Chunk 9

9.

Ryan claims a deep personal distaste for creative writing as an academic specialty, although she has taught the occasional summer workshop at the West Chester Formal and Narrative Poetry Conference. In her essay commissioned for Poetry, “I Go to AWP,” she writes:

Wanting to be connected, wanting to be great in some great tradition, these are sweet ideas. But how can I reconcile them with my own preference for isolation from the other toilers? I explain it to myself this way: I don’t want to be connected to poetry in an easy, fellowshipping way, but I do want to be connected in a way that will earn me the respect of the dead (xx).(check cite!)

One of the great advantages of eschewing “po-biz” gatherings and aesthetic fads is that it leaves the poet time and psychic space to converse with the masters. Poetry that exists on the page, whether it is specifically written “for” the page or transcribed from the shadowy realm of oral transmission, has the great advantage of transcending future time and place, of being serving as its own example (of what?), and of providing its own lessons. Ryan sets a high bar for her own work by hoping to “earn [herself] the respect of the dead.” When one places one’s own work in the context of the great masters’, an act at once both stunningly arrogant and phenomenally humble, one does not need to waste time building MySpace pages, self-publishing CDs, and clawing one’s way onto various literary boards. In an age when poets spend more time marketing themselves than writing and revising poems, Ryan’s example is worth following.

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