Feel Free to Help Me Choose My Workshop Professor, I Have Until June 1st
Having a hard time deciding whose workshop I want to be in / which one would be the best for me. Here are my choices for instructors. There will be a poll at the end of this.
Catherine Barnett is the recipient of a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2004 Whiting Writers’ Award, the 2004 Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, and a Pushcart Prize. Her book, Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced, won the 2003 Beatrice Hawley Award and was published in spring 2004 by Alice James Books. Her poems have been published in Gulf Coast, Pleiades, The Washington Post, Barrow Street, Shenandoah, The Massachusetts Review, and The Iowa Review.
Born in New York City David Lehman was educated at Columbia University and spent two years in England as a Kellett Fellow at Cambridge University. He received his MA in 1972 (Cambridge) and his PhD in English and comparative literature in 1978 (Columbia). His books of poetry include Yeshiva Boys (2008), When a Woman Loves a Man (2005), The Evening Sun (2002), and The Daily Mirror (2000), all from Scribner. Lehman has edited The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2006), Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present (Scribner, 2003), among other collections. He has written six nonfiction books, including A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs (Nextbook / Schocken), The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets (Doubleday) and Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man (Simon and Schuster). He initiated The Best American Poetry series in 1988 and continues as the anthology’s general editor. With Star Black, Lehman originated and was co-director of the famed KGB Bar Monday night poetry series. He has written on a wide variety of subjects for numerous journals ranging from The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal to American Heritage, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, and Art in America. He has taught in the graduate writing program of the New School in New York City since the program's inception in 1996 and has served as poetry coordinator since 2003.
Meghan O'Rourke is the author of the collection of poems Halflife (W.W. Norton), a finalist for the 2008 May Sarton Award from the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and her second book of poems, Once, will be published in 2010. She is a co-poetry editor of The Paris Review and a literary critic for the online magazine Slate. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Best American Poetry, and more, and she is at work on a nonfiction book about grief. A native of Brooklyn, New York, she earned her BA from Yale University and an MFA from Warren Wilson.
Paul Violi is the author of twelve books of poems, including Overnight and The Curious Builder from Hanging Loose Press and Breakers, a selection of his longer poems, from Coffee House Press. He also published a book of prose, Selected Accidents, Pointless Anecdotes. He has received the Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, The Fund for Poetry, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and two poetry fellowships from The New York State Foundation for the Arts and two from the National Endowment for the Arts.
I'm supposed to hand in my top 2 choices by June 1st. Here are some thoughts:
I like Catherine Barnett. I was in 'a Catherine Barnett workshop' when I was at NYU. She's like a really cool mom. She wrote a recommendation for me. I gave her a $15 Starbucks gift card that was tiny. I interviewed her for a journalism class. From what I've read, her poems are probably my favorite out of the four. However, one could easily argue that I should 'take advantage' of [something] and 'experience something new' via a workshop instructor that I haven't 'had' before.
David Lehman and Meghan O'Rourke both seem important and good to have on my 'side', assuming they like me/my poetry. I was reading Meghan's book last night and I realized I have no idea what a "picture window" really is, so she could tell me about that, if nothing else.
Not sure if Paul Violi is 'right' for me right now.
I kind of feel like having a female workshop instructor for some reason.
Seems like I can't really go wrong, though.
I don't know, what do y'all think:
*UPDATE*: I have gone with 1) Meghan O'Rourke, 2) Catherine Barnett. Thank you for your help.
**UPDATE**: I am in Catherine Barnett's class. Also, Meghan O'Rourke's class got canceled.
Matthew Rohrer Interview
Let's start with the most pressing matter: Have you ever written a poem or part of a poem in your sleep? I don't mean, like, dreaming something that would later be used in a poem, but actually, in dreamworld, sitting down and writing a poem...has that ever happened to you?
Yes, definitely. But usually I can’t remember much of it when I wake up. But the feeling of writing – that’s there. Once I remember writing a poem in a dream and reading it to someone in a bookstore in the dream and it was just hugely grand and the ending built and built until it was too much to bear, and the person listening was reduced to a kind of ecstatic wonder.
But then when I woke up I could remember the end, and it was basically like:
While doing some research for this interview, I found this painting of Samuel Taylor Coleridge on wikipedia. It seems like Coleridge is on some sort of hallucinogen here. I read that Coleridge became an opium addict at some point in his lifetime, but his pupils, mouth, and general facial expression in this painting, to me, seem specifically suggestive of a hallucinogen. Any comment?
Well, that’s very funny but as far as I know which is basically having read 4 biographies of him that he never took hallucinogens or really had much access to them as I suspect most British people didn’t unless they were sailors. But he DID get involved in some serious experiments with Humphry Davy when Davy discovered nitrous oxide. They did literally liters and liters of it in Davy’s lab. There are beautiful scenes related in Richard Holmes’ amazing latest book THE AGE OF WONDER. Holmes also wrote the 2 volume biography of Coleridge. The 2nd volume of which is sad from beginning to end.
It seems like a lot of your poems take place in the summer, and, when I brought this up to you in person, you told me that "A Plate Full of Chicken" was written in like 6 or 8 weeks in the summertime. Is the summer your favorite season? Do you write more or feel more inspired in the summer? I assume you teach less in the summer, does this have anything to do with anything? Are you looking forward to this summer, do you have any special plans?
It didn’t have anything to do with teaching, because it was only in the last 3 years that I taught regularly enough for summer to have any meaning in that way. I guess I do like summer a lot, especially in New York with a small apartment you start to go crazy in the winter and in the summer you feel like you have an enormous backyard. Especially in Brooklyn. But having said that, I really hate being hot and am often really miserable in the summer. That’s where the poems in A PLATE OF CHICKEN came from, largely – a feeling that I was so miserable that I was going to stick it to the heat by showing it that I could turn its malevolent oppression into something useful. There’s also a long poem in RISE UP that I just looked at again recently that’s all about being extremely miserable in August New York heat.
You have a new book coming out on Wave soon. Is there a release date yet? I'm pretty sure I remember the name, but I don't want to screw it up. What is the name?
It’s called DESTROYER & PRESERVER and it should be out next spring.
In preparing your new book, or, really, any of your books, how do you know when you're done? Do you impose any sort of limits on yourself, or do you just go until it 'feels right'? Is this where having an editor helps?
Yes, having an editor makes all the difference for someone like me. I write a lot, and for instance for this next book I printed out everything I wanted to consider since my last book, and it was 560 pages. Obviously most of it was bad. But still, that’s a lot of pages. And so the way my books get put together is basically after enough time has passed I look through what’s there to see if there are any themes or likenesses that become apparent. And then Matthew Zapruder who’s such an amazing, intuitive editor takes a look at what I put together and comes back with another version of it. I guess kind of doing the same thing –looking for themes or things he wants to call out or rearrange.
Conversely, where does the book start? Is it in the realization that you have a more or less consistent group of poems sitting around or do you write poems with a book in mind?
Well I think a lot of poets write much less than I do, and probably write a lot more carefully, or revise more, so that at any given moment they have a smaller but much more solid body of work that is heading towards their next book. I think if you write more slowly like this, and are doing more careful work along the way, then the idea that you have a book going is much easier to see much sooner.
Something that I've been stealing from your poetry a lot recently is the use of a non-narrative sort of list of things that suddenly breaks into a more focused narrative. For example, "Sharp" from "Rise Up":
Music all day on the stereo. And the rain
in the streets, it's like I'm with friends.
It is hard not to pour a glass of wine in the morning.
I am raining. A red-tailed hawk settles
on an old antenna behind the house
and looks right into my eyes
while I'm on the phone with Ellen. Ellen
I say slowly, I'm sure you will succeed
in your endeavors. Those are
not the words I planned to say.
I was still awakening from a dream of the distant war.
Or, conversely, a narrative thread that 'devolves' into a non-narrative list. For example, "Abbot" from "A Green Light":
Other people's rules amuse me.
It's nice to be kissed without asking
for it. And dream of taking the exit off the freeway
to Buddhism. Anyone who breaks
stupid rules is a hero.
But what of a man
who willfully separates himself
from sex for the rest of his life?
There is something wrong
with him. He is like Yellowstone
Condors of eternal vigilance.
Only from a great height can he be forgiven.
I guess my question is this: how do you balance narrative and non-narrative? Logical progression and non-sequitur? I realize that there is probably no solid answer to this, that if you could definitively answer this question you would have discovered 'the secret of poetry' or be delusional or something, but do you think you could discuss how you construct a poem on a line by line basis?
I don’t think I can do that line by line. I could walk you through the poems you cited but for some reason I don’t feel like doing that. I don’t know that knowing the specifics would answer the question. But I think it’s basically that I am always very aware of a sense of balance in a poem. I just really think that there is an invisible scale beneath every poem you write, and that if you are attentive to what you’re doing and what you’ve written, that you can tell if it’s tipped too far in one way, and if that’s useful or not. Sometimes that can work, of course. And I guess the 2 sides of the balance are those things you mentioned: narrative and non-narrative. I guess it comes from my own reading. I tolerate a lot of jibber-jabber if I feel like I am also being spoken to directly and sensibly.
But it’s more complicated than this, because there are ideas or emotions that a poem can sometimes best express in a non-linear way. Linearity, when done really well, can be great. But there are just some things that linearity can’t express that well – maybe I don’t mean “linearity” but narrative. And so there are moments that demand something else. That’s where the balance comes in. Because even in the most narrative, personal, confessional poems, there will probably be things expressed that really need to be expressed non-narratively, non-personally, non-confessionally. So the balance is off in a confessional poem that never transcends that one mode. And the balance is off in a poem that is only expressing the ineffable something that the something is doing with the notion of whatever. Sometimes people explain their poems that way and it seems very sad. And imbalanced.
Anyone looking for a roommate?
About me: clean/responsible/will not get your laptop stolen
Looking for: clean/responsible/will not get my laptop stolen
When: ~June 1st
UPDATE: I'm good.
April 2010 Playlist
This got me through much of April 2010.
Seems like old news, but The Rumpus published my review of Tao Lin's "you are a little bit happier than i am".
I saw the "Magna Carta" yesterday.
I went to an Indian wedding last night. Thought about blogging about it, probably won't. The food was really spicy.
Think I slept on my penis wrong.
Do y'all avoid certain clothes when you're hungover? I think I do, but I can't tell. Haven't really thought about it much.
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AJW is the author of numerous poems and short stories, both online and in print. He makes collages here. He is from Wilmette, Illinois. He is an Eagle Scout.
Pop Serial 4
Pop Serial 3
The Broome Street Review (print)
Juked, Juked 2
NYU Prize Thing
HRM Literary/Arts Journal
HTMLGiant Author Page
Thought Catalog Author Page
People I've Interviewed:
Matthew Rohrer again
Michael Earl Craig
Harriet Alida Lye
in alphabetical order
Her Royal Majesty
Timothy Willis Sanders