Monday, April 14, 2003

If, God forbid, any of you should find yourselves in Palo Alto tomorrow night with nothing to do, I'm doing a reading at 6:30 pm here at Stanford. The reading's in the English Department's Terrace Room, which is Building 460, Room 426. It's an unusual lineup--all of the readers are English Ph.D. students: Ian Bickford, Noam Cohen, Joann Kleinneiur, Michelle Rhee, Giles Scott and myself. I say unusual because while it's obviously not unusual for there to be readings by students around here, it's usually by the Stegner fellows.

The relationship between the "critical" and "creative" sides of the English department is just as vexed here as it is in any place where there are Ph.D. and MFA programs (though the Stegner program is not, technically, an MFA program; it's more like the poetry equivalent of a post-doctoral fellowship). It's perhaps made more pronounced by the fact that at least until recently, most Ph.D. students who came here to study modern poetry came to study with Marjorie Perloff, and hence share an avant-garde, experimental orientation that's often skeptical of the aesthetic of contemporary writing programs. But by and large this doesn't erupt into anything like hostility; they just do their thing and we do ours, pretty much in ignorance of each other.

It's certainly true that almost anyone who studies modern poetry is at least a closet poet. But the way most Ph.D. programs work, there's never any formal or even informal way for grad students to share their creative work (in part because many senior faculty remain skeptical about the seriousness of institutional creative writing). So it will be interesting to see what my classmates have to offer.

No comments: