First publication of the New Year!

Check out four new poems published over at the Southern Cross Review. I don’t know what I like more–being published at SCR or being sandwiched between and W. H. Auden and a Rubens painting (visit the link to see what I mean).

One of my favorite paintings is Rubens’s painting “The Allegory of Peace and War.” In fact I wrote a lengthy paper about that painting during the university years. Though I am more familiar with W. H. Auden’s poem “As I Walked Out One Evening,” I enjoy the gravity of “The Unknown Citizen” and feel a bit comfortably out of place between two great artists.

Saturday lecture review

Saturday morning’s beauty provided a wonderful backdrop to listen to Eleanor Wilner’s lecture about the conception of poems: “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove,
a poem must ride on its own melting….” (Frost)

Poems referenced included Robert Frost’s “The Woodpile” and Louise Glück’s “The Wild Iris.” I recall Denise Levertov mentioned, but I don’t recall the title of the work. I didn’t have access to the handouts that everyone seemed to be reading from.

I sat next to an open door of the Fellowship Hall and wrote a page full of notes, but as I reread them I realize my mind must have drifted a bit off topic. Maybe I was a bit distracted by the two young hipster students who brought their ceramic bowls full of crunchy cereal to the lecture and sat on the floor behind me and proceeded to consume it during the first portion of the lecture. Come on already! If you are to attend a morning lecture on poetry don’t bring crunchy granola feed and eat like cows, suck down some espresso and drag on cigarettes like true bohemians. What is wrong with the young people nowadays?

One point I noted with clarity is how the modernist poets, according to Wilner, fought the institution of formal meter of their predecessors and how the following generations of poets take for granted free verse and blank verse; poets of the 70s and 80s are blurry photocopied reproductions of the original modernist movement.

Review of Friday night’s reading

The latest volume of The American Poetry Review arrived in my mailbox Friday afternoon. So I tucked under my arm and drove off into the rain to the Fellowship Hall feeling very smart and silly at the same time. I don’t consider myself academic. So the act of trying to look smart in a room full of academics is a foolish charade on my part. Nevertheless, I did read the first few selections while waiting for the reading to begin. I’m still not sure what I think of Mary Kinzie’s poem.

Anyway, Jennifer Grotz, a poet, began the evening by reading two translations by a French poet. She reads slowly, deliberately pronouncing each word as if reading role call for a high school home room or like the Economics Teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller: “Bueller?… Bueller?… Bueller?” She bridged each poem with a bubbly, conversational introduction which the audience seemed to appreciate. Maybe her poems are better read on paper. Her work just didn’t resonate with me at all.

Danzy Senna, a novelist, read from her novel Autobody and read with drama; shifting narrator voice to character voices. She has a subtle lisp when pronouncing “innocence” and “success” and “stare.” Her narrative is captivating and populated with warm approachable characters and full of tense lines like: “the conversation went from ironic to earnest.” I really enjoyed her reading.

Brooks Haxton, poet, began with a humoristic, absurd, controversial (you had to be there to enjoy it) poem about the planning of a large mall in Syracuse. That poem pleased the audience greatly and they responded to all the right lines with loud laughter. Haxton presents his work as recitations, more or less, with the expert use of eye contact; makes one feel like each poem is a conversation or gift to listeners. I like this approach. He delivers the poems to the listener, not the pages on the lecturn.

Kevin McIlvoy read a delightful short fiction monologue from the point of view of a kid playing little league baseball. His animated presentation, complete with humming, singing, raising his left hand to catch a ball, revealed his master storytelling ability.

Review of last night’s public reading

Fellowship Hall at Warren Wilson College

A quick review of last night’s Warren Wilson College public reading at the Fellowship Hall behind the Chapel. I arrived early and chatted with a local poet who is enrolled in the MFA program. He let me read some of his poems as we discussed future Flood Fine Art Center poetry readings–more on that later.

I don’t remember the first reader. She is a novelist and, with all due respect, I couldn’t really get into her prose. It didn’t interest me in the least. I’m sure she is a good writer, but her story just didn’t engage me at all.

The highlight of the evening for me was Mark Jarman’s reading. He read from a forth coming book titled “Epistles” that evoked such lines as: “to some, bliss is when the body becomes words…” and “God has committed you to memory…” Jarman read each line as if delivering a homily; consistent, calculating the gravity of each word, line, poem. This is my first exposure to Mark Jarman so I don’t know if he always reads in that manner or not. But he reminded me of the way a clergyman reads a creed or prayer or scriptures. He doesn’t look up from his text until he is done. And in that case it is a quick glance to where his chair is located. I’m drawn to his new material and look forward to reading his book when it is made available.

I anticipated hearing Stephen Dobyns but there was a change in schedule. I notice Mr. Dobyns isn’t reading at all. I hope he is still doing his lecture on “The Nature of Metaphor.”

Anyway, it was a pleasure to listen to Percival Everett read from a new manuscript–a non sequential novel. Mr. Everett displays a keen wit with ideas and words and reads through his work rather quickly–almost in a manner that suggests he is reading it more for himself that the audience–that sometimes I felt like I missed essential parts of his story. So it was profound when he stumbled over a word, paused for an long silence, and announced “sorry, I just found a typo and I don’t have a pencil to correct it.” He laughed and continued reading at the same pace as before the discovery of a typo. I’ve only recently been introduced to his work and am interested in reading more of it.

UPDATE: MFA Program Public Schedule

Updated schedule
As stated, the schedule is subject to change. However, Amy Grimm, of Warren Wilson College, just e-mailed me an updated schedule for the next two weeks.

I’ll post something about last night’s reading later today.

The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College
Public Schedule – Winter 2007

The public is welcome to attend the morning lectures and evening readings in fiction and poetry offered during the Warren Wilson College Master of Fine Arts Program for Writers’ winter residency. Events last approximately one hour. Admission is free. For more information, call the MFA Office:
(828) 771-3715.

Readings will begin at 8:15 pm in the Fellowship Hall behind the Chapel unless indicated otherwise.

The schedule is subject to change.

READINGS – 8:15pm
by MFA faculty and graduating students

Friday, January 5
Jennifer Grotz, Kevin McIlvoy, Brooks Haxton, Danzy Senna

Saturday, January 6
Victor LaValle, Betty Adcock, Megan Staffel, Steve Orlen

Sunday, January 7—in Gladfelter, Canon Lounge
Rick Barot, Adria Bernardi, Marianne Boruch, Robert Boswell

Monday, January 8, 5:30-7:00pm
Reception and faculty reading at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street, Asheville

Tuesday, January 9
Charles D’Ambrosio, Tony Hoagland, David Haynes, Ellen Bryant Voigt

Wednesday, January 10
Maurice Manning, Debra Spark, Martha Rhodes, Peter Turchi

Thursday, January 11
Graduating student readings: Leslie Blanco, Thad Logan, Anna Clark, Kathy Alma Peterson,
Jason Githens

Friday, January 12 (4:30pm, followed by Graduation Ceremony)
Graduating student readings: Jeneva Stone, Catherine Brown, Catherine Williamson, Bora Reed

Faculty Lectures – Winter 2007
The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College
In the Fellowship Hall behind the College Chapel unless indicated otherwise.

Friday, January 5, 10:30am
DEBRA SPARK: Size Matters

Feel like you’re writing little stories—domestic dramas or workingman’s woes—when you should be attempting something…ahem…bigger? Something more in keeping with your political outrage and general horror when you read the daily newspaper? After all, isn’t the great fiction of our day about the great crises of our day? Or shouldn’t it be? Well, holy Mrs. Dalloway, maybe the problem isn’t your lack of ambition, but how you’re thinking about size. This will be a lecture on magnitude in fiction, on three, maybe four, novels in which the principal characters intersect with something significantly larger than their selves, and not in the way that all fiction does this—the individual as a representative of the whole, the world globbing itself in a drop of dew—but through a true intersection. How do the novels incorporate the big world and its big concerns, while avoiding the obvious pitfalls of a historical or overtly political novel?

Saturday, January 6, 10:30 am
ELEANOR WILNER: “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove,
a poem must ride on its own melting….” (Frost)

A talk about the crucible of the imagination, its transforming powers, how a poem finds its own way as it goes, and the different ways that poets may conceive of that “melting.”

Sunday, January 7, 10:30am
KEVIN McILVOY: Making, Masking, and
Gladfelter Hall, Canon Lounge Unmasking “God” in Fiction

In this lecture we’ll take up the uniquely challenging methods of portraying “God” as a figure in fiction. Leo Tolstoy’s “Master and Man” will be our primary focus, but we will also refer to “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.”

Tuesday, January 9, 10:30am
RICK BAROT: The First Herbert

At the January 2006 residency, Jen Grotz presented a wonderful primer on Zbigniew Herbert and his poetry of “stratagems” and “crimes.” In this lecture, I’ll discuss the work of George Herbert—the ingenious formal stratagems which are signatory of his poems, and the passionate crimes of doubt that is the subject of those poems. Herbert lived from 1593 to 1633, deep in the metaphysical current of English Poetry. He has often been thought of as the minor poet among the metaphysicals. He is not minor. The poems are feats of engineering, as inventively modern as microchips. And they seem modern, too, in their unruly interiorities. The believer in the full flush of his belief feels a “strong regard and awe,” Herbert says. We’ll look at how that “strong regard” led to Herbert’s rigorous, beautiful poems.

Wednesday, January 10, 10:30am
BROOKS HAXTON: Else Lasker-Schüler

This lecture will locate the German Jewish poet, Else Lasker-Schüler in her time and place, present details of her biography, in its cultural and political context, discuss her vision, and offer new translations of a number of her poems.

Thursday, January 11, 10:30am
STEPHEN DOBYNS: The Nature of Metaphor

Friday, January 12, 9:30am

Emily Dickinson wrote: Prayer is the little implement
Through which men reach
Where presence is denied them.
They fling their speech

By means of it in God’s ear;
If then He hear,
This sums the apparatus
Comprised in prayer.

“If then He doesn’t hear,” one could add, “This sums the apparatus /Comprised in poetry.”
My lecture will consider some similarities in the construction of poetry and prayer. There is no advanced reading required; a handout will be provided.

Friday, January 12, 10:45am
ADRIA BERNARDI: The China Night-Light and the Bottle-Tree: Visual Image and Noise in Eudora Welty

“. . . I know equally well that the bottle-tree appearing in the story is a projection from my imagination; it isn’t the real one except in that it is corrected by reality. The fictional eye sees in, through and around what is really there.”
“Finding a Voice,” in One Writer’s Beginnings

The movement between the inner and the outer, and the primacy of the visual image, are central to the poetics of Eudora Welty. The title of her collection of essays, The Eye of the Story, places the visual image and the act of seeing centrally to her creative process.

I’ve been considering Welty stories in terms of this progression from a Rilke poem, “And I would like to listen in and listen out into you, into the world, into the woods.” The progression, from “To Say Before Going to Sleep,” involves movement from the internal to the external on the behalf of the other. In the case of Welty’s stories, the progression involves a narrator looking into a character, looking out through that character, into the world, or into the metaphorical woods of that character. Rapidly, sometimes in the course a single paragraph, the reader will listen into the depths, only to then shift into or perceive an active world: maybe little gestures of kindness or bravery, more likely pettiness, half-truths, lies, mockery, cowardliness, cruelty—variations of behavior by, as Katherine Anne Porter called them, “Miss Welty’s ‘little human monsters.’” With another quick shift, the story may then enter that same character’s metaphorical woods. Welty’s narrators see and listen into in all of these four places on behalf of a wide spectrum of others.

I’ll be considering the visual images at the transition points where the point of view or level of consciousness shifts. I’m exploring whether the Rilke progression may be useful in considering one’s own work, and how it is that the visual image offers the opportunity to move into another way of seeing, thus finding another place within the story. I’ll be talking about the sensory images of sound in the Welty stories, specifically, those that relate to noise. As in the Rilke poem, visual and aural images sometimes occur together in the stories at key points. Primarily, I’ll be talking about “Death of a Traveling Salesman.” I’ll also refer to “No Place for You, My Love,” “A Memory,” “June Recital,” “Where is the Voice Coming From?” and her essay, “Place in Fiction.”