vendredi 14 mars 2008

The Real Meaning of Poetry, with temperature and supreme fictions

So in New Orleans, the temperature is very high. I would say hot, being that Sunday when I left Moncton it was snow-storming. Not an awful snow storm however. Spring is here.

Two days ago, I was in Dartmouth, Massachussetts giving lecture/readings on my poetics and Cajun poetics and Southern poetics--which provided an interesting/bizarre experience for me and my audience, who were, as you may have guessed, barely a few years younger than me.

The first class I spoke in was a Southern Literature course, where I discussed some of the main issues of the American South in poetry, i.e. sense of loss, bewilderment with contemporary society but a longing toward it, sublimity in nature qua token of a past long gone. Then I read my section of Evangeline about leaving the South. I talked about how Komunyakaa and Ammons left the South. I talked about how postmodern poetics require that the poet be at once the ambassador of a specific cultural element but must remain elliptical in his relationship to said culture. Etc. Etc. In any case, the students were impressed when I referred to the Acadian diaspora as le grand dérangement and my characterization of Pigeon Forge in Tennessee. Which could be, as one student described, "wicked hot!"

The second class was Culture and Language, to which I addressed the obvious Cajun elephant in the room. Everything was quiet, etc, until I read the entirety of my Rougarou sequence, which as you may know, is a murder mystery/epic poem told mostly from the perspective of a young gay male prostitute. The class was hushed and engaged. They even debated among themselves the ambiguous outcome of the end and their favorite voice (between the working boy narrator and the extratemporal Rougarou). Students came up to me afterward to compliment me for giving them something entertaining and touching. Students who maybe never read poetry were enthralled by a poem with admittedly hard-sell qualities (controversial characters, huge length, etc). And while the offers from U Mich and Cornell are flattering, validating, and chanceux (and the "apologies from other schools disappointing), this is really what poetry is about. Touching. Moving. Thrilling. And for this reason, I am proud to be part of a literary tradition.

The final class was more informal with me discussing the creation of a Supreme Fiction from the shards of modernism, ruin value, and Cajun culture and history. The course title was Advanced Writing and Thinking. I read from both completed sections of Evangeline and essentially answered questions about craft and poetics.

Now I am living the high life in New Orleans--visiting and wedding planning and eating. A welcome change, believe me, after being in total transit for almost 100 hours in the last two weeks.

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