This attitude on teaching poetry is doubtlessly derived from my own experience and training, which has been disparate and ongoing, beginning with the first creative writing classes I took at the University of Virginia. There I studied with Jon Loomis, Lisa Russ Spaar, Charles Wright, Tan Lin, Rita Dove and Gregory Orr. From each of these teachers, I learned something invaluable, some aspect of lyricism or disjunction, and an applicable knowledge of how to arrange my existence towards greater receptivity to the incantatory arts. Being in Charlottesville was a wonderful apprenticeship, especially because I was able to balance my explorations into the sensibilities of lyric poetry with a look into the welter of possibilities shimmering in the avant-garde.
In graduate school at Columbia, I studied with Lucie Brock-Broido, Alfred Corn, Marie Howe, Marie Ponsot, and Richard Howard, and maintained the similar attitude that each of these folks, regardless of my own affinity or feelings for their respective personalities and pedagogies, had something crucial to convey. I learned what not to do in a classroom as much as what lessons and readings might scintillate bolts of learning.
Since that time, I’ve grown to gain a better sense of my own aesthetic aspirations, which verge from the droll and recombinatory, to trawling the hermetic waters of the self; however, I try not to impose my personal predilections onto the dialogue in the classroom, as I believe that the opinion that arises organically through sustained discussion is the arbiter that need be tended and listened to in a workshop. I steer the discussion with a light thumb, infusing ideas, poems, assignments and some standard of how writing should be judged into the dialogue, but never practicing the “Sermon on the Mount” aloofness or the ostentatious eagerness to please that has characterized certain classes of which I’ve been part.