Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the nue skool

last night i read this essay by joshua clover and juliana spahr, the 95 cent skool, where the authors declare an alternative to the mfa programs that cost a buttload of money and in this economy, what is being dubbed 'the new normal' where we are refracted and displaced by changing times, that no one should have to go broke studying poetry. esp. when the student-loan industry seems to be such a racket and tuition at all campuses, esp. the ones here in california, are skyrocketing.

agreed. there needs to be alternatives to the mfa programs. perhaps i have my head in my ass but i don't have one, an mfa, and it never occurred to me to get one. i suppose that stems from my belief that poetry starts at the level of obsession and develops into, if we are lucky, a life. i don't think you need an advanced degree to become obsessed with anything, particularly poetry.

perhaps my attitude starts also with my thoughts that poetry is a loser's art, as in bishop's 'the art of losing', and there is a wonderful scene in that tom conti vehicle loosely based on dylan thomas, reuben, reuben [1983] where conti's character, poet gowan mcgland, is being gently chided by his wife for being such a fuck up. mcgland's wife said, you wanted to be a conductor, with a wand in one hand and a lock of hair over the eyes. but you never dreamed of doing the back-breaking work to get there. instead you stumbled into poetry.

yet, one doesn't stumble in it for very long. as a writer i think of writing all the time. even in my dreams. it is an obsession that is for some a religion and demands a lifetime's devotion. that devotion is extra-curricular and in fact has nothing to do with school or degrees or even careers. we read and write because that is what becomes us, and if we are lucky we find a few others just as devoted to the craft of reading and writing.

the cost is everything that is not money, but even as i greatly admire both clover and spahr as poets and thinkers i think their skool at 95 cents is still too much to pay. i propose a nue skool that is free of all monetary entanglements where the conference of a writer does not depend upon a degree and who then soon after seeks and hopes against hope to maybe get a paying, tenured gig. i propose writers nurture their obsessions and seek those, either thru the pixels or on a stool at the bar, or probably both, who are also obsessed with their art. the jobs one does to support the writer's habits can be and are varied to the nth degree. what matters is living and reading and writing. screw 'the new normal ' and don't worry about creating masterpieces. just write and read as if your life depends on it. because when obsession becomes devotion it often does.


At 11:52 PM, Blogger Okir said...

Thanks for this wonderful post, Richard!

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Closely Observed Train Stations said...

Amen, Richard, Amen.

At 10:43 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

appreciate yr words, gracias jean and ryan.


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