Today began with a seminar by Peter Meinke which seemed to have been better-planned for a small group of poets than the entire student body courtesy of a last-minute cancellation of the opposing talk on experimental fiction. Meinke’s views on poetry are a bit opposed to mine. I stand more with Charles Bernstein, who wrote in “Against National Poetry Month as Such”:
The path taken by the Academy’s National Poetry Month, and by such foundations as Lannan and the Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest, have been misguided because these organizations have decided to promote no poetry but the idea of poetry, nd the idea of poetry too often has meant almost no poetry at all. Time and time again we hear the official spokespersons tell us they want to support projects that give speedy and efficient access to poetry and that the biggest obstacle to this access is, indeed, poetry, which may not provide the kind of easy reading required by such mandates.
The solution: find poetry that most closely resembles the fast and easy reading experiences of most Americans under the slogans—Away with Difficulty! Make Poetry Palatable for the People! I think particularly of the five-year plan launched under the waving banners of Disguise the Acid Taste of the Aesthetic with NutriSweet Coating, which emphasized producing poetry in short sound bites, with MTV-type images to accompany them, so the People will not even know they are getting poetry.
The afternoon workshop was the “wildcard workshop” which gave us an opportunity to spend some time in an intimate setting with a different faculty member than was our usual mentor. I chose Maile Chapman, largely because of how much I was intrigued by her narrative point of view choices in Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto. I’m not entirely sure what brought the other eleven students, but the size of the group implied that somewhere, there were one or more mentors with empty or nearly-empty rooms.
The afternoon seminar was Arthur Flowers, speaking largely about Zora Neale Hurston in something that was half lecture half performance. There was a great deal of energy about it and I look forward to hearing his reading tomorrow.
The evening’s readings came from Josip Novakovich and Don Morrill, but since I’m writing this well past my bed-time, I’ll say little more than intrigued readers should read their books rather than the summaries of a weary grad student.