Congrats to Michael Delp on his retirement from Interlochen Arts Academy.
Delp has always been restless. Jack Driscoll once described him as the guy who pulls the emergency break before stopping his truck. Usually, he won’t even sit still for long. When his office was a 5×8 cubbyhole in Mott Rotunda, he was constantly in-motion, like a dog digging down for a cool spot. He re-organized it constantly, his back to the door. He gave away books, he hoarded Gortex jackets, he blew his nose loudly, he cranked up John Prine songs, he drew big circles on calendars, but it was mysterious what he was planning.
If you think about Delp’s restlessness in the context of the school, you can see how we all must have aggravated his condition. Grading and college recommendations take a grave toll, not to mention committees. The man was jumpy in 1985 when he was my teacher. What might forensic anthropologists tell us about the remodeling of his bones between then and now? Or what might we learn about the rewiring of his nervous system? Retirement is a kind of release, but Gollum has worn the ring for a long, long time.
Delp is the guy who wakes up in the middle-of-the-night, too restless to sleep and too smart to turn on the television. But he is also the Johnny Carson of classrooms, never-to-be-matched. There will be too many things to miss when he leaves the classroom.
For decades, his restlessness has been a kind of protective anti-venom for his students. He scoured books, poems, movies, and songs for words to live for and die by. Bit by bit, he highlighted literature’s radical exchanges of the heart, so that we, his students, could tolerate our own brilliant experiences and terrible ideas.