Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Art of Recklessness

I've just begun reading Dean Young's recent book on poetry, The Art of Recklessness, and I can already say that I have found a new favorite book. It was by page 15 that I felt my eyes swell and a deep sigh or relief pour out of me as I realized how he had killed me, and how wrong he was. HE being that wretched, wretchedly serious "poet" and creative writing professor at WVU: J.H. In the fall of 1995 that son of a bitch crushed in me the very spirit of imagination and visceral instinct that Dean Young advocates. I remember distinctly his discouragement of my "pure music," as he called it, and his encouragement of more reflective poems that were really submissions, in the truest sense of the word, of what I thought he would like. It's as if he disfigured a child, destroyed an ecosystem, trampled on a cherished gift. He dealt a critical blow to my creativity. Rather than develop and refine my instincts, he instilled a rejection of them, a disdain for my own energy: Self Loathing.

His classroom is a dead zone. He takes eager young poets and converts them into dry, boring pills who write about looking back and studying cloud movements; imagery as exciting as a porch swing or an irrelevant conversation between two idiots watching the sun escape into the horizon while he retards the growth of yet another student. He is the anti-poet.

"Pure music" is actually a fair description of the loosely controlled automatic writing that I was producing at the time. I had been working in that vein since around my senior year of high school when I learned about surrealism and Jung and Breton and Dali. Of course what I was doing was somewhat out of control, as he said, but letting go of myself and unleashing abstract yet structurally coherent phrases was my thing. He should've been helping me refine and mature it. For him to objurgate the entire enterprise was devastating. It made me question my talent. I was already questioning most aspects of my very existence at that point.

I couldn't relate to any of the faculty in that English department. I switched majors the next semester.


KateMadd/skmckinn said...

Oh, well. That jerk of a teacher (whose work must be awfully expository and who must never have made the semantics-aesthetics-ontology connection, or if he/she has made it is too snotty about it and shouldn't teach freshmen) anyway that teacher probably caused you to be able to buy your house. Just sayin'.

Digitizdat said...

Well, that's probably true, Kate. And I won't waste any more time complaining about what could have been, which is way too easy. We all suffer unjust setbacks. I am just relieved to have identified one so vividly.