I think it’s a rule that every blog ever created somewhere has an entry excusing the blogger for being rather quiet because they’ve just been so busy. But really, I’ve been busy. I’ve been making our new house cozier with throws and curtains and such, and have been wading through Hamlet with my eleventh-graders. Plus Halloween is coming up, so I’m on the hunt for fairy wings and volunteering at the storybook parade at my girls’ school.
Right now I have three poems submitted to two different contests. I promise to post any results. The most recent issue of Poets & Writers has a feature on promising new poets, and all of them mention running the contest gauntlet. Someday, I hope, I’ll be entering an entire manuscript, but for now, these three poems are my little ambassadors.
I’m hoping that as I teach a high volume of poetry this year that I’ll be increasingly productive and inspired myself. This past week, I started another poem, so the trend seems to be continuing thus far. Before the winter break, I’ll have taught Robert Frost, Shakespearean sonnets, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes. I’ve always been an Americanist (sorry, Shakes) so it’s definitely promising.
The Poetry Foundation has a great interview up with Elinor Wilner, a poet not previously known to me. She has a pronounced distaste for the use of the first person in poetry, both literally and figuratively, saying to her interviewer, “People, by and large, are not that interesting.” She also thinks that the preference toward the confessional “I” is an American addiction, because we are all so obsessed with ourselves and our identities and histories. The interview goes on to note that much of her poetry is grounded in historical facts and narratives, which we assume she finds more substantial and worthy of her poetic attention.
Maybe I’m part of the problem myself, but much of my work is certainly rooted in the personal, in the “I.” I am a shameless Americanist though, as far as literature, so perhaps that’s no surprise! It makes me think of poets like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and wonder if there isn’t a concealed disdain for traditionally feminine modes of communication in disavowing the personal.
What do you think (all irony intended, as I blog about rejecting the confessional)?
I remember reading once an article (somewhere, by someone, I’m sure) where the author discussed how legendary New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani loves to use the word “limn,” in all it’s splendid forms. It was actually reassuring to read how such a well-known writer also falls prey to the common trap of overusing a favorite word or phrase. Today I’m especially reassured, having noticed that I use the phrase “treasure trove” twice in two separate entries on this very page!
I started a new poem recently after I implored my students to stop treating poems like dead frogs of human cadavers, to be carefully dissected but never really interrogated. We’ll see how it goes, but I like the idea of my teaching feeding my writing, and vice versa, of course.
Also, I’m entering three poems in a contest at the end of this month– I’ll keep you posted as I revise and polish and muster up the guts to finally submit!