The Poetry Lesson

The Poetry Lesson

4.7 4
by Andrei Codrescu
     
 

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"Intro to Poetry Writing is always like this: a long labor, a breech birth, or, obversely, mining in the dark. You take healthy young Americans used to sunshine (aided sometimes by Xanax and Adderall), you blindfold them and lead them by the hand into a labyrinth made from bones. Then you tell them their assignment: 'Find the Grail. You have a New York minute to

Overview

"Intro to Poetry Writing is always like this: a long labor, a breech birth, or, obversely, mining in the dark. You take healthy young Americans used to sunshine (aided sometimes by Xanax and Adderall), you blindfold them and lead them by the hand into a labyrinth made from bones. Then you tell them their assignment: 'Find the Grail. You have a New York minute to get it.'"--The Poetry Lesson

The Poetry Lesson is a hilarious account of the first day of a creative writing course taught by a "typical fin-de-siècle salaried beatnik"--one with an antic imagination, an outsized personality and libido, and an endless store of entertaining literary anecdotes, reliable or otherwise. Neither a novel nor a memoir but mimicking aspects of each, The Poetry Lesson is pure Andrei Codrescu: irreverent, unconventional, brilliant, and always funny. Codrescu takes readers into the strange classroom and even stranger mind of a poet and English professor on the eve of retirement as he begins to teach his final semester of Intro to Poetry Writing. As he introduces his students to THE TOOLS OF POETRY (a list that includes a goatskin dream notebook, hypnosis, and cable TV) and THE TEN MUSES OF POETRY (mishearing, misunderstanding, mistranslating . . . ), and assigns each of them a tutelary "Ghost-Companion" poet, the teacher recalls wild tales from his coming of age as a poet in the 1960s and 1970s, even as he speculates about the lives and poetic and sexual potential of his twenty-first-century students. From arguing that Allen Ginsberg wasn't actually gay to telling about the time William Burroughs's funeral procession stopped at McDonald's, The Poetry Lesson is a thoroughly entertaining portrait of an inimitable poet, teacher, and storyteller.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
This book, with its punishing, dread-inspiring title and pleading skeleton on the cover, is actually one of the funniest, most irreverent you'll read this year. Part memoir, part novel, part poem, part essay. . . . The Poetry Lesson requires the willing suspension of credulity and a reader's refusal to get offended, hard as Andrei Codrescu may try. He's not quite Borat in emeritus robes, but almost.
— Susan Salter Reynolds
Times Literary Supplement
Andrei Codrescu's The Poetry Lesson, the description of a single, three-hour poetry-writing class, is genuinely entertaining. . . . [I]t is . . . funny, moving, daring and even, at times, profound. . . . The book is a kind of ode to eccentricity, to imagination within the institution.
— Jonathan Taylor
Literary Review
A series of zany autobiographical sketches and satirical reflections on youth, literature, and academia.
— Anthony Cummins
Forward
Beneath Codrescu's wacky, self-amused teaching methods, perfected poet-in-a-phrase descriptions, off-kilter teacher-student dialogue and old-timer digressions, there can be found a pestering ambivalence toward the university and a suspicion that he is a hypocrite.
— Yelena Akhtiorskaya
Quarterly Conversation
You should read this book and absorb its lessons as soon as possible.
— J.C. Hallman
New Orleans Times-Picayune
This genially disillusioned, free-associative romp delivers plenty of pleasures in the course of 118 pages. . . . Faced with time and mortality—the quintessential poetic subjects—Codrescu does what great artists have done for millennia: He tells stories, writes poems, and, yes, he teaches.
— Chris Waddington
On the Seawall
Codrescu proceeds headlong in an altogether entertaining 'pedagogical-memorialistic mode.'. . . Ultimately, this book is about Codrescu's prickly narrative voice and the delight he takes in blabbing. It's a voice confident in its charming idiosyncrasies, spicier than his NPR pieces.
— Ron Slate
Times Higher Education Supplement
Not a creative writing 'how-to' manual, not an essay, not a novel, not a memoir—The Poetry Lesson resists genre classification with all the radical aplomb of an angry beatnik refusing to tick the 'which-age-demographic' box on a government census form.
— Chris Jones
Berlin Review of Books
The Poetry Lesson is a lucid yet playful book, that slips between memoir and fiction, jaunty anecdote and pure tangent, as it describes the first lesson of an 'Introduction to Poetry Writing' course.
— Rupert Thomson
Toronto Star
A fast-paced bit of pedagogical stand-up, interspersing personal recollections of various 20th century poets with whimsical observations on poetic craft and modern culture in a stream-of-consciousness style that blurs the line between inner and outer monologues. . . . A witty and heartfelt case for poetry's end being its beginning.
— Alex Good
Star News
The Poetry Lesson finds Codrescu hovering over the borders between fiction, the conventional essay and even the poetic forms.
— Ben Steelman
Los Angeles Times - Susan Salter Reynolds
This book, with its punishing, dread-inspiring title and pleading skeleton on the cover, is actually one of the funniest, most irreverent you'll read this year. Part memoir, part novel, part poem, part essay. . . . The Poetry Lesson requires the willing suspension of credulity and a reader's refusal to get offended, hard as Andrei Codrescu may try. He's not quite Borat in emeritus robes, but almost.
Times Literary Supplement - Jonathan Taylor
Andrei Codrescu's The Poetry Lesson, the description of a single, three-hour poetry-writing class, is genuinely entertaining. . . . [I]t is . . . funny, moving, daring and even, at times, profound. . . . The book is a kind of ode to eccentricity, to imagination within the institution.
Literary Review - Anthony Cummins
A series of zany autobiographical sketches and satirical reflections on youth, literature, and academia.
Forward - Yelena Akhtiorskaya
Beneath Codrescu's wacky, self-amused teaching methods, perfected poet-in-a-phrase descriptions, off-kilter teacher-student dialogue and old-timer digressions, there can be found a pestering ambivalence toward the university and a suspicion that he is a hypocrite.
Quarterly Conversation - J.C. Hallman
You should read this book and absorb its lessons as soon as possible.
New Orleans Times-Picayune - Chris Waddington
This genially disillusioned, free-associative romp delivers plenty of pleasures in the course of 118 pages. . . . Faced with time and mortality—the quintessential poetic subjects—Codrescu does what great artists have done for millennia: He tells stories, writes poems, and, yes, he teaches.
On the Seawall - Ron Slate
Codrescu proceeds headlong in an altogether entertaining 'pedagogical-memorialistic mode.'. . . Ultimately, this book is about Codrescu's prickly narrative voice and the delight he takes in blabbing. It's a voice confident in its charming idiosyncrasies, spicier than his NPR pieces.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Chris Jones
Not a creative writing 'how-to' manual, not an essay, not a novel, not a memoir—The Poetry Lesson resists genre classification with all the radical aplomb of an angry beatnik refusing to tick the 'which-age-demographic' box on a government census form.
Berlin Review of Books - Rupert Thomson
The Poetry Lesson is a lucid yet playful book, that slips between memoir and fiction, jaunty anecdote and pure tangent, as it describes the first lesson of an 'Introduction to Poetry Writing' course.
Toronto Star - Alex Good
A fast-paced bit of pedagogical stand-up, interspersing personal recollections of various 20th century poets with whimsical observations on poetic craft and modern culture in a stream-of-consciousness style that blurs the line between inner and outer monologues. . . . A witty and heartfelt case for poetry's end being its beginning.
Star News - Ben Steelman
The Poetry Lesson finds Codrescu hovering over the borders between fiction, the conventional essay and even the poetic forms.
PN Review - M.G. Stephens
[O]ne feels incredible gratitude to and connection with this living poet. Andrei Codrescu makes clear not only that poetry does matter, but that our lives depend upon it. For him, poetry is not so much a mystery as it is a knowable entity, even a teachable one. From all the evidence in this short, gorgeous work, it seems equally clear that Andrei Codrescu was a great teacher.
PN Review - M. G. Stephens
[O]ne feels incredible gratitude to and connection with this living poet. Andrei Codrescu makes clear not only that poetry does matter, but that our lives depend upon it. For him, poetry is not so much a mystery as it is a knowable entity, even a teachable one. From all the evidence in this short, gorgeous work, it seems equally clear that Andrei Codrescu was a great teacher.
From the Publisher
"This book, with its punishing, dread-inspiring title and pleading skeleton on the cover, is actually one of the funniest, most irreverent you'll read this year. Part memoir, part novel, part poem, part essay. . . . The Poetry Lesson requires the willing suspension of credulity and a reader's refusal to get offended, hard as Andrei Codrescu may try. He's not quite Borat in emeritus robes, but almost."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Andrei Codrescu's The Poetry Lesson, the description of a single, three-hour poetry-writing class, is genuinely entertaining. . . . [I]t is . . . funny, moving, daring and even, at times, profound. . . . The book is a kind of ode to eccentricity, to imagination within the institution."—Jonathan Taylor,Times Literary Supplement

"A series of zany autobiographical sketches and satirical reflections on youth, literature, and academia."—Anthony Cummins, Literary Review

"Beneath Codrescu's wacky, self-amused teaching methods, perfected poet-in-a-phrase descriptions, off-kilter teacher-student dialogue and old-timer digressions, there can be found a pestering ambivalence toward the university and a suspicion that he is a hypocrite."—Yelena Akhtiorskaya, Forward

"You should read this book and absorb its lessons as soon as possible."—J.C. Hallman, Quarterly Conversation

"This genially disillusioned, free-associative romp delivers plenty of pleasures in the course of 118 pages. . . . Faced with time and mortality—the quintessential poetic subjects—Codrescu does what great artists have done for millennia: He tells stories, writes poems, and, yes, he teaches."—Chris Waddington, New Orleans Times-Picayune

"Codrescu proceeds headlong in an altogether entertaining 'pedagogical-memorialistic mode.'. . . Ultimately, this book is about Codrescu's prickly narrative voice and the delight he takes in blabbing. It's a voice confident in its charming idiosyncrasies, spicier than his NPR pieces."—Ron Slate, On the Seawall

"Not a creative writing 'how-to' manual, not an essay, not a novel, not a memoir—The Poetry Lesson resists genre classification with all the radical aplomb of an angry beatnik refusing to tick the 'which-age-demographic' box on a government census form."—Chris Jones,Times Higher Education Supplement

"The Poetry Lesson is a lucid yet playful book, that slips between memoir and fiction, jaunty anecdote and pure tangent, as it describes the first lesson of an 'Introduction to Poetry Writing' course."—Rupert Thomson, Berlin Review of Books

"A fast-paced bit of pedagogical stand-up, interspersing personal recollections of various 20th century poets with whimsical observations on poetic craft and modern culture in a stream-of-consciousness style that blurs the line between inner and outer monologues. . . . A witty and heartfelt case for poetry's end being its beginning."—Alex Good, Toronto Star

"The Poetry Lesson finds Codrescu hovering over the borders between fiction, the conventional essay and even the poetic forms."—Ben Steelman, Star News (Wilmington, NC)

"[O]ne feels incredible gratitude to and connection with this living poet. Andrei Codrescu makes clear not only that poetry does matter, but that our lives depend upon it. For him, poetry is not so much a mystery as it is a knowable entity, even a teachable one. From all the evidence in this short, gorgeous work, it seems equally clear that Andrei Codrescu was a great teacher."—M. G. Stephens, PN Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400836048
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
08/16/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
128
File size:
845 KB

What People are saying about this

Phillip Lopate
The Poetry Lesson is a gem—a consistently engaging and entertainingly rambling meditation on teaching and poetry that is filled with Andrei Codrescu's quicksilver mental responses. His teacher-narrator keeps vacillating between denouncing the new, text-message order of his students and trying to ally himself with youth against old-fogeyism. This dance, as the teacher is alternately chagrined and amused, gives the book a lively pulse.
Phillip Lopate, author of "Notes on Sontag"
Marjorie Perloff
Andrei Codrescu's new book is a small comic masterpiece. It is so funny that I laughed out loud as I was turning the pages. The account of the first poetry writing class of the semester is as accurate as it is surreal. What makes the writing so delightful is the juxtaposition of student repartee and the professor's jaundiced—but never predictable—response. The Poetry Lesson is a delightful read—but also a disturbing portrait of academe today.
Marjorie Perloff, author of "The Vienna Paradox: A Memoir"

Meet the Author

Andrei Codrescu is an award-winning poet, novelist, essayist, and NPR commentator. He edits the online journal Exquisite Corpse and taught literature and creative writing at Louisiana State University for twenty-five years before retiring in 2009 as the MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English. His recent work includes "The Posthuman Dada Guide" (Princeton) and "Jealous Witness: Poems".

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