Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Coming back from MLA, I'm reminded of a quote from Blazing Saddles, when Hedley Lamarr says, "My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention." Too often, really, I'm Taggart when he replies, "Ditto." But, in this case, talking about writing poems and teaching poems is always energizing. I come away with a zillion ideas for new poems and almost as many ideas for classes. The poems will write themselves, or they won't, but ideas I'm spitballing for teaching include:

The poem of invective: the classically cantankerous tradition of laying down the smack on one's enemies, ex-lovers, fellow poets, and so on, would be a lot of fun to trace from Catullus down through the Renaissance and to contemporary poets, slam poets, rappers, etc. Prosody would be an important consideration. I'm not sure an entire workshop could be sustained on this but a kind of workshop/survey hybrid would work, I think.

Poetry of the body: for all poetry's immateriality, not being cast in bronze or carved from stone, it is in many ways one of the most bodily of all the arts with poets speaking of the line as a unit of breath, poetry's rhythms that of everyday speech or the beat of the heart, which are all debatable assertions, but it is an art that is entirely biological: it arises from the strange chemistries that are the mind. Franz Wright refers in one poem to the brain as being "sentient meat." That horrifyingly apt phrase set me to thinking. This is all preface to a course on the different ways to regard the body in poems: Whitman's body electric, some Neruda, Lucia Perillo's The Body Mutinies, Tom Andrews' The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle. And so on. Still lots to think about on this one.

And so on. Don't hold me to any of this. Prices subject to change without notice.


Sandra said...

Tom Andrews! What a wonderful and under-recognized poet. After his death, his mother donated copies of The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle to UVA, so I was given a free copy in workshop. Some days, I feel like poetry of the body is all I have...

Dr. S said...

A Poetry of the Body course could be amazing, and could also be a workshop/survey hybrid. I can imagine students where I teach flipping out for this one.

Anne said...

D.A. Powell's workshop in Provincetown last summer was on "Writing the Body" (and it was terrific, with some great readings & writing exercises). He'd be a good poet to add to your list, and if you'd be interested in a list of what we read that week, I'd be glad to pass it along to you.

The poem-of-invective class would be hellacious fun, I think!

Penultimatina said...

Paul, I'm teaching a Poetry of the Body Craft & Theory course next semester (for the NEOMFA) and we are using your book as one of our readings. In fact, I am working on that syllabus right now!


Anonymous said...

The invective idea is great. There are SO many. James Galvin, for one. Lots of our peers. Most of Josh Bell's Ramona stuff is love poem/threat. Eliot's Wedding Vows--does that count? Cate Marvin? Catie Rosemurgy. Some fabulous poems in Sarah Perrier's chapbook that won the Wick a few years ago. (She'll have a book very soon if not already.)

Anyway, would love to confer or see a syllabus. Students would dig this, I think.

Your Philly pictures nearly choked me up. Sweet old days. I miss them.

Good luck with everything.

Anonymous said...

Tom Andrews: Do yourself the favor, and do the whole enchilada: Random Symmetries: his collected (and Codeine Diary, his memoir). Andrews' original manuscript for The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle was both his book The Brother's Country and Hemophiliac's Motorcycle, but these were broken up into two manuscripts after his win at the NPS.

The Random Symmetries book also includes his final work in draft originally titled "Gospel" and now called “Temptations of St. Augustine" and a lot of his "cinema verite' work.

BUT: The original Hemophiliac's Motorcycle book from Iowa DOES have a photo of Tom on the cover in his motorbike, in his "Powered by Christ" jersey: not to be missed.

And his nonfiction memoir Codeine Diary is correlative, as well as an awesome read.

(Codeine Diary (the memoir) is not the prose piece of the same title which serves as the final section of The Hemophiliac’s Motorcycle, but another book entirely, a nonfiction memoir written at the request of an agent after the publication of “Codeine Diary” the prose poem appeared in Harper’s). It’s a very good example of self-avoiding random walking: the kind of thought and expansion that he so loved.

He was singular.