Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Poems in the Hopper

From Lyman Gilmore's biography of poet Joel Oppenheimer, Don't Touch the Poet: The Life and Times of Joel Oppenheimer (Jersey City NJ: Talisman Press, 1998), p. 58—

[At Black Mountain College in the early 1950s, American poet Charles] Olson's methods of teaching were unique…He would lecture passionately and endlessly about a great variety of seemingly disconnected techniques—Mayan glyphs, the American Federalist period, Leo Frobenius, Homer's Odyssey—while his students struggled to keep pace and make sense of the performance. Olson had a basket on his desk into which students were supposed to deposit their poetry for criticism and class discussion, but sometimes he would ignore the basket for weeks "while class after class went on about physics or mathematics or anthropology or whatever Charles was interested in at the time." Then one day he would notice that nobody was submitting any writing he he'd say, "There are no poems in the hopper, and there better be some before the next morning."