Poetry News

Bagley Wright Lecture Series News: Hoa Nguyen and Cedar Sigo

By Harriet Staff

hoa-nguyen

On its website, The Bagley Wright Lecture Series has posted a great interview with Hoa Nguyen which took place just after her lecture on the practice of teaching creative writing on April 21st at Hugo House in Seattle. "Often there is a constellating order of influence that inform my choices and then also occasionally, and because the format includes drawing strategies out of the texts, the texts necessarily need to have multiple strategies happening" she says. In the audio from his Bagley Wright Lecture "Becoming Visible," Cedar Sigo discusses his process of "coming to poetry" through a kaleidoscopic lens of literary influences: Ted Berrigan, Allen Ginsberg, The Fugs. Listen to Sigo's lecture here. Read Nguyen's conversation about creative writing pedagogy here, or, read an excerpt below.

How do you develop your list [of poets to write through]? How do you decide what’s coming next?

It’s pretty self-serving. I mean that’s kind of the beauty of it, because I’m like, “I haven’t read Frank O’Hara’s Collected Poems from cover to cover and out loud and then to try to write through him using his strategies before, so I think I’ll… And it’s winter, so I think I’ll do something kind of fun”– we had studied Baraka in the previous session, and Baraka and Frank O’Hara had a friendship, a relationship together, in poetry and in real life, as they say, “irl.” So it just seemed like a great extension.

Often there is a constellating order of influence that inform my choices, and then also occasionally, and because the format includes drawing strategies out of the texts, the texts necessarily need to have multiple strategies happening. For example, I selected Tender Buttons as a text to write through, but Stein is enacting similar strategies all the time in her sentences in Tender Buttons, and so my strategy for using it as a workshop text was to pair her (it’s a very strange pairing) with Emily Dickinson who likewise tends to use similar strategies: similar kinds of lines, similar kinds of cadences and so on. So in this joining, we could have more variance and would alternate between the texts each week. For that workshop our secondary text was Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson; in her introduction, she yokes the two poets together and so that became the bridging: there were these two modern women writing in their own particular ways that were completely new.

The format leans on the need for variation in the texts we study. For example, even though I prefer a sustained work over a selected works, for Alice Notley I chose her selected poems which works well for our format because then you can have several different sort of takes to write through. If we just wrote through say, Descent of Alette, it would be like, “write with quotations,” a method of measure noting that she uses the whole way through. So it was nice to have the Selected because you get multiple different kinds of formal writing strategies.