Monday, July 2, 2007

Peter Campion

Peter Campion is Assistant Professor of English at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. He is the author of a collection of poems, Other People (University of Chicago Press), and a monograph on the painter Mitchell Johnson (Terrence Rogers Fine Art).

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm up in Vermont where my wife's family lives. It's gorgeous: the skies a postcard blue, the green so green it's searing. And yet I seem to have spent most of my time inside, reading.

I finished The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope. I love his plotting, the way he gets his characters to balance, for hundreds of pages at a time, on the fulcrum of their own psychologies. Trollope is a new favorite. I'm inchworming my way through the Palliser novels. (To be honest, I'm not sure how many more fox hunts I can handle).

Then I read Henning Mankell's Before the Frost. With mysteries I usually skim the filler -- the fluff about romance, family, pets, etc. -- and "cut to the chase." But Mankell does a fine job all around. His famous detective, Kurt Wallander, joins up with his daughter Linda; and the interplay between them deepens the admittedly sensationalistic plot.

I also read Jacques Ranciere's The Politics of Aesthetics. It's structured as an interview. The French philosopher asks how can art be emancipatory. I'm particularly fascinated by his concept of "the distribution of the sensible." He claims that as creatures who live inside political structures our experience is always already channeled, structured by larger forces. One thing that art does is to rearrange these structures and redistribute the sensible.

I thought I was done with French theorists. But then on Sunday we drove to my friend, the painter Eric Aho's studio. I'm writing a catalog essay for a show of Eric's -- a genuine pleasure. I wanted to see the paintings in person one more time. Eric was away but he left his studio open, and there on a chair, a gift: Gilles Deleuze's Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. I read it yesterday, in one swoop -- I'm sure I missed some of the subtleties. Deleuze manages to combine his theorizing with superb formal examination of the paintings. I wish more theorists had that skill.

Oh, I've also been immersed in Caroline Bingham's Big Book of Trucks. My two year old son and six year old nephew know this book backwards and forwards, from grille to trailer hitch. Talk about the logic of sensation!
Peter Campion has held a George Starbuck Lectureship at Boston University, as well as a Wallace Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lecturership at Stanford University. His poetry and prose have appeared recently in The Boston Globe, Modern Painters, Parnassus, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Tikkun, The Yale Review and elsewhere. His monograph on the painter Joseph McNamara was published by The Seven Bridges Foundation, and his catalog essay on the painter Terry St. John was published by the Hackett-Freedman Gallery.

Read -- or hear Campion read -- his poems "Lilacs," "Poem to Fire," and "Other People" in Slate.

--Marshal Zeringue