Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What Work Is, Part 5

I've been busy with my day job, grading papers, writing recommendations, "finishing" a good-sized narrative poem and otherwise getting ready to go to the AWP Conference tomorrow morning.

You know the drill:

1. Yes, I was happy to read Sven Birkerts stunningly good review of Ellen Bryant Voigt's Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006, (W.W. Norton & Company, 2007) in Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

Birkerts writes, "Voigt is a seasoned poet in full confident stride. She continues to put the muscle of her craft in the service of her steady sensuous intellect. There is finally a unity in these poems, but it's the kind we find when what had looked like a mere scatter of stars suddenly discloses the shape of a known constellation."

Ellen, of course, is the founder of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. In 1992 (as I recall) she was Poet in Residence at Hope College, and I was in a community workshop she gave. I learned two things: (a) I didn't know anything about poetry, and once I got over that--about three weeks later-- (b) that if I could get into the Warren Wilson program, Ellen Bryant Voigt could teach me what I didn't know and couldn't learn quickly enough on my own. If you want a sense of what I'm talking about, pick up a copy of The Flexible Lyric (University of Georgia Press, 1999) a collection of some of the lectures she's given during the residencies at Warren Wilson.

Ellen is the most brilliant person in America when it comes to disassembling a poem and explaining its working parts.

I'm looking forward to seeing her in Atlanta.

2. Yes, I was happy to see Rosanna Warren, Paul Mariani and Warner Berthoff come to the ramparts in response to William Logan's hatchet job on Hart Crane (Letters, NYTBR, February 25, 2007). Yes, this is a subject I've gone back to again and again on this blog.

I suppose the guillotine is out of the question.

3. Note to my students: Your mid-term grades will be posted before I leave town.

4. I don't know when I fly out of Grand Rapids, I don't know when I'm arriving in Atlanta, I couldn't tell you the name of the hotel I'm staying in, I don't know how to get from that hotel to wherever the Conference is, I haven't yet registered for the Conference, my membership in AWP expired on February 9, and oh yeah, I can't see. Other than that, everything is under control.

Travel safely, sweet readers.

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