poetry and difficulty

We started discussing poetry section in my intro to literature class. I am using individual collections for all the genres, but for poetry I am using an anthology (Allen's New American Poetry) and we will read Lisa jarnot's Ring of Fire in a few weeks.

Class participation was really quite good today. The students responded well to Duncan's "An Owl is Only a Bird of Poetry" and "My Mother would be a Falconress." I just read an essay by Peter O'Leary called "American Poetry and Gnosticism" (it's in the book _The World in Time and Space_ edited by Joseph Donahue and Edward Foster). It was great timing. We ended up talking about poetry and gnosticism a little. We talked a lot about the mystical tradition(s) and poetry. They seemed to get the idea of gaps via comparing poetry and newspaper writing and the non-rational versus the irrational. Most of the students got the hang of close reading and finding patterns in the text (recurring images, lines, sounds, ideas). "An Owl is Only a Bird of Poetry" worked really after reading "My Mother would be a Falconress." The students found links between the two poems (in particular, language as a grounding and a flight). At the end of class we hit on Poetry as pure sound and as experience. They are reading Jack kerouac and Jackson Mac Low for Thursday with an oral presentation by two students on American Zen Buddhism.

I have taught a number of into to lit and intro to poetry classes with the assumption that "postmodern' "experimental" texts were for more advanced students. But the idea of difficulty and advanced needs serious examination. Most of the students over the years had a lot harder time discussing and connecting with more mainstream poetics.

However, I do realize some background, some context is very helpful in introducing these poets (some mainstream poets may not need any background/context to understand their uses of language).

I do wish the revised version of The New American Poetry retained its groupings (black mountain school, beat etc.) Despite the potential straightjacket of groupings, I think they offer a lot of insight into obsessions etc.

I made myself bald and I am a new babe! Bald feels good in this humidity.

The World in Time and Space