“My advice to you all: get drunk. It is necessary to always be drunk. That’s all there is to it. That’s the only question. Not to feel the unbearable burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the ground. You must get relentlessly drunk. But from what?”
This was the cogitation of Professor of English Kent Dixon’s colloquium, “My Writing Life,” presented in Ness Auditorium last Thursday. The words were part of Dixon’s translation of “Enivrez-vous,” a poem by French poet Charles Baudelaire.
“You understand what I’m advocating here, along with M. Baudelaire, is not spirits but spirit,” said Dixon after finishing his reading of the poem, “Do your thing, love your demons, follow your bliss.”
Dixon has been doing his thing for the past 32 years at Wittenberg. That includes his work establishing the honors program, founding the kayaking club, initiating the PAST (Pre-Modern and Ancient World Studies) minor, promoting the journalism minor, publishing various translations, essays, fiction, poetry–you name it, he’s done it.
“Wittenberg’s very generous and supportive in letting you design stuff and think things up,” explained Dixon. “You can build programs and then they go. I’ve seen so many programs built like that: Russian studies, East Asian minor, journalism, communications; it’s just terrific.”
Dixon’s long list of accomplishments at Wittenberg will come to an end after the Fall 2012 semester when he and his wife Mimi Dixon, also a Professor of English, retire.
Dixon and his wife met in Iowa City in the early 70s. It wasn’t long until they moved to Santa Barbara, California and got married in 1975. For five years they tried to break into Hollywood without success. With the financial burden of child-rearing (at the time, they were parenting three boys) becoming an inescapable reality, the two of them finished their dissertations and began their search for professorships.
Here’s where Wittenberg comes in. Though they were initially searching for jobs elsewhere, he and Mimi Dixon ended up each teaching a half course load.
“That was great because it seemed like with a half-time job I could keep writing and teach half-time and ditto for her [but it] doesn’t work like that,” said Kent, “We couldn’t keep it from becoming two full time jobs for half-pay.”
Still, the Dixons became increasingly active at Wittenberg, picking up more courses and helping in and out of the classroom. Eventually they received tenure and now they are the longest serving professors in the English department.
“They’re playful partners,” said Associate Professor of English Michael McClelland. “They laugh and support each other all the time.”
Now that the Dixons are leaving there is a feeling of sadness permeating the English department.
“Selfishly, I hate to see them go. They’re both such an important part of the English department,” explained McClelland, “Both as teachers obviously, but also just as colleagues. They’re both so giving and supporting. The place will be very different without them.”
For the Dixons however, it’s time to move on. They’ve done a lot of traveling while at Wittenberg and they look forward to expanding their adventures. Kent Dixon also plans to dedicate more time to his writing during retirement. Within the past two and a half months he has had eight of his works accepted for publication, a promising sign for his permanent sabbatical.
McClelland recounted at the colloquium, “As we were leaving (class) someone asked, ‘What time is the Kent Dixon show?’ and one of Kent’s students replied, ‘When isn’t it the Kent Dixon show? It never stops’.”
(Casey O’Brien / firstname.lastname@example.org)