Dr. Jennifer Sasser, human sciences chair and gerontology program director, is one of several experts who will lead Oregon Humanities' Talking About Dying Series starting in September 2015.
English faculty Jay Ponteri continues to gain attention for his memoir, Wedlocked, through features on Oregon Public Broadcasting, Oregon Arts Watch and the Memoir Project Blog.
Excerpt from an interview with Judith Pulman, Oregon Arts Watch, October 21, 2013.
Wedlocked is ostensibly a personal inquiry into monogamy. Ponteri lets us into his world: In his garage, he is writing a manuscript about his doubts about his marriage and recording his strong feelings towards other women—Frannie is the name that he uses as a composite for all the women he has fantasized about that are not his wife. His wife finds this manuscript and she is shocked, disturbed, and does not know what to do. She claims not to have fantasized about sex with other men, so why is he straying in this way? He doubts, fantasizes, strays, all the while loathing the person who does these things.
"My book is more about a self isolating inside a marriage than marriage itself—reacting by pushing away instead of reaching out in the way that life's difficult moments require," Ponteri said. "The book is also a consideration of the way my writing became another fantasy, another way to push reality away. There's a T.S. Eliot quote from the "Four Quartets" that goes. 'Humankind cannot bear very much reality.' I think that's what my struggle was as a young married person: Trying to be in touch with actuality and also embracing a dreamy way of being that is rewarded in being an artist and writer."
"When I'm writing, I'm trying to discover the self in contradiction," Ponteri said. "My first order of business is to look at my inner life and put my imagination towards revelations about contradictions. That is not dreamy stuff. Contradiction is difficult; it's difficult to simultaneously say 'ooh I love you' and 'oh no, I've got to push you away.' In writing, I just want the work to be as thorny and messy as I feel life is."
This a book well worth reading and talking about, not just for Ponteri's scintillating fantasies, his challenging questions, or his imagination fully engaging with both language and subject matter, but to read a new story of how much it takes to be in a committed relationship well—a story that opened doors, at least for me—to a whole new species of conversations about love.
Excerpt from Jay Ponteri's guest article on Marion Roach's Memoir Project Blog, October 29, 2013.
For me the joy of memory-based writing arises from recalling a memory I could not have imagined and did not plan on recalling before that present moment of composition. I'm talking about working from inadvertent memory. This kind of memory rises to the surface of consciousness without intention or design on my part. I don't reach for memory—I let memory reach for me. I do my best to clear my mind—to get out of the way—and then pay close attention to what materializes.
Inadvertent memory may or may not be recurring memory, may or may not be traumatic memory, may or may not be joyful memory, may or may not be new memory. I hold no expectations about its content or emotional tissue. Like the sensorium rising in that fuzzy liminal space between wakefulness and sleep, inadvertent memory appears unbidden, without explanation or order.
Coming from that deeper, more conflicted self we often tuck away to make it through the ordinary day, inadvertent memory drips with contradictory emotion, inexplicable mystery, and myriad possibility. I show my trust in the writing process by making "mystery" a central part. My best and only plan is not to have one.
Ponteri was also featured on the pilot episode of the OPB radio program, State of Wonder, October 7, 2013.
Listen below. The segment featuring Ponteri starts at 6.30.