The poet Angela Ball is guest-blogging this week on the Best American Poetry blog, and she’s been posting about a graduate class she’s teaching this semester at the University of Southern Mississippi on the New York School Poets. Since I’m teaching a very similar graduate course this semester at Florida State University, it caught my eye.
As she explained in her first post, her class consists of “graduate fiction writers and poets who are part of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers, and a graduate student in literature, as well. All are fully engaged in exploring the NYS aesthetic and how well it suits our current condition … Mississippi may seem very far from New York—but the New York School imagination specializes in motion. It goes everywhere on its nerve, and its energies are enlivening the work of poets all over the place.”
Ball’s course takes up some interesting affinities between the supposedly urban and urbane New York School sensibility and elements of “Southern” writing.
Her seminar will conclude with an event that will be of interest — the 2014 “Moorman Symposium.” The event will feature a group of poets who Ball associates with various aspects of the New York School aesthetic — Billy Collins, Denise Duhamel, and my own friends and colleagues at FSU, Barbara Hamby and David Kirby, culminating in a panel discussion moderated by David Lehman.
Here is how she describes it on the webpage for the symposium:
David Lehman, arguably the foremost authority on The New York School of Poetry, will play a key role in the Symposium. Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins, whose work freshly embodies the New York School’s sense of play, will join us from the North. Southern poets writing New York School-inflected works will include award-winning Florida poets Denise Duhamel, David Kirby, and Barbara Hamby.
The Symposium’s panel discussion will explore ways in which the South has a particular affinity with The New York School’s love of direct, demotic speech and lack of pretense, coupled with a love of the energy and beauty of poetic speech—speech that invites rather than intimidates. Together we will chart the migration and assimilation of a singularly lively poetic movement, while over two nights of special readings the visiting poets will entertain and delight us with their inspired and inspiring poetry.
What does New York say to the South, and the South to New York? Is it possible for poetry to be urbane without being urban? Can it be both urbane and earthy? To explore these questions and many others, join us on the University of Southern Mississippi campus, May 2-3, 2014.