We’ve created a three-part mini-course/sampler of metapoems — one proto-modern, one modern, one postmodern. Listen to a brief audio introduction and then watch three video recordings of several of us working through close readings. The readings are meant to be suggestive rather than complete or definitive. Our concern was to teach ourselves something about the metapoem. The metapoem of course is a poem about poetry, a poem that is somehow aware of itself as a thing made of letters and words. We wanted to choose three poems — otherwise different in so many ways — that are each about reading and/or writing. Poems about the reading of poems. Poems about poets reading. Poems about their own inscribing. Poems that use reading as an allegory for loving, and loving as an allegory of understanding. Poems that cannot be understood topically (thematically) unless first one understands the ways in which they are about themselves — about the words they deploy, about the love or loving of words felt as they are being written. About, as Harryette Mullen puts it, “the secret acrostic of a lover’s name” — a name you will discover as you read the very poem encoding that secret in its alphabetical existence — what Wallace Stevens in “Large Red Man Reading” calls “the literal characters.”
1. listen to a brief audio introduction 2. read Emily Dickinson’s “We learned the Whole of Love” 3. watch video discussion of Dickinson's “We learned the Whole of Love” 4. read Wallace Stevens’s “Large Red Man Reading” 5. watch video discussion of Stevens’s “Large Red Man Reading” 6. read two pieces from Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary 7. watch video discussion of two pieces from Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary
In 2009 and again in 2010, I invited six poets — each year, so twelve total — to teach one poem each to high-school juniors and seniors. Each session lasted twenty minutes. And we preserved all twelve sessions as video and audio recordings. Go here to watch or listen to them. The poems were:
1. John Ashbery, "This Room" 2. Erin Moure, "The Frame of the Book" 3. Harryette Mullen, "Trimmings" 4. John Keats, "[This living hand]" 5. Yvor Winters, "At the San Francisco Airport" 6. William Carlos Williams, "The Last Words of My English Grandmother" 7. Lorine Niedecker, "[I married...]" 8. Robert Creeley, "The Sentence" 9. Helen Chasin, "The Word Plum" 10. Frank Sherlock, "Wounds in an Imaginary Nature Show" 11. Harryette Mullen, "Zombie Hat" 12. Basho, selected haiku; John Ashbery, "37 Haiku"
The Darkness of the Present: Poetics, Anachronism, and the Anomaly Steve McCaffery 6 x 9 · 256 pages ISBN: 978-0-8173-5733-7 · $34.95 $24.47 paper ISBN: 978-0-8173-8642-9 · $34.95 $24.47 ebook
“This book raises important ethical/political issues for the practice of art in the twentieth century. The Darkness of the Present calls them to rigorous attention in a series of critical studies. It finishes in a deliberate move to stand back, in order to reflect on the issues from a cool critical vantage, like Tennyson’s poet at the end of The Palace of Art.”—Jerome McGann, author of Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web and Are the Humanities Inconsequent?: Interpreting Marx’s Riddle of the Dog Google boosk preview here.