Author Bio

Poetry: Ownership & Understanding

posted: 5.21.09 by archived

by Nick Richardson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux put a lot of energy into their poetry blog, The Best Words in their Best Order, this past April—it’s worth checking out. Their interview with Publisher’s Weekly poetry editor Craig Teicher specifically caught my attention:

Excerpt

FSG: You teach Creative Writing at Pratt and Columbia. I did my time in an MFA program, where I taught a few undergraduate courses in poetry. In my experience it seems fairly easy to get students excited about sharing their own work, but not so easy to get them excited about critiquing their colleagues and published works of poetry. Do you have this problem when you teach?

CT: I teach mostly undergrads with whom, I’m grateful to say, I don’t have that problem. Though I will say I’m a big believer in the notion that, for a poet, anything one does is done to enrich or broaden one’s own poems, so when I teach published poetry to my students, and even when I’m leading a workshop, I’m always urging my students to pretend they had written whatever is on the table, to try to read it as if they were spontaneously thinking the work under consideration at that moment.

What do you think about temporarily claiming ownership of a poem under analysis? I can certainly see how it’d be an interesting thought experiment…a sort of literary method acting to help students get into the poem. I’m also hesitant, though; the poet in me feels like it may be an overly aggressive pedagogical tactic.

Be sure to check out the whole interview at The Best Words in their Best Order!

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Nick Richardson is an associate editor at Bedford/St.Martin’s. He holds an MA in Literary and Cultural Theory from Boston College and has published three books (two poetry, one prose)…exhibiting what poet Andrei Codrescu has called “a fresh sort of daring in the overstrained broth of contemporary American poetry.” He is also the publisher of A Mutual Respect Books and Music, an underground chapbook press operating out of Brooklyn, NY.

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