The University sponsored 10 students to attend the third and final day of the Poets Forum on Saturday, Oct. 18, hosted by the Academy of American Poets at The Auditorium building of The New School in Manhattan.
The Academy, celebrating its 80th anniversary, was founded by Marie Bullock, a Parisian-born American and graduate student of the University of Paris. According to its website, the Academy strives to support all American poets during their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry.
The Chancellors Conversations on Saturday, each around 50 minutes in length, featured 12 of the 15 poets on the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. The Chancellors, according to the Academy’s website, advocate for the Academy and serve as liaisons of poetry on a global scale.
The 10 students in attendance were sponsored by the English and Writing Departments. Kate Gibbel ’15 spearheaded the organization of the trip with the help of English Department Chair Professor Sean McCann, Director of Writing Programs Anne Greene, Administrative Assistant for the English Department Liz Tinker, and Administrative Assistant for the Writing Program Sharon Washburn. The Programs Assistant for the Academy of American Poets Patricia Guzman was also involved in the process.
The day began with the first Chancellor Conversation, “A Recent Discovery.” Alberto Rios, the inaugural poet laureate of Arizona; Arthur Sze, the inaugural poet laureate of Santa Fe; and poet Jane Hirshfield each presented the work of an exceptional poet that they had recently read.
The second conversation, “The Art of Revision,” featured poet Naomi Shihab Nye, poet laureate of California Juan Felipe Herrera, and Brown University Professor C.D. Wright, who is currently teaching three master classes at Wesleyan through the Shapiro Creative Writing Center.
Wright insisted that a writer’s resistance to inhibition is paramount to works of poetic intention, but that the use of restraint and selective inhibitors is vital to revision. Nye shared the ABCs of editing: attention, being, and cutting.
During the panel, Herrera spoke about revising and outlined his 10 points of poetry.
“If you revise a poem enough times, you have a whole book,” Herrera said. “Just write one poem, revise it 50 or 60 times, and you’re ready to publish.”
Herrera elaborated on the importance of revision.
“A poem likes heat,” Herrera said. “Get rid of the beginning, get rid of the end, and see what you’ve got.”
Susannah Betts ’15 explained that the second conversation was her favorite panel at the forum.
“The panel talk on revision generated a lot of different conceptions of writing and revision of poetry: revision as writing a new poem with every draft, or revision as ‘tweezering’ out what isn’t working, or revision as a result of being within the poem, or revision involving a new poem subsuming an old poem,” Betts said.
The Forum continued with a conversation on “Translation” featuring Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan Khaled Mattawa, poet Marilyn Hacker, and Sze. Mattawa translates between Arabic and English; Hacker translates between French and English; and Sze translates between Chinese and English. The conversation revolved around the complexities of their intercultural translation projects.
The penultimate conversation, entitled “Poets Writing Prose,” featured the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College Claudia Rankine, Professor of English at Wayne State University and the University of Houston Edward Hirsch, and Professor of English at University of Pennsylvania Toi Derricotte. Rankine read from a notebook in which she had written her response to the question, “Why Prose?”
“I am not a fiction writer,” Rankine said. “I am accumulating toward a statement…a linear pressure I want you to understand…. It remains open in crucial ways.”
The final conversation, between Distinguished Writer at Rutgers University Mark Doty and Hirsch, was on “Ekphrastic Poetry.” Defining ekphrastic poetry as the poetic description of a work of art, both writers agreed that ekphrastic poetry that just tells stories of the characters in the painting is less valuable than ekphrastic poetry that uses the painting on behalf of something else. As an example, Doty brought up “Musée des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden, an ekphrastic poem on the paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Hirsch analyzed the poem before he read it aloud.
“[The poem] doesn’t set out to talk about the Bruegel,” Hirsh said. “It sets out to talk about suffering. And the subject is suffering. The Bruegel becomes the instance for him to illustrate what he wants to say about suffering. Even though the Bruegel probably…triggered the poem.”
Carly Feinman ’16 stated that her poetry has been shaped by C.D. Wright and Juan Felipe Herrera. She emphasized that an alignment with her specific academic endeavors and a general love of poetry inspired her to attend the forum.
“A huge takeaway for me is something C.D. Wright said, which is that the more you write, the more you become aware of your own creative process,” Feinman said. “The conference left me inspired to write on a more regular basis.”
Three students attended the closing for the Poets Forum in the evening. This final event featured Assistant Professor of English at the University of San Diego Jericho Brown, Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia University Dorothea Lasky, and Distinguished Professor of English at Queens College/CUNY Kamiko Hahn. Each poet read from hir recent works.
Several of the Chancellors’ books can be found at Broad Street Books.