September 1989 Cover Image

The State of the Art: Contemporary Poetry II: On Coroners, Critics, & Poets

Elizabeth Tornes
No sane medical examiner would sign a death certificate without a corpse, yet Joseph Epstein commits this very indiscretion in "Who Killed Poetry?" To his question I would reply, poetry is only dead for those who, like Mr. Epstein, prefer their poets safely embalmed and clearly labeled "Great Poet. Do Not Disturb."
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Helms Amendment Yokes Censorship to Federal Support of Arts & Humanities

Bruce Weigl
This past summer Congress took several measures to reprimand the National Endowment for the Arts for its indirect funding of two traveling art exhibits. The NEA had disbursed a total of$45,000 in grants which went to the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA); these organizations, in turn, financed controversial exhibits which featured the works of the late Robert Mapplethorpe, a photographer, and Andres Serrano, an artist who makes mixed media assemblies.
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The State of the Art: Contemporary Poetry II: Poetry Live

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Leslie Adrienne Miller
According to some, only academic careerists care for poetry; but I was lucky enough to be exhilarated by an experience that gave me hope that poetry is still a lively, democratic, and broadly public art, an art which certainly can thrive outside the academy. My experience was simply this: I saw a classroom of high school students fall in love with a poet.
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The State of the Art: Contemporary Poetry II: On Epstein's Syndrome & The Immortality Rate

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Lois M. Welch
In 1955, I hand-copied a poem out of Seventeen magazine into my little notebook of precious poems (where Marianne Moore's "Modern Poetry" occupied an honored spot, along with other poems by unfamiliar names). Last year I discovered this notebook in my archives and, riffling through, found I'd had the prescient good taste to copy an early poem by Sylvia Plath.
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The State of the Art: Contemporary Poetry II: Ode to the Boisterous Multitudes

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Daniela Gioseffi
Joseph Epstein's essay, "Who Killed Poetry?", has all the faults and many of the virtues that respondents pointed out in the last issue of AWP Chronicle. But in the final, sad appraisal, Epstein is a narrow minded Modernist, an academic upbraiding writers for being academic. He also seems to long for the men's clubs and antique anthologies of yesteryear.
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An Interview with Diane Wood Middlebrook: Anne Sexton In Perspective

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David Stanton
Diane Wood Middlebrook is writing a critical biography of Anne Sexton, to be published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1990. She is the w-editor, with Diana George, of Selected Poems of Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988); and she is currently the Howard H. & Jessie T. Watkins University Professor in English and Feminist Studies at Stanford University.
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The State of the Art: Contemporary Poetry II: A Criticism of One's Own

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Carolyne Wright
I was not one of the 101 writers originally invited to respond to Joseph Epstein's "Who Killed Poetry?" (which struck me on first reading as an update-albeit less engaging or witty-of Randall Jarrell's "Poetry and the Age"). But I was curious about those responses; so I called AWP in mid-May to inquire why, out of 19 respondents, only 2 were women.
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The State of the Art: Contemporary Poetry II: The Loss of Eternity

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Clayton Eshleman
From archaic times up through Romanticism, humanity took for granted the perpetuity of the physical universe. Individual fate was enchased like a mortal jewel in the ring of cosmological life. The First World War was the first indication that in attempting to alter the enemy's biological (as well as military) balance of power, British and German generals (by treating their young countrymen's lives as utterly expendable) were instigating an assault on physical life itself.
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The State of the Art: Contemporary Poetry II: The Poetry Glutt: A Suggestion

Paul Zimmer
Like most of the people who contributed responses to Joseph Epstein's article, I am in no position to make a meaningful statement about the condition of poetry in our time. Who could? It is like trying to explain the population of China. I can, however, speak as an editor who has initiated three poetry series and watched more than a hundred poetry books come to publication over the past twenty years, many of these early books by poets who have gone on to full careers.
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The State of the Art: Contemporary Poetry II: Poetry in the Global Village

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Paul Lake
If it is true, as Mr. Epstein suggests, that the generation of Pound, Eliot, and Stevens was the last to write with the assurance that they spoke for American-indeed, at times, for western-civilization, the reason for that confidence is clear. Coming of age at a time when even radio and the cinema, where they existed at all, had a much smaller audience, those poets felt themselves to be part of a tradition that extended from Homer to their own time, 'a tradition in which the word, whether spoken, written, or printed, represented the most advanced-indeed, for most of that time, the only-mass medium available to the artist.
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Teaching & Transference: Belaboring the Metaphor

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Ann Turkle
Eric Torgersen's article in the November 1988 AWP Newsletter, "Loving (Hating) the Messenger: Transference and Teaching," is very useful in raising questions about the nature of the teacher and student relationship and the whole enterprise of teaching, especially in a creative discipline.
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Boundaries & Frames: Non-Transference in Teaching

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Robert Langs, M.D.
Beyond the parent-child relationship, that between student and teacher is one of the most powerful shaping forces in the evolving emotional life of each person; so I was deeply moved by Eric Torgersen's article, "Loving (Hating) the Messenger: Transference in Teaching," which appeared in the November 1988 AWP Newsletter. Professor Torgersen navigated through relatively uncharted waters with remarkable sensitivity, but more needs to be said on the issues he raised. Much is at stake for students and teachers alike.

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Teaching & Transference: A Response to Ann Turkle

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Eric Torgersen
My first response to Ann Turkle's letter: false alarm. Turkle appears to imagine some great Freudian pedagogical juggernaut bearing down on her, but she can relax: it's only me with a couple of suggestions. Throughout, Turkle refuses to grant the tentativeness I insisted on: where she says "Torgersen contends," for example, Torgersen merely speculates.

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