Middle-schoolers don't like Tim O'Brien, I do. This was a discovery I made over the past two weeks while I was teaching at the Young Writers' Camp at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. They do, however, like poems that rhyme and stories with dogs. Rick Bass was a hit, as was Jack London; they liked the E.B. White, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Meredith poems I brought, but my oh my, they did not like the Things they Carried. I know what you're thinking...really, Luke--You brought in a gruesome story about Vietnam and taught it to sixth graders? Not quite, I picked just about the most tame passage I could find, but the sentences were incredible, the pacing, but they would just not get on board. Anyway, it's not a huge deal, I was simply a bit crestfallen as I love his prose, and was sad to see the students didn't.
I read this passage from Rilke's Letters on the last day: "A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgement of it: there is no other. Therefore, my dear sir, I know no advice for you save this: go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself."
In other news, I'm still riding the Best New Poets wave, though I arrived home to six rejections (count 'em: Yale Review, Gargoyle, Poetry East, Michigan Quarterly Review, FIELD, and Southern Humanities Review) which effectively took my head out of the sky, despite kind notes from the editors at MQR and Gargoyle. Anyway, I told my friend and former professor (and poet) Kevin Boyle about the good news, and he informally invited me back to read at Elon during the spring, more news there once things become more official. It would be a tremendous honor to read at my alma mater.
Three new poems up at the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature today. If you don't know the journal, keep an eye on it, they publish some great poems and each one is accompanied by a "Southern Legitimacy Statement" which trumps a Contributor's Note by a Mile.
And it's starting to smell like Soccer Practice outside...