Monday, May 07, 2007

Forging Folklore

I knew things were looking good when I found a parking spot right in front of Raven Books in Harvard Square Thursday (especially since it's right next door to Planet Records). There was even 24 minutes left on the meter and only an hour left to cover (meter time ends at 6, so I was set for the night). I had a little time to browse before the reception to open the conference, so I made the most of it, but only bought one book (!) that day (let's not talk about McIntyre and Moore).

I was surprised to walk into the reception and immediately run into Joe Harris, whose course on Eddic Poetry at Harvard was an important formative experience for me (especially being then still an employee and not a "real" student); plus he's a great guy, creative and thoughtful. He was eager to know what I was up to and we had a good time chatting. I hunted up Peg Aloi, whom I had found to be an Albany neighbor as well as co-organizer of the conference. She was talking to keynote speaker Ronald Hutton, who also proved to be charming and approachable. I did kid him about Kylie and he was a good sport about it though it clearly was not what he had hoped to have happen in the program. We chatted quite a while, although many other people also wished to speak. I must say Hutton was quite generous with his time and attention -- sometimes keynote speakers come in for their piece and then leave, but he attended panels right up to the time he had to be spirited off to Logan. Good form!

Alas, Cheryl, I did not think of bringing books for him to sign! Ah, well. Another time perhaps.

Peg and Hannah Johnston put together a comprehensive conference with intellectual rigor and a wide variety of viewpoints that often led to spirited debate. They are to be congratulated for their hard work and thoughtful leadership. Thanks, too, go to Stephen Mitchell and Holly Hutchison from the Folklore and Mythology program at Harvard who sponsored and supported the conference (and Holly took care of the innumerable problems that always crop up in the midst of things -- kudos to her!). Stephen is, of course, the reason I became a medievalist. When I read Beowulf and Njal's Saga in his course on Northern Germanic Heroic Traditions everything changed. I've not been the same since!

My presentation seemed to go well; I was so nervous! I'm used to giving papers, but this was a little different. I've played my kantele in front of groups, but never in front of scholars. And I sang -- yes, me. It wasn't terrible (or so they told me) and it fit with what I was saying about Finnish magic traditions and the music of Värttinä. The audience really responded to the curses in particular, but the love charms got a good laugh as well. I will perhaps put the paper up here for folks to read if they have any interest (though of course it will lack the sound aspects). I may be writing up an account of the conference elsewhere, so I'll let you all know.

Travel within New England usually provides a chance to see friends and this trip was no exception. Thanks to Minna, Steve and Bowen for giving me a refuge in the expensive ambience of Boston. Too bad we didn't have more time for kantele duets! Much to my surprise, Bilokur did actually show and I got to see his latest project which looks like it has a lot of potential. The set up may sound more like a joke (okay, so there's a rabbi with a surfboard...) but it has a serious aim even if it makes you laugh, too (as all truly serious things ought to do). On the way back, I made the detour to CT to meet up with the Boojums and Miss Wendy for Cinco de Mayo celebrations at Cinco de Mayo, where we regaled neighboring tables with chat about turn of the century New Britain orphan deaths, cemetery tours and any number of charming topics. Then it was off to Aloha Alcohula, the world's best and most exclusive tiki bar to see the QOE, Johnny 10X and Marko (fez-less but destructive -- we told you it was going to break). Conversation ricocheted from waxing nostalgic about D.O.T.'s pantsless performances and the transformations of the El and Gee, to picking on Marko and viewing the Queen's latest crafty print (wicked cool). Then Miss Wendy and I stayed up late watching Enchanted April and gabbing as we do. A lazy Sunday morning, then back on the road to home, to see how much email had piled up in my absence and to be fawned over by Kipper and my sweetie. I slept like a rock last night and came in to my office this morning to face a stack of work. Argh.

Wednesday, I'm off again -- this time to Kalamazoo for the annual pilgrimage. Whew! Starting June 8, I'm going to be more stationary -- no, really.


Cranky Yankee said...

Thanks to you and Wendy for giving me a new way to view a history class I thought maybe would suck, but those orphans' deaths really cheered me up! University registration, here I come!

C. Margery Kempe said...

That's how I like to think of you, Cheryl -- as someone who can be cheered up by the thought of orphans dying horrible deaths.


Good to see you guys -- and we're looking forward to the circus on the 19th!

The Queen said...

I would love to see that paper posted!

It was lovely to see you at the AA! I hope you enjoyed your doggie bag....

C. Margery Kempe said...

Indeed! If only all doggie bags were so pleasant. MMMmmm -- sounds good right now... perhaps an investment is in order.

Anonymous said...

I, too, would love to see your paper posted! Wish I could have been there to see and hear you play the kantele.

C. Margery Kempe said...

All right -- I'll give in to popular demand, but it will have to wait until later as I noticed a few typos as I was reading. Once I've had a chance to correct (and add a few handwritten addenda), I'll post it here. I'm pleased there is interest!