Friday, January 16, 2004

Reading Report on Peter Gizzi in Santa Cruz last night and Ending on a Note about SC

Beginning with an informal Q&A/reception with mostly undergraduate creative writing students, Peter answered such questions as "Who do both cars and death appear so frequently in your poetry?" To which he answered "I don't write about anything, really, I write into, through and out of things, like I'm a political subject, a citizen...I don't write about Pres. Bush or the war but I write about being baffled by such things. I write from a sense of bafflement."

Upstairs to faithful old Kresge 159 (the room at UCSC where all the readings are held) and a standing room only crowd what must've been nearly 150+ in attendance. Luckily I had set aside seats in the second row for Dan Fisher, myself, Kasey got in there and some old friends from my UCSC days.

A warm but mostly factual introduction by Nate Mackey "If you'll forgive me, I'm going to take some language from sports 'Man...this guy can write!.'"

Peter begins with a new poem, the title of which is slipping my mind here, a continuation of his reworking of the "conditional if" most present in the poem Chateau If from both FIN AMOR, which I published, and in the new full-length collection; "If love if then if now if the flowers of if the conditional if the arrows of the condition of if..." He said "I thought I was done with that but I suppose not but hopefully I soon will be." He then read from the book, beginning at the beginning and ending at the end. The "suite" of poems, A History of the Lyric is phenomenal, just phenomenal.

We (Dan Fisher & I) realized how Peter says the same thing at each of his readings, almost to the point of it being humorous. "Edgar Poe...That's what they call Edgar Allan Poe in France, I think it's more interesting, he sounds like a gunfighter." "This is a Santa Cruz poem, The Deep End, what I affectionately called Santa Cruz..." And so on.

If you don't yet own a copy of Some Values of Landscape and Weather (Wesleyan) you'd damn well better get one. It's really one of the finest books written in the past few years, or ever, really.

Santa Cruz is a sad place now in relation to poetry. Yes, there were a LOT of people in attendance, but mostly, they were forced to attend as part of a new conglomerate creative writing introduction course with something like 100 students in a class. It seems as if there is no one teaching poetry workshops any more, as if the students are walking around aimlessly without direction. Under Gizzi, UC Santa Cruz breathed poetry, was organized. There would be poets sitting in the courtyard at Kresge, smoking and talking poetry, and Peter would often be talking with them. Now it is empty. Kasey doesn't teach workshops, which is a major oversight or rather, failure on the part of the creative writing dept. But he's there. And Alli is there with him. All in all, Alli was the only serious poet/student I saw. Maybe that's my oversight? I'm not sure. But it felt very sad to be there and have it be so lacking in life. Those of us who were lucky enough to get degrees from Santa Cruz between the years of 1995 and 2001 really have something to be thankful for. We passed into, through and out of one of the greatest learning environments for poetry that, as far as I know, has ever existed.

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