served as a perfect rebuttal for your unjust grade you served me like an unjust sentence based of the same premise of abuse of power and authority and I felt redeemed, validated and vindicated --- This book was much more to me. For after reading this book I was blown-away by the depth of the words from which this captivating language was coming from - so deep and rich in signs and symbols - and so fascinating in subject matter and colorful tapestry it wove.
I immediately knew Wallace Fowlie was something special, something profoundly great and this book of his "The Rebel as Poet: Rimbaud and Jim Morrison" was a way to break through to a young audience like myself and open the door via an invitation on a silver platter. For Fowlie's book came out only a few years after Oliver Stone's film, The Doors. What timing. And, as my friend Wallace Fowlie would tell me, there are no coincidences.
In lieu of being paltry, at the time, instead of using this book and the noble, irrefutably valid and viable status of Wallace Fowlie to rebuke "your opinion" on Mr. James Douglas Morrison, I knew better than to waste my time on someone who hid behind the thick walls of the ivory tower. For I picked-up the phone and called Duke University looking for Wallace Fowlie. Not knowing what I'd say but rather I was compelled to do so. And I did.
Someone within Duke University contacted Wallace Fowlie and told him about me and my inquiries of him. Wallace suggested I send some of my poetry to him and after receiving it had the same liaison inform me that he wanted me to come visit him.
I was fascinated that a man of his stature and age, quite frankly, would be so insightful and open minded to write a book on Jim Morrison - (as I was taught by you, Morrison was just a rockstar and not a poet). And, yet, Fowlie had the unquestionable authority to make Jim Morrison a legitimate, bonified poet -as what Jim deeply wished. I knew all of this. I knew what this meant. And I have chills now as a recount my meetings with Fowlie, the excitement, the nourishing light and growth I have experienced.
Before I let the New York Times Obituary describe Wallace Fowlie, I must insert, he was one of the kindest, gracious, inspiringly brilliant and radiant human be-ings I ever, ever met in person. And sure I was amazingly impressed by the original art work from Picaso and Jean Cocteau and Joan Miro and Salvador Dali that hung from his walls and the stories of how they got there but beyond the material - Wallace was a literary giant. Someone you get to know by only going beyond. Going beyond the superficial surface and intuitively going after the meat-on-the-bone with the wantonness of desire for enlightenment and edification. Wallace was an author, professor, expert in French and Italian literature and psychoanalysis and friend. He tied together my background, my stories of what transpired during my encounters with Wayland Krieger (son of Robby Krieger of the Doors - Jim's band mate) in Florida and Robby Krieggar himself in Happy Valley / State College, PA --- And tied in how in the 1960's when he was teaching a Holy Cross in MA that he received a letter from a Jim Morrison of the Doors which thanked him for his dual translation of Rimbaud (the letter and events surrounding it is explained in detail in The Rebel as Poet: Rimbaud and Jim Morrison and also was given to to Holy Cross) - And Wallace tied together why I was there, my poetry and assured me that there were no coincidences. Furthermore he declared I "could not not be a poet because the way I view life is poetry." And along with a brief critique he wrote of me and my work as a poet which I have posted under credentials of my website mystrawhat.com, inside a copy of The Rebel as Poet: Rimbaud and Jim Morrison he wrote, "John: Our friendship started here."
Wallace Fowlie, 89, Authority On French Poets and Rebels
Published: August 20, 1998

Wallace Fowlie, a professor emeritus of French literature at Duke University who once compared the rock singer Jim Morrison to the poet Arthur Rimbaud, died on Sunday at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. He was 89 and lived in Chapel Hill.

Mr. Fowlie gained prominence as a scholar by writing more than 20 books focusing on the great French poets and other literary figures of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Baudelaire, Dante, Mallarme, Proust, Rimbaud and Verlaine. He crossed into popular culture and received national attention in 1994 when, as an octogenarian, he wrote ''Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet,'' published by Duke University Press.

Mr. Fowlie said that the French poet and the lead singer of the Doors both were rebels who grew up without fathers, experimented with drugs and alcohol and dealt with death and pathos in their writings.

Born in Brookline, Mass., Mr. Fowlie, in his 1978 autobiography, ''Journal of Rehearsal,'' described the formative experiences that led to his lifelong love of all things French: the pleasure felt at first hearing the musical sounds of the French language, of Mary Garden singing Louise in Charpentier's opera, and his awe when, as a child, he listened to Paul Claudel, then French Ambassador in Washington, deliver an incomprehensible speech at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston.

He studied at Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1930, a master's degree in 1933 and a Ph.D. in 1936, after which he traveled to Paris briefly for the first time, the names of the streets and monuments long since memorized from his readings. He took up teaching upon his return, with stints at Bennington College, the University of Chicago and Yale University before arriving at Duke in 1964.

In a 1975 review in The New York Times of ''Letters of Henry Miller and Wallace Fowlie,'' which traced seven years of correspondence between the writer and the scholar -- much of it focusing on the place of the artist in society, and on Rimbaud -- Mr. Fowlie was described as ''a devout Catholic, a man of genuine sensitivity, a devotee of French literature and a critic who was particularly interested in such spirit-laden figures as Narcissus, Hamlet and the clown.''
It was this sensitivity that led to his success in the classroom, said his longtime friend and colleague, Marcel Tetel, a professor of French at Duke. ''One of his greatest assets was that he was revered by his students,'' Mr. Tetel said. ''He developed friendships with many of his students. He talked to them at length after class, and he would even have them over to his house for dinner. His classes were always full.''

In a 1993 interview, Mr. Fowlie said he had always seen his role ''as transcending that of a mere academic adviser.'' Rather, he offered encouragement, a friendly word and an occasional rebuke along with his insights.

His unending quest, he said, was the answer to the question, What is poetry? The solution, he believed, rested in ''the direction of an individual toward a decent life.''

No immediate family members survive.
Best of Organic Roses,
("John French")
Pittsburgh, PA

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