Saturday, August 9, 2008

School Days Again

Most people feel a sense of relief when they finish their formal education. I did too. Finally, I was free of the pressure from semester schedules, exams, deadlines for papers, etc. So who would think that I am now proposing to myself that I take up a serious course of study when I have so much else to do? Not me! But I am planning just that. When I look at the time I spend on unimportant, frivolous busywork, I know I can do better. When I opened Joseph Parisi's anthology 100 Essential Modern Poems by Women, my ignorance hit me like a blast of cold air. Here I sit with a masters in English lit (Garrison Keillor's infamous English major) and an MFA in Creative Writing, yet I know too little about the poets in Parisi's book, and I should know more. I should know more because there are still places in the world where women cannot go to school, cannot publish, cannot keep their female culture alive. Why then would a free woman who has access to books, libraries, ideas, and poems, not study? I'm doing this for myself--because I can--and for those who cannot study. Maybe there is some catalyst effect, an enzyme for learning, that adds intellectual freedom to the world. I think it's worth a try. I don't need to watch reality TV. I don't need to shop for amusement. I need to model and promote free exploration of ideas and ideals.

So for however long it takes, I plan to read poetry written by women. I will start with the primary sources, their own poems, letters, autobiographies. Then if my eyes hold up and I don't fall out of my chair, I'll go on to criticism and theory. I'll begin with the ubiquitous but poorly understood Emily Dickinson. Yes, yes, of course I've read her poems, some of them. But she wrote 1789 of them. I have work to do. When I get on the plane next week to go on vacation, guess what book will be in my tote bag. When I get back, it's on to her letters, then an exploration of Mina Loy, H.D., Marianne Moore, Eleanor Wylie, and many more.

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