BA, University of Massachusetts-Amherst. MFA, Columbia University. Author of the long poem, The New World, winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award Series in poetry; A World That Will Hold All the People, essays on poetry and politics; Today: 101 Ghazals (2008); the long poem, Dialogue With the Archipelago (2009); and fiction published in The Kenyon Review, The American Voice, and The Paris Review. Recipient of The Kenyon Review Award for Literary Excellence in the Essay and of grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation. SLC, 1994–
In this class, we will begin to investigate the mysteries of poetic form via the abecedarium, blues, ghazal, haiku, lipogram, sonnet, villanelle, random integer generators, and the I Ching—and via questions like: What is form? Is it separable from content? Is it a fascistic imposition of order on the freedom of chaos? What’s the relationship between randomness and form? Do its prototypes exist in a transcendental realm beyond the physical senses? (Is this what Plato meant when he described poetry as “concerned with something third from the truth”?) Did it disappear in English poetry of the United States with Walt Whitman? Or with T. S. Eliot? Is what’s called free verse formless? Is form “old” and formlessness “new”? Is language itself a form? You’ll be asked to memorize, do two readings, and make a final portfolio of 10 pages of formal poetry that you’ve read over the course of the term and 10 pages that you’ve written.
“The known universe has one complete lover, and that is the greatest poet.”—Walt Whitman
This course, a semester-long variation on the theme of the traditional poetry workshop, will focus on acquiring the ways and means of Whitman’s complete lover via the study of great poetry. En route, we will read aloud, discuss particular topics (e.g., line breaks, punctuation, truth), and do various tuning and strengthening exercises. Conference time will be devoted to student work. Students will also be asked to compile an anthology and a chapbook collection of original poetry for class distribution, to memorize, and to participate in two class readings over the course of the term. The only prerequisites are a curiosity about all poetry, not just one’s own, and a commitment to undertake whatever labors are necessary to write better on the last day of class than on the first.