Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Recommendation: Poetry in Person

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Poetry in Person: Twenty-five Years of Conversations with America's Poets, edited by Alexander Neubauer, is a terrific book! Neubauer has gathered together the transcripts of 23 conversations held in the classroom of Pearl London, a teacher at the New School in New York. Over a period of 25 years, London regularly invited poets into her class to discuss poetry in general and a poem in progress in particular. The back and forth between teacher and poet is included, along with some comments from students. Drafts, sometimes multiple, are included. Neubauer provides a brief introduction to each poet and a photo.

The amount of wisdom gathered here is astonishing. No stuffy lectures, but real voices from real poets talking and thinking out loud about some of the issues they were dealing with in regards to the poem under discussion and often, too, about their poetic path.

London enlarges the scope of the conversation by routinely bringing in quotations from other poets. While at times this struck me as overdone and even a bit pretentious, I appreciated the voices and wisdom of so many additional poets.

The 23 poets included are Maxine Kumin, Robert Hass, Muriel Rukeyser, Philip Levine, Louise Gluck, June Jordan, James Merrill, Marilyn Hacker, Galway Kinnell, Derek Walcott, Amy Clampitt, Lucille Clifton, Stanley Plumly, C.K. Williams, Molly Peacock, Robert Pinsky, Edward Hirsh, Frank Bidart, William Matthews, Paul Muldoon, Li-Young Lee, Charles Simic, and Eamon Grennan.

Some of these conversations are available as audios at Neubauer's Blog. In the left sidebar you will find links to the original recordings of some of the classroom discussions.


  1. I've been enjoying this book in snippets (conversations!) since receiving it as a gift!

  2. Another great suggestion! Thanks! I'll check this one out, too. This might be just what I'm looking for, especially for my upper level poetry students.

  3. This would be perfect in the classroom, especially since it emanated out of the classroom. You could also supplement with the audio component.


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