WSC to Host National Poetry Conference, July 30-31; Focus of conference on understanding, critiquing and teaching poetry
July 20, 2010 -- On July 30-31, a select group of poets and critics from across the country will convene at Western State College of Colorado (WSC) in Gunnison for a conference on understanding, judging and teaching poetry.
The conference begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 30 with a poetry reading by all the panelists in the South Ballroom of Western’s new College Center. The critical conference takes place on Saturday, July 31, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the South Conference Room of the same building.
Sponsored by Western in connection with its new low-residency master’s of fine arts (M.F.A.) program in Creative Writing, the conference is titled “The Critical Path: Charting a New Direction in Poetry Criticism.” It will draw together eminent writers such as David Yezzi, editor of "The New Criterion", and David Mason, Colorado’s recently appointed Poet Laureate.
Other participants include Ernest Hilbert, a well-known poet and the editor of "Contemporary Poetry Review"; Marilyn Krysl, poet, educator, and fiction writer; David J. Rothman, poet, teacher, and director of the poetry concentration of Western’s new M.F.A. program; and Jan Schreiber, a Boston-based poet, critic and literary editor.
According to organizers Schreiber and Rothman, the conference aims to stimulate thinking among poets and critics about the standards that should be applied in publishing, evaluating and preserving poetry.
As Schreiber puts it, “In our time there is little agreement on the basis for judgment, on whether standards are relative or absolute, or on the relation between standards of judgment and the culture of a society.”
Adding to that sentiment, Rothman explains, “Our view is that criticism of the arts is not merely an academic exercise, but rather a living practice – in magazines and publishing houses, in schools, in the life of each reader and for the public – and our goal is to focus on that practice as we explore these and other questions.”
All the poets involved in the conference have written extensively about poetry, and most have served as editors, contest judges, anthologists and in similar roles involving the identification of distinguished work from large amounts of submitted material.
Although primarily intended for teachers, critics and writers of poetry, including Western’s M.F.A. students, the conference is open to the general public and there is no charge for admission.
Both events are free and open to the public.
For more information, contact Mark Todd, (970) 943-2016, or David J. Rothman, (970) 443-3394.
Ernest Hilbert’s poems have appeared in "The New Republic", "Yale Review", "American Poetry Review", "Parnassus", "Boston Review", "Verse", "New Criterion", "American Scholar" and "London Review". He attended Oxford University, where he edited the "Oxford Quarterly". He was the poetry editor for Random House’s magazine "Bold Type" in New York City (1998-2003) and, more recently, of the "Contemporary Poetry Review" (2005-2010). He is an antiquarian book dealer in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, an archaeologist.
Marilyn Krysl is both a poet and a fiction writer. She has published four collections of stories. Her work appears in "The Atlantic", "The Nation", "The New Republic", and other journals, as well as in "Best American Short Stories 2000", "O. Henry Prize Stories", and the "Pushcart Prize Anthology". Now retired from her professorship at the University of Colorado, she currently volunteers with the Lost Boys of Sudan and with C-SAW, the Community of Sudanese and American Women.
David Mason's books include "The Country I Remember", "Arrivals", "Ludlow" (winner of the Colorado Book Award), and the memoir, "News from the Village". His work appears in such magazines as the "New Yorker", "Poetry", "Hudson Review" and the "New York Times". He teaches at Colorado College and is Poet Laureate of Colorado.
David J. Rothman is the director of the poetry concentration with an emphasis on formal verse in the new Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Western State College of Colorado. His poems have appeared in such journals as "Appalachia", "Atlantic Monthly", "Gettysburg Review", "Hudson Review", "Kenyon Review", "Light, Measure, Poetry" and "Tar River Poetry". His fourth volume of poems, "Go Big", is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. An essay on Anthony Hecht’s versecraft is forthcoming in a book from Story Line Press, and a critical bibliography of poetry handbooks is forthcoming in "Contemporary Poetry Review".
Jan Schreiber’s books include "Digressions", "Wily Apparitions", "Bell Buoys", and translations from Paul Valéry and Walther von der Vogelweide. His poems and translations have appeared in "Hudson Review", "Southern Review", "The Formalist", "Literary Imagination", "Agenda", and numerous other magazines. His criticism has been published in journals such as "Modern Occasions", "Canto", "Hellas" and "Contemporary Poetry Review".
David Yezzi’s latest book of poems is "Azores", a "Slate" best book of the year. He is editor of "The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets" and executive editor of The New Criterion.
Each speaker will present a talk for 20 – 25 minutes, followed by open conversation among the speakers and the audience. The entire day will be recorded for broadcast and transcription.
I. Establishing Canonical Standards (Jan Schreiber)
- What is known? What is assumed? What is our basis for influencing the young?
- The unrecognized prejudices of our time: What makes a poem unacceptable today that might have been much admired fifty years ago?
- How do teachers / critics / writers arrive at consensus, and if they do, can we ascribe validity to it?
II. Form as a Principle of Value (David J. Rothman)
- How does form (however defined) contribute to a poem's effect?
- Can one teach sensitivity to form?
- Bucking trends: dilemmas of writers espousing form in today's marketplace.
III. Breaking Down Genre Prejudices (David Mason)
- Poetry and narrative - can narrative and lyric expectations coexist in the same poem?
- Role of rhetoric in verse composition.
- Using larger forms - dramatic tension, character development - in verse.
IV. The Ashbery Imperative: what can one make of an indeterminate poem? (Ernest Hilbert)
- What does it mean to appreciate a poem without understanding it?
- The writer’s clues; the reader’s deductions; charms and hazards of the educated guess.
- Overtones: irrational sources of power in poetry
V. The Function of the Editor (David Yezzi)
- What governs the magazine editor's decision - sense of the audience, writer's reputation, sense of where tastes are headed, other intangibles, including reaction to the poem itself?
- State of contemporary book publishing - why university presses are opting out of poetry; role of contests; who reads the stuff anyway?
- Judging one's peers - why anthologists are least reliable regarding their own generation.
VI. Teaching Taste – Advertent and Inadvertent Biases (Marilyn Krysl)
- Taste is acquired by reading – but whose taste? Reconsidering classics and making room for interlopers
- Is the academy one generation behind the curve, and can – or should – anything be done about it? Professors embalm the avant garde they encountered as graduate students. Do poets as teachers change this pattern?
- The poet as tastemaker: creating a school