Friday Musings

My class last night was excellent. There are about fifteen students and they all have a really good energy. They asked lots of questions and the three hours moved quickly. I’m both pleased and relieved. A three hour block for a class can be painful if the students are not involved, so hopefully this trend will continue.

My meeting with the librarian also went well. I secured the display case for our novel display for March. I wanted to get this display up last semester, but I’m glad that the posters will be displayed along with the student reviews. I also found out about the newly revamped poetry contest that the library is sponsoring and I may end up being a judge, which is neat.

In the January issue of Poetry, there is an interesting essay by Clive James. He spends a lot of time talking about Stephen Edgar, and I wish he’d spent more time talking about the concept I’m going to excerpt here:

When reacting to a poem, the word “perfect” is inadequate for the same reason that the word “wow” would be. But it isn’t inadequate because it says nothing. It is inadequate because it is trying to say everything. On a second reading, we begin to deduce that our first reading was complex, even if it seemed simple. Scores of judgments were going on, too quickly for us to catch but adding up to a conviction—first formed early in the piece and then becoming more and more detailed—that this object’s mass of material is held together by a binding force. Such a binding force seems to operate within all successful works of art in any medium, like a singularity in space that takes us in with it, so that we can’t pay attention to anything else, and least of all to all the other works of art that might be just as powerful. We get to pay attention to them only when we recover.

I think this gets at the larger question of how do we talk about poetry? This is a very important question to me as a poet and a teacher. How do we find the language to talk about what moves us? What we respond to? I think that many students are intimidated by poetry because they don’t know how to talk about it, and is there a right and wrong way? Also, this essay addresses the issue of moving beyond the first reading of a poem. I know I’ve read poems the first time and been completely taken with them, only to find more to like upon a second reading. This also can have the reverse effect.

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