The Poetry Lesson by Andrei Codrescu

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Synopsis

"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.

 

About Andrei Codrescu

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Romanian-born poet and essayist Andrei Codrescu, who also utilizes the pen names Betty Laredo and Maria Parfeni, emigrated to the United States in 1966. Codrescu earned a B.A. at the University of Bucharest, and has taught at numerous academic institutions including Johns Hopkins, the University of Baltimore, and Louisiana State University. Codrescu worked for National Public Radio as a commentator and has been featured on ABC News' Nightline. Some of Codrescu's short stories and novels include his first poetry collection, License to Carry a Gun and a memoir entitled In America's Shoe. Throughout the years, Codrescu has been awarded many honors including the Big Table Poetry Award, General Electric Foundation Poetry Prize, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships for poetry, editing, and radio. His titles include The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess, The Poetry Lesson, and Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments.
 
Published August 16, 2010 by Princeton University Press. 125 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Poetry Lesson

The Star

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A clever novel-as-memoir is a fast-paced bit of pedagogical stand-up

Jan 01 2011 | Read Full Review of The Poetry Lesson

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