Of Barred Owls, Poetry Projects, Postal Birds and Ickabogs: Pandemic Writing.

It’s been an eventful couple of months, to put it mildly. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted by semester, my summer travel plans (including my work with the Global Autism Project, now postponed to 2021) and may yet lead to other major changes in my life. But, as with every crisis, there are always silver linings. One, of course, is the online publication of J.K.Rowling’s fairy tale, The Ickabog. But, she’s not the only one using writing to make the pandemic a bit easier to bear. 

My university hosts an annual Doenges Scholar, who, this year, was Poet Laureate Emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera. Sadly, the pandemic cost the students the opportunity to work with Sr. Herrera in person, but, with the help of a Spanish and an English professor, the university held an online seminar during our three-week May Term. The major creative product of the class was a community poetry project, centered around what the class called CoVIDA, or “the life that emerges out of this COVID-19 moment.” The students did not limit the project to their own writing, but solicited poetry from the wider community, asking for writing about the themes of community, celebration, conocimiento (ancestral knowledge), resilience, and healing.  

I certainly encourage you to check out the full project at the link above.  However, since my contribution had a Harry Potter connection, I thought I would share it here. 

Who Cooks for You?
That wintry morning, the call we were expecting came. A barred owl stopped at my brother’s window, to ask Who cooks for you—and remind him of our father’s laughter, long silenced, now freed, to a place we couldn’t hear. So the owl passed the message along.   My father’s stories were of Reddy Fox and William Green Hill Jenny Wren and Polynesia, the birds of wisdom. The owls’ names were their calls: Too-too and Hooty. He never knew Hedwig, but he’d have liked her, Even though Mr. Lofting wrote of postal birds first. If he sent his son an owl, his daughter would understand, Oh, Sweet Bird.   Who cooks for you—a gift, as if someone is watching. Laughter and intellect, memory and magic linger in the woods, And continue in the stories.

More about the poem, and story connections, after the jump.

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Salazar’s Pit Viper: Another species named after our shared text.

The trend of naming new species after Harry Potter characters continues.  The latest addition to the Slug Club (which, to my knowledge, has no actual slugs in it yet….  hey, slug researchers, why don’t you find a horned one and name it “Horace?”) is Trimeresurus salazar, a new, bright green pit viper recently discovered in India. Zeeshan Mirza led a team of five self-described Potter fans on an expedition that discovered the magical creature in the Pakke Tiger Reserve in July 2019.  According to the report in The Indian Express:

They almost named the species ‘Nagini’, after Lord Voldemort’s snake but then later decided to “save it for when, and if, they discover a new cobra species since Nagini was a cobra.”

“Childhood experiences largely stay with you,” said Mirza, “When I was growing up, JK Rowling was a big part of my childhood, and perhaps everyone else who has read the book. Now what better way to honour and thank her than naming the species after one of her characters?”

Eriovixia gryffindori

Interestingly, the discoverer’s hat tip to Mr. Slytherin extends to the fantastic beast’s common name, which they hope will be Salazar’s pit viper, not to be confused with the Basilisk, Salazar’s pet viper. This also brings some balance to the Hogwarts’ founders, since Godric Gryffindor had a Sorting Hat-shaped spider named for him in 2016.  I’m waiting for Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw to get their turn.

The snake joins a dinosaur, an extinct lizard, two wasps, two stink bugs, four spiders–the three others are named after Aragog–and an elusive crab in species with Wizarding World-inspired names.  You can read about five of these in my earlier posts: here and here.  If you want to know about the six others I’ve added to my list since 2017, follow the jump.  

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Queen City Mischief and Magic Readalong continues: Louise reads Chapter 13 of CoS.

The Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival is continuing its Harry Potter readalong, and I was asked to do a chapter of Chamber of Secrets.  Click to tune in, or go the the QCMM Facebook page to see the whole series.

They are also taking volunteers to read from Prisoner of Azkaban, so if you’ve been dying to read “Cat, Rat, Dog” to the world , now’s your chance.  I’d be especially glad to see academics who have contributed to QCMM in the past (I mean you, Lana and John) do a reading.  Costumes and props optional.

We have LOVED the different ways you have all been presenting chapters of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and are currently scheduling readers for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” If you are interested, please message us [on Facebook] or on Instagram and let us know if you have a chapter or date preference. Other than making sure you include that we have permission from Scholastic and JK Rowling, you may present your chapter in any way you’d like! We can’t wait to experience this continued creativity coming from our fans.

Optimistic Gamemakers: Roth’s Chosen Ones Movie Rights Already Sold.

See news item here.

The deal marks a reunion of the team that brought Divergent to the big screen: [Erik] Feig acquired the rights to Divergent when he was the head of Summit Entertainment and will now produce, as will Pouya Shahbazian, one of the original Divergent producers. Roth will also act as a producer.

Wow!  There is clearly optimism here especially considering 1) how the Divergent franchise overplayed its hand and imploded and 2) that Hollywood seems to have passed on Roth’s Carve the Mark duology.

This makes me hopeful that the early positive reviews of this volume are deserved. But, if I were Ms. Roth, I would have made purchase of the film right contingent on a producer pledge not to get greedy.  And perhaps asked Mr. Feig to write this 100 times or so, first.

 

Pottering around the house in the midst of the COVID-19.

This particular Hogwarts Professor has had her academic workload suddenly quadrupled as she tries to move three classes, one lab, two thesis students and two interns online.  But, I wanted to pop in and suggest a few ways Potterphiles with more free time can entertain themselves during confinement.

First, the fine folks at Audible.com have made many great books available for free, including some good young adult lit and classic works of literature.  Check them out and, if you find something you want to discuss here, include it in the comments.

Second, JKR has relaxed the copyright on Harry Potter, and allowing teachers to read aloud to students.  Among the many conducting read-alongs are the Head Girls who run the great Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival; check out their Facebook page to tune in.  Another choice would be my friend and former student Dylan’s YouTube presentation. 

Finally, my sweet sister-in-law sent me a link to a Virtual Harry Potter Escape Room, created by Peters Township Public Library.  I’ve only just gotten started, but it looks pretty good.

All for now…  stay home and stay healthy, everyone.