Poetry waits for no one.
Our seminar on poetry is set to begin in late January, but john began hosting readings in the jail almost immediately after we agreed to the course. Today the men were kind enough to let me sit in while they read. I was there three hours; there wasn’t an awkward silence to be had.
The writers are incredible, the enthusiasm is higher than anything I’ve ever seen in a classroom, and “reading” is not an adequate word for their performances. And when I say enthusiasm is high, I mean the participants showed up with notebooks full of writing, and wrote poems in the margins throughout the reading, all while giving supportive comments to others as they read their own work. Then they read the poems they’d written in the margins. The men appear to be writing constantly and about everything. I will write more on this soon.
If you read this site (about 100 of you these days), you know Poetry is one of the few periodicals I read consistently and on repeat. For years I’ve relied on Poetry as a connection to contemporary writing that is portable, accessible to students, and geographically unfettered. I left the jail this afternoon with the overwhelming sense that to see poetry as it is today, at its most immediate and innovative, one has to be willing to go local and to confront the ways we fetter the few bright clear young voices that exist in American letters.
David Biespiel is wrong. Americans are reading. More than that: they are writing, and they have everything to say about their local and national landscapes. He simply doesn’t have access to them, and they don’t have access to means of publication.
As a writer and reader I’m incredibly inspired. As a teacher, very intimidated. Our VCU students are going to show up the third week in January and have their asses handed to them on the page. I hope they’re ready.