Academic journal article The Midwest Quarterly

Through the Open Door

Academic journal article The Midwest Quarterly

Through the Open Door

Article excerpt

In the fall of 2004, a new graduate student with a sheaf of poems clutched in her hand, knocked nervously on the half-opened door of a small office in the basement of Eisenhower Hall, the door of a distinguished professor, a scholar, a critic, a poet. Apprehensively, I waited outside. My anxiety dissipated at once when Prof. Holden looked up from his desktop and invited me through into a world where the language I craved to speak and my zeal for poetry were not oddities, but delights.

On that day, Jonathan became my mentor and friend. Over the next two years, we talked about poetry; we pulled books off the crowded shelves and read poems aloud. In his sunlit office, poets became more than dusty names in books. Conversations filled with anecdotes about poet friends, writing styles, paths, craft, and influences intermingled and illuminated poetry as a living art, with living practitioners. Jonathan gave assurance that the door to this world was open to me.

When Dr. Holden directed my independent study on realism in contemporary poetry, I learned because he listened to my various and rambling thoughts until they began to cohere into order. When I was wrong, he disagreed, but did not tell me why. He left the discoveries for me. He insists on, and typifies, a writing life comprised of study, criticism, scholarly work, and most importantly a life of attention.

Paying attention, as Jonathan would say, is an act of caring. …

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