Maybe there were no new worlds to conquer in the classroom, but a half century ago, a simple poem written by Sophie Scholl during the horrors of Nazism resulted in her beheading. During the Cold War, poets and playwrights like Vaclav Havel and others often found themselves jailed or placed under the constant scrutiny of 24 hour surveillance. In oppressive societies, poetry represented a scream from the deepest parts of the soul; in free societies, poetry told the truth.
It was great to have Codrescu back with The Luncheon Society in Los Angeles, his first visit in 2 years. His new book, The Poetry Lesson, represents a summation of a long and successful teaching career. He has a new collection of poetry coming out later this year and we shall see him again in Manhattan.
Codrescu has retired from teaching at LSU and now lives on a large parcel of land in the Ozarks, complete with a spring-filled lake and two caves. While he may be retired from the classroom, I sense that he is preparing for a renaissance because he can create, destroy, and create again (in true Dada fashion) without dealing with a number of meddling students.
A Note from Andrei Codrescu: “My new book is The Poetry Lesson, is out from Princeton University Press. I’m modestly adding some other opinions, but I must say three things: 1. the bonfire of poetic vanities is ignited, 2. poetry is the currency of the future, and 3. the enemy is at the gates. Friends, the castle is yours. Bring your pets. After a quarter of a century of amusement and terror, here are the maxims of a teaching wretch. 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.” Continue reading