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From Jacket2: A Brief History of the Buffalo Poetics Program

By Harriet Staff


Jacket 2 presents this stellar feature about the history of the Buffalo Poetics Program. The constellated survey includes a collection of links to articles about the program such as a Selected Bibliography of Buffalo Publications: 1960-1996, compiled by Kristin Prevallet, A History of Poetics at Buffalo: 1960-1990 (a timeline from Cynthia Kimball and Taylor Brady), and a selection from Charles Bernstein’s essay “A Blow Is Like An Instrument” from his book Attack of the Difficult Poems.

Here’s a brief excerpt from “A Blow is Like an Instrument,” re-printed at greater length at Jacket2:

At the SUNY-Buffalo, I was the director of the Poetics Program, co-founded in 1991 by Robert Creeley (our first director), Susan Howe, Raymond Federman, Dennis Tedlock, and myself.

I came to Buffalo as Butler Chair visiting professor in the Fall 1989; Susan Howe had been Butler chair the year before. I had scant teaching experience. I first taught in the Winter quarter of 1987 at the University of California – San Diego’s writing program. In the summer of 1988, I taught my first literature class at Queens College. I also had taught a class in Princeton’s Creative Writing Program for two semester (Spring 1989 and Spring 1990). I was appointed David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters in Fall 1990 (Creeley had been the first Gray Chair, but had been promoted to the Capen Chair a couple of years earlier). We hired Susan Howe and she came back to Buffalo in the Fall of 1991. In Buffalo that first year, Bob and I cooked up the idea for the Poetics Program, though Bob had wanted to secede from the English department and move to the then under construction Center for the Arts. I argued that we should use the administrative support of the English degree and have our students receive the more generic English Ph.D. In 2003, I was appointed Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. The program has its roots in the formation of the English Department at Buffalo in the early 1960s by Albert Cook. Cook had the idea that you could hire literary artists to teach not creative writing but literature classes, and in particular literature classes in a Ph.D. program. It was with this in mind that he hired Creeley, Charles Olson, and others; it marked a decisively other path from far more prevalent graduate (usually M.A. and M.F.A.) “creative writing” programs that emerged at the same time.

Read on at Jacket2!

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, June 10th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.