Wednesday, February 23, 2005

An excellent, and wondefully sane, article on the Araki Yasusada imbroglio in the recent PMLA, which shows how nearly everyone on each side of the binary misses the point: authors matter sometimes, and they also don't matter sometimes. I was planning on teaching Foucault's "What's an Author?" in my Cont. Poetry Class anyway, and I think I'll assign this essay as corollary reading.

About MFA programs: I didn't go to Iowa, and I'm sure that the forces there are powerful and complex. I was in a very small workshop at Cornell, with blogger Gabe Gudding, and instead of a homogenizing force, I found that workshop only served to more clearly demarcate and divide people on issues of poetics. Gabe and I argued, agreed, had e-mail flame wars (the first draft of "Defense of Poetry" I saw was in an e-mail directed at me, impossible to win against those verbal howitzers), and in the end, respectfully and with great love for the other's project, went in different ways. As brilliant and distinct as he is, I wouldn't have even thought of writing like him, or Gina Franco, Crystal Williams or Jesse Graves or any of the other people in the workshop whose poetry I admired. Our aesthetics were already pretty clearly defined from our reading and the mentorship we'd already received as undergrads. Nor did the professors like Reginald Shepherd have a "normalizing" influence on the writing in the workshop. Us people were already too tetchy and encamped by the time they get to grad. school to submit to these kinds of forces. In my experience, you end up hearing so many conflicting opinions about your work that you're thrown, in the end, into a certain self-reliance. Or you select one or two voices and put a tentative and provisional faith in them. Certainly, if you tried to follow everybody's suggestions (I did this once or twice), tried to please the entire group, you'd end up with, basically, a white page, a series of nots. In this way, all of the acrimony is pretty useful.

Larissa Szporluk rocks; I'm excited for her reading tomorrow. Do come.

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