Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A New Year

First day of classes of the spring semester. The sun of anticipation on a gray day: one always hopes for surprises, engagement, enlightenment, at the start of something new. And usually it arrives.

It's time to start planning your application for the third annual Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writers Residency Prize. This year we are once again reading poetry manuscripts and the winner will receive $10,000, a two-month residency on the campus of Lake Forest College, and publication of their book by the &NOW imprint of Lake Forest College Press. Poets under 40 who have not published a full-length book are eligible. Please see the website for details.

There's another project percolating for which I probably will be issuing a call for work in the next few days or weeks. Watch this space!

Teaching two creative writing courses this term along with my 19th-century American lit survey. Pushing the postmodernism pretty hard in the intro course: my texts are Hazel Smith's The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing, which I've come to like a lot, not least for its being non-Americocentric (Smith is Australian); and the still very new The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing, edited by Lake Forest's own Davis Schneiderman and Robert Archambeau along with the founder of &NOW, Steve Tomasula.

In my poetry writing class I'm returning to a model that asks students to read a fair bit of contemporary poetry, as opposed to the pure workshop I did last year. The texts:
- Mike Theune, ed., Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns. I used this book last year: I like how it uses the idea of the turn to involve students with structure without getting bogged down in issues of prosody. Each chapter has its own author or authors, which makes for variety, and there's also a goodly number of sample poems.

- C.S. Giscombe, Prairie Style. I've long wanted to read Giscombe seriously and now's my chance. Plus it will be a good way to introduce students to the possibilities of prose poetry.

- Richard Greenfield, Tracer. I've taught Richard's Carnage in the past and it always draws its readers in with its tensely autobiographical apocalyptic flourishes. Tracer is more austere and I'm curious how they'll respond to it.

- Kate Greenstreet, case sensitive. Also taught this one before; a favorite for its formal variety and relative accessibility. I thought about teaching the new one—the students would probably love the videos—but this time stuck to the devil I know.

- Jennifer Moxley, Clampdown. I've written more than my share of mash notes to Moxley's writing so I won't do it again here. But I love this book, and I think my students will love it too.

- Vanessa Place and Rob Fitterman, Notes on Conceptualisms. A late addition to the syllabus in honor of Place's upcoming visit, along with a fistful of other exciting experimental writers, for the 2010 Lake Forest Literary Festival that will be taking place on our campus March 2 - 4. With any luck Vanessa will be able to make herself available to my class to talk about the book and to answer some of what I anticipate will be many questions about it.

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