What Is Found There: Poetry at Michigan

By Taylor, Keith | Michigan Quarterly Review, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

What Is Found There: Poetry at Michigan


Taylor, Keith, Michigan Quarterly Review


In the Spring of 2017, during the year when the University of Michigan celebrated its 200th anniversary, Dean Andrew Martin of the School of Literature, Science, and the Arts requested that alumnus Paul Dimond work with faculty members Laurence Goldstein and Cody Walker, along with administrator Jessica Greer, to put together a day-long conference entitled "Poetry at Michigan." In some ways this was a continuation of two symposia done over the previous few years: one on Theodore Roethke, and the other focusing on Robert Hayden and his work. The 2017 conference started with an in-depth look at the presence of Robert Frost at Michigan, proceeded through discussions of other poets who made significant contributions to the presence of poetry at the university during the twentieth century, and ended with a reading by three poets associated with the Helen Zell Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing-Airea D. Matthews, Jamaal May, and Laura Kasischke. It became clear that the conference was only the beginning of a larger discussion, one we hope to carry a bit farther in this issue of Michigan Quarterly Review.

As we gathered material for the issue, a variety of connections to public life and the larger cultural discourse emerged in relation to the composition of poetry by students and faculty at the University of Michigan. We have a good representation of work that touches on the legacy of Donald Hall, an important professor here for almost twenty years, and a former Poet Laureate of the United States. We found an unpublished interview with Seamus Heaney, who, while never teaching here full time, was a regular visitor for almost a quarter of a century, both before and after his Nobel Prize. Francey Oscherwitz was an undergraduate almost thirty-five years ago when she conducted that interview and was one of Joseph Brodsky's inspired students. Hannah Webster, a recent graduate of the Zell Writing Program, writes about her experience with the Prison Creative Arts Project and includes poems from three of the students she has worked with in Michigan prisons. This too has been part of the work of poetry at the university for many years, forging connections with the larger population. Bob Hicok, although he didn't graduate from U-M, did live for twenty years in Ann Arbor and certainly used the resources of the university, including the large selection of journals in the Hopwood Room, to help create his writing life. He has provided a provocative essay on the necessary and inevitable changes happening in contemporary American poetry. …

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