Poetry Symposium: The Critical Path

The 9th Annual Poetry Symposium will meet Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 2:00 - 5:00 pm in Taylor Hall 201. It is open to all general registrants at Writing the Rockies.

The Symposium on Poetry Criticism was co-founded by David J. Rothman and Jan Schreiber in 2010 to address a growing sense that critical writing — reviews as well as more global discussions of the state of contemporary literature — has lost its way. Aware that many writers and critics wished to shine a light on an activity most essential to a strong poetic culture, to make it less routine and more conscious and probing, Schreiber and Rothman initiated a gathering of some of the foremost poet-critics now active to discuss problems, objectives, and associated artistic and technical issues.

The organizers’ long-term goal is to produce regular book-length collections of essays on criticism as Western's graduate program and the Symposium grow. In the introduction for the papers from the first Symposium in Contemporary Poetry Review, Schreiber and Rothman wrote: “The very purpose of criticism has become murky: most reviews of poetry today offer blandly positive comments or, more rarely but just as annoyingly, knee-jerk negativity, without quoting enough of the verse at hand or producing enough evidence based on close textual reading to let the reader see what is being recommended or dismissed. If the poems have a discernible form, reviewers either ignore it, disparage it, or treat it as an obstacle the poet has heroically overcome. Most academic criticism — the kind published in quarterly journals — focuses on writers already accorded high standing and endeavors to further justify that standing. Certainly there are exceptions, as readers of this publication are aware. But even the best working critics — perhaps especially the best — have long perceived a need to articulate and reconsider the principles on which we operate.” Read the entire introduction>>

Since 2015, papers from the Symposium have appeared regularly in THINK, the internationally distributed journal of poetry and criticism published by the Poetry Concentration in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Western.

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The 2017 Symposium includes presentations by the following:

Ned Balbo, "'Mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese': What's Wrong with How We Think about Poetry"

Ned Balbo’s five books include The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems, awarded the Poets’ Prize and the Donald Justice Prize; Lives of the Sleepers, winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize and a ForeWord Book of the Year gold medal; and Upcycling Paumanok (Measure Press, 2016). 3 Nights of the Perseids, selected by Erica Dawson for the 2018 Richard Wilbur Award, is forthcoming. His poems have appeared in American Poetry ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewEcotoneIowa ReviewNew CriterionPoetry DailyAmerican Life in Poetry, and elsewhere, and in anthologies such as the Everyman’s Library volumes Villanelles and Monster Verse. He was a 2017 NEA translation fellow for his version of Paul Valéry’s “La Jeune Parque” (“The Young Fate”), from which a selection, with accompanying essay, appeared in The Hopkins Review. His prose includes reviews in most issues of Antioch Review from 1999-2009; flash fictions in WaccamawGargoyle, and Pleiades; “Walt Whitman’s Finches,” awarded Crab Orchard Review’s John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize; and “My Father’s Music,” an essay on ethnicity and adoptive identity included in Our Roots Are Deep with Passion: Creative Nonfiction, that collects new essays by Italian-American Writers (Other Press). He was recently a visiting faculty member in Iowa State University’s MFA program in creative writing and environment. The recipient of three Maryland Arts Council poetry grants and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, he received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an MA from Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins.

Emily Grosholz: "Exploring the Supernatural Lapse of Time in Fairyland and General Relativity Theory: How Modern Poetry Plays with Space and Time​​"

Emily Grosholz is a poet who teaches philosophy and poetry at Pennsylvania State University, and has been an advisory editor for the Hudson Review for over thirty years. The Stars of Earth: New and Selected Poems will be published in 2017 by Word Galaxy / Able Muse Press, with drawings by Farhad Ostovani. Her most recent book of poetry, Childhood, published by Accents Publishing with drawings by Parisian artist Lucy Vines, has raised over $2500 in the past year for UNICEF from sales of the book. A Japanese translation by Atsuko Hayakawa (Tsuda College) with illustrations by Chihiro Iwasaki was published in 2015, and an Italian translation by Sara Amadori (University of Bologna / Forli) was published in 2016, along with a CD Childhood Songs by composer Mirco De Stefani. A French translation by Pascale Drouet (University of Poitier) is underway. During the past year, her poems have appeared in the San Diego Readerthe Hudson ReviewPN Review and Think Journal, including two elegies for Maxine Kumin, and poems about the Gunnison Valley Observatory, Escondido, Rome, and the ferryboat from Helsinki to Tallinn. Her new philosophy book Starry Reckoning: Reference and Analysis in Mathematics and Cosmology is just out from Springer. Next year, Springer will publish her book on poetry and mathematics, Great Circles: The Transits of Mathematics and Poetry. Her translation of the late Yves Bonnefoy's essay "Yeats' Poetics" is featured the Autumn 2016 issue of the Hudson Review, and will be included in a Carcanet edition of the poet's works due out next year.

William Tyson Hausdoerffer: "Whither the Pathways of Song? Vividness and Illusions of Motion in Epic Poetry"

William Tyson Hausdoerffer graduated from Western, Summa Cum Laude, in English, with a Minor in French, in 1992. He holds an MA in Classics from the University of Colorado and a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. He has more than a decade of college teaching experience, including teaching in a number of departments at Western. He has translated Homer, has a number of article publications and has given scholarly talks at major venues. His languages include French, Greek and Latin.


David J. Rothman: "Harmonious Madness"

David J. Rothman, a co-founder of the Symposium on Poetry Criticism, is Director of Writing the Rockies, editor of THINK, Western's journal of poetry and criticism, and also serves as the Director of Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing and of the poetry concentration within that program. His most recent book, co-edited with Jeffrey Villines, is Belle Turnbull: On the Life & Work of an American Master, which appeared in 2017 as a volume in the Unsung Masters Series from Pleiades Press. His most recent volumes of poetry, both of which appeared in 2013, are The Book of Catapults (White Violet Press) and Part of the Darkness (Entasis Press). A book of essays about mountains and mountain towns, Living the Life (Conundrum Press), also appeared in 2013. His poems, essays, and scholarly work have appeared widely in journals, including Appalachia, Atlantic Monthly, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, New Criterion, Poetry, Sewanee Review, Threepenny Review and scores of other newspapers, journals and periodicals. He co-founded the Crested Butte Music Festival, was the founding publisher and editor of Conundrum Press (now owned by the Bower House Books of Denver), and currently serves as Resident Poet of Colorado Public Radio and as the Poet Laureate of Colorado's Western Slope. He has served as Executive Director, President, and a Board Member for many nonprofits, including the Robinson Jeffers Association, the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). He lives in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Jane Satterfield, "Poetry, Pastoral and the Nonhuman"

Jane Satterfield is the author of four books of poetry: Apocalypse Mix, selected by David St. John for the 2016 Autumn House Poetry Prize; Her Familiars, a finalist for the Julie Suk Award for best poetry book on an independent press; Assignation at Vanishing Point, winner of the Elixir Press Book Award; and Shepherdess with an Automatic, awarded the Towson University Prize. Her book of interconnected essays, Daughters of Empire:  A Memoir of a Year in Britain and Beyond, appeared on Demeter Press, and she is the co-editor, with Laurie Kruk, of the recent multi-genre anthology Borderlands and Crossroads: Writing the Motherland (also on Demeter). Her honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry and three Maryland Arts Council poetry grants, as well as residencies in poetry or nonfiction from the Vermont Studio Center and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Among other awards are the William Faulkner Society's Gold Medal for the Essay, the Florida Review Editors’ Prize, the Mslexia women’s poetry prize, and the Bellingham Review’s 49th Parallel Poetry Prize. Satterfield’s poetry and prose have appeared in American Poetry ReviewAntioch ReviewThe CommonCrazyhorseNorth American ReviewNotre Dame ReviewPleiades, and many more, as well as on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. The daughter of an American Air Force reservist and a British mother, she grew up near Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, teaches at Loyola University Maryland, and lives in Baltimore.

Jan SchreiberJan Schreiber: "Short of Breath: Poems in a Narrow Compass​"

Jan Schreiber is a poet and critic whose work has gained a wide audience with the publication of his recent book Sparring with the Sun (Antilever Press), a collection of essays on twentieth-century poets and theories of poetry. He began his career as an editor at the University of Toronto Press while obtaining an MA at the University of Toronto. Later, with a PhD from Brandeis University, he worked at the Godine Press, where he established the Poetry Chapbook Series, and was a founding editor of Canto: Review of the Arts. A cycle of his poems, Zeno’s Arrow, was set to music by Paul Alan Levi in 2001. He is a visiting scholar at Brandeis University and a study group leader at the university’s Osher Institute, with a special interest in Elizabethan and modern verse. His poems have appeared in many journals in Canada, England, and the United States as well as both print and on-line anthologies. His criticism has been published in Modern Occasions, the Southern Review, Hellas, Literary Imagination, and other journals. Previous books of poetry include Digressions, Wily Apparitions, Bell Buoys, and two books of translations: A Stroke upon the Sea and Sketch of a Serpent. His newest collection is Peccadilloes (2014). A co-founder of the Symposium on Poetry Criticism at Writing the Rockies, he served as Poet Laureate of Brookline, Massachusetts from 2015-'17.

Robert Shaw: "Wilbur’s Way: Tradition and Innovation in Richard Wilbur’s Poetry​"

Poet and critic Robert B. Shaw earned a BA from Harvard University, where he studied with Robert Lowell and Robert Fitzgerald, and a PhD from Yale University. Influenced by Elizabeth Bishop and Philip Larkin, Shaw’s wry and plainspoken formal verse is often grounded in, or sprung from, the debris of daily life. He is the author of seven collections of poetry, including A Late Spring, and After (2016), Aromatics (2011; co-winner of The Poets' Prize), and Solving For X (2002), which won the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. His criticism appears widely in such places as the New York Times Book Review, and he has also published a critical study of poets John Donne and George Herbert, The Call of God: The Theme of Vocation in the Poetry of Donne and Herbert (1981). He is also the author of Blank Verse: A Guide to Its History and Use, the first book-length treatment of its subject since 1895, which appeared in 2007, and received the Robert Fitzgerald Award. Shaw has received Shenandoah’s James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ingram Merrill Foundation. From 1983 to 2016, Shaw taught at Mount Holyoke College, and is now the Emily Dickinson Professor of English.

D. H. Tracy: "Hammocks, Snorkeling, Alcohol: Lists in Poetry and the Poetry of Lists​"

Poet, critic, and editor D.H. Tracy earned an MFA at Boston University. In his formally engaged poems, often infused with sly humor, he explores themes of intimacy, perception, and loss. His debut poetry collection, Janet’s Cottage (2012), won a New Criterion Poetry Prize, and his work is featured in The Hecht Prize Anthology 2005–2009 (2011, edited by Joseph Harrison). In a 2013 interview with Garrick Davis for the Contemporary Poetry Review, Tracy states, “The poet-critic’s role is, minimally, to write as well as possible—in the case of criticism, to hit that very tricky, almost Aristotelian mean, flexibility without floppiness, rigor without rigidity. In the literary culture I might wish for, everyone would have this sense that the two activities were artificially distinct, and poets would be more invested in criticism than they are.”  Later in the same interview, he notes, “If [criticism] resembles a science, it is geology, not physics: ‘laws’ don’t get you very far, and with each new piece of ground, if you are not going to be very cavalier, you have to invest a certain amount in new taxonomies and in characterizing local phenomena. Past experience may apply, or not.” In 2010, he helped found the independent literary press and nonprofit Antilever Press, which publishes both poetry and criticism. In the mid-2000s, Tracy served as archive editor for the Poetry Foundation website. 

Frederick TurnerFrederick Turner: "The Ingenious, Gentle, Generative Genius of Language Itself: Poetry and Etymology​"

Frederick Turner was born in Northamptonshire, England, in 1943. After spending several years in central Africa, he was educated at the University of Oxford (1962-67), where he obtained the degrees of BA, MA, and BLitt (a terminal degree equivalent to the PhD) in English Language and Literature. Naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1977, he is Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. He has held academic positions at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Kenyon College (where he was editor of the Kenyon Review), and the University of Exeter in England. Among his many books are Natural Classicism: Essays on Literature and Science, Shakespeare and the Nature of Time, Paradise (poetry), and two verse epics: Genesis and Apocalypse. His work has been translated and published in Albanian, French, German, Japanese, Hungarian, Italian, Macedonian, Rumanian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese, and other languages.  He has lectured or given poetry readings at over two hundred institutions in the U.S., Canada, and Western and Eastern Europe.


2018 Symposium Presentation Schedule

Thursday, July 19

2:00 / Frederick Turner, "The Ingenious, Gentle, Generative Genius of Language Itself: Poetry and Etymology​"

3:00 / Jane Satterfield, "Poetry, Pastoral and the Nonhuman"

4:00 / ​Jan Schreiber, "Short of Breath: Poems in a Narrow Compass​"

Friday, July 20

No Meeting -- The Freedom of the Hills

Saturday, July 21

2:00 / William Tyson Hausdoerffer, "Whither the Pathways of Song? Vividness and Illusions of Motion in Epic Poetry"

3:00 / ​Emily Grosholz, "Exploring the Supernatural Lapse of Time in Fairyland and General Relativity Theory: How Modern Poetry Plays with Space and Time​​"

4:00 / ​Ned Balbo, "'Mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese': What's Wrong with How We Think about Poetry"

Sunday, July 22

2:00 / David J. Rothman, "Harmonious Madness"

3:00 / ​Robert Shaw, "Wilbur’s Way: Tradition and Innovation in Richard Wilbur’s Poetry​"

4:00 / Dillon Tracy, "Hammocks, Snorkeling, Alcohol: Lists in Poetry and the Poetry of Lists​"

Please go here to see the full conference schedule.

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