Saturday, January 17, 2004

So, after a response from Erika Meitner, new visiting asst.

Prof of literature (primarily, I take it, poetry) at UCSC, I now feel inclined to further explain my obvious oversight in stating that the poetry scene at UCSC is "sad" as I put it. My observation was informed, and it was falacious, primarily by comparing nostalgia with what I saw or, rather, didn't see. What I saw were students prepared with questions, reading along, albeit from their class reader, in Some Values of Landscape and Weather during Peter's reading. There was a buzz in the room. It was like the quote-un-quote prodigal son had returned, though he had returned to neices and nephews that hadn't yet been born when he frist left.

What I missed, what made the picture exude sadness, was the seeming lack of knowledge of past and current poetic communities and, if it was in fact there, a dearth of energy being put into community building. As Kasey mentioned, "[Peter] and his spouse [Elizabeth] Willis are two of the most benevolently powerful forces at work in contemporary poetry.? We need more community-builders like them!" Emphasis on "community-builders!" What Peter instilled in us as young, wayward and aspiring poets was that we first needed to be aware of our poetic heritage and second, we needed to band together as brothers & sisters fighting for the same cause. What happened was Geoffrey Dyer, Eli Drabman, Robert Paredez and myself really took this to heart. We became what our peers called "Peter's Boys" because we were thirsty for poetry and for learning and for new experiences whether it be poetry, visual art, music, film, theory, fiction ad infinitum and there was a fountain from which we drank. The girls in the program, somewhat in reaction to us boys, produced "Drugstore Makeup," a one issue journal of most all the female poets in the program and held an outdoor reading, with a megaphone, costumes and it was really amazing. It was a spectacle of substance and assertion. They formed their parallel community, and though these two burgeoning groups of young poets weren't necessarily "exclusive" -- as we did study together, hang out together, sleep together, etc.-- we were competitive. Geoff, Eli and myself moved on to Mills, to work with Liz Willis and Stephen Ratcliffe, and we received the best poetic education money could buy. Needless to say, my sadness as it were, was because I didn't see our dopplegangers, I didn't feel the friendly and constructive competition and I didn't really observe the "community." I'm sure they're there and I'm sure they're working just as hard as we did. I didn't mean to assert that poetry was gone at UCSC, just that I didn't see what I had remembered being there. For that, I apoligize. But, Erika, please take a page from Peter's book (not that I know you haven't already) show your kids poetic communities, show them how mimeo-magazines were really just friends publishing friends, show them The Spicer Circle, The New York School (all its generations), L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, The Beats, hell, even The New Brutalists. Show them these and they will find theirs.

No comments:

Post a Comment