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The Poetry Lesson Hardcover – September 5, 2010
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"Intro to Poetry Writing is always like this: a long labor, a breech birth, or, obversely, mining in the dark. You take healthy young Americans used to sunshine (aided sometimes by Xanax and Adderall), you blindfold them and lead them by the hand into a labyrinth made from bones. Then you tell them their assignment: 'Find the Grail. You have a New York minute to get it.'"--The Poetry Lesson
The Poetry Lesson is a hilarious account of the first day of a creative writing course taught by a "typical fin-de-siècle salaried beatnik"--one with an antic imagination, an outsized personality and libido, and an endless store of entertaining literary anecdotes, reliable or otherwise. Neither a novel nor a memoir but mimicking aspects of each, The Poetry Lesson is pure Andrei Codrescu: irreverent, unconventional, brilliant, and always funny. Codrescu takes readers into the strange classroom and even stranger mind of a poet and English professor on the eve of retirement as he begins to teach his final semester of Intro to Poetry Writing. As he introduces his students to THE TOOLS OF POETRY (a list that includes a goatskin dream notebook, hypnosis, and cable TV) and THE TEN MUSES OF POETRY (mishearing, misunderstanding, mistranslating . . . ), and assigns each of them a tutelary "Ghost-Companion" poet, the teacher recalls wild tales from his coming of age as a poet in the 1960s and 1970s, even as he speculates about the lives and poetic and sexual potential of his twenty-first-century students. From arguing that Allen Ginsberg wasn't actually gay to telling about the time William Burroughs's funeral procession stopped at McDonald's, The Poetry Lesson is a thoroughly entertaining portrait of an inimitable poet, teacher, and storyteller.
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-J.C. Hallman, Quarterly Conversation --J.C. Hallman, Quarterly Conversation
Faced with time and mortality--the quintessential poetic subjects--Codrescu does what great artists have done for millennia: He tells stories, writes poems, and, yes, he teaches --The New Orleans Times-Picayune
As he goes through this three-hour Sorting Hat exercise, the professor sometimes feels great waves of tenderness for his students' youth, intelligence, and promise. --The Chronicle of Higher Education
Andrei Codrescu's new book is a small comic masterpiece. It is so funny that I laughed out loud. The Poetry Lesson is a delightful read--but also a disturbing portrait of academe today.
--Marjorie Perloff, author of the Vienna Paradox: A Memoir
From the Author
After 25 years of teaching, I revealed a secret method of making better human beings in my new book, "The Poetry Lesson," which I am advertising shamelessly here, because I asked my Ghost-Companion, Blaise Cendrars, what I should do, and he said, on page 152 of his "Complete Poems": "A banker tells us all about an artificial egg factory on the outskirts of Bordeaux." Now I'm no banker, but even I know that laying the artificial eggs of advertising is the chief occupation of public persons today. I have therefore laid this before you. It beats commenting on the upcoming elections, or other nonpoetic horrors that will decide what happens to us in the future. Poetry doesn't care about the future: it already knows everything.
- Publisher : Princeton University Press; 1st edition (September 5, 2010)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 128 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0691147248
- ISBN-13 : 978-0691147246
- Item Weight : 0.988 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.75 x 0.75 x 8.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,087,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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confused his own with Steinbeck. Sometimes, an author handles success poorly. Clearly, this is the case with The Poetry Lesson. I hope Mr. Codrescu will find his way back to the clever, insightful writing that he has shown in the past.
Why might this book be expensive? Because, if you are to take poetry seriously, according to his list of the Ten Rules of Poetry (not to be confused with his list of the Ten Muses of Poetry), you should run out and get, among other things a goatskin notebook (for writing down dreams) and a Mont Blanc fountain pen. Sure this is funny and the cost is beyond what most college students can pay, but the real message here is that a) you, yes you, can become a poet if you aspire to that and b) if you do, you must honor the craft and use the best tools possible.
The only problem with this book is its brevity. He doesn't tell us, "what happens next" during the semester. All we know is that we would love to be there in that place (New Orleans) in that class, with that teacher for the whole semester and then some. Is this a send up of academia, as some of the publisher's reviews suggest? Yes, in many places. But also it might just be a peek at what a wondrous course from Codrescu--on anything--might be like.
Get the book, invest in the goatskin notebook, and consider buying the Mt. Blanc fountain pen. Would a Mt. Blanc rollerball do? Maybe but Codrescu seems to be a bit of a stickler. Oh yes, and assign yourself a Ghost Companion, a poet to consult not just on poetry issues but on all issues of life. Must the poet be dead? No! Here Codrescu is a bit relaxed. Dead or Alive. Good luck on the final exam!