Sunday, August 16, 2009

I heart Pete Medway

I met Pete when I was in grad school. At that time, he was a professor who taught in the Writing Studies stream of my program. I was not officially concentrating in Writing Studies (it's my field now, though). However, I either took or audited every course he taught, and even talked him and the department into letting me be his TA for a third year writing course that was not officially large enough to warrant a TA assignment.

His sardonic humour and habitual frown of puzzlement, not to mention a willingness to critique dearly held orthodoxies (including his own), are not intended to endear, yet Pete is loved by many, something that seemed to baffle him at times.

To talk with Pete is to participate in an ongoing experiment, a testing process for half-a-dozen theories, all of which can melt, mingle, and appear to evaporate, only to condense later into an insight that could not have taken form without going through that shared, discursive process. His enthusiasm for a new idea does not preclude his later enthusiasm for jettisoning the idea if it seems warranted. If the idea is any good, it comes around again.

At a time in my life when I was struggling to make sense of who I was and how I appeared to straddle many different worlds, finding a home in none, I found refuge at Pete's soirees, held roughly every month or two months, prefigured by a group email with the subject line: "Soireereons, enfants!".

Everyone who came had to bring, perform or enact something that they had created. The evening always encompassed a vast range of creativity and appreciation: I remember balsa-wood architectural models, dragonflies fashioned out of pipe cleaners, found music made by dangling recording devices out of windows at busy streetcorners, poems in a variety of genres, subversive posters that had been plastered all over downtown Ottawa, paintings, interactive sculptures, songs. Everyone had equal floortime to present or perform, followed by a question and discussion period.

When Pete moved back to England to work at a university there, I was sad. Sad for me and the other people who were (officially or unofficially) his students here in Ottawa. But happy for him, since he moved closer to his family.

I still miss Pete, and I really enjoy his blog. It's very petesian. Or medwavian. Or something like that!


Stephen Fryer said...

I've never met him: but I wish he'd taught me, judging by his peerless blog.
Not that my University tutors (I did a Creative Writing degree) weren't up to the mark. They were. Only, Pete sounds more fun and also hard work somehow - right?

Jen G said...

I'm glad to find another Pete fan! Yes, he's a lot of fun and when you take his classes you find yourself writing - a LOT.

Jen G said...

2015, January - I just found out that Pete passed away. I don't really have the words to say more than that... remembering so many Petesian moments and thinking of his family. What a great loss.