In our present culture, awash as we are in sensory stimuli of every sort, attention is something we don't have natural access to. It's something we have to seek: a discipline, in the old sense of that word. Poetry is one way to cultivate and practice attention.
G.C. Waldrep says poetic creation is, for him, a spiritual as well as an aesthetic vocation. Motivated by the words of the 20th-century Romanian poet Lucian Blaga who says, "Our duty, when faced by a true mystery, is not to explain it, but to deepen it, to transform it into a greater mystery," Waldrep often searches in his poetry for the mysterious boundary between man and nature, a "trans-human idiom, a way of engaging with the environment through language at the very edge of the human."
Citing poetry as a way to engage more deeply in our world, Waldrep has developed a particular interest in formally innovative poetry, which challenges language itself and its ability to represent — or invent — realism. For the last three years he has been planning and co-editing an anthology, The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta Press, 2012), that addresses the junction of formally innovative poetry and the environment.
"In my own poetry I'd long been drawing on the environment, while simultaneously trying to find an idiom that would allow me to escape, or transcend, the Romantic inheritances we associate with 'nature poetry': Keats, Shelley, et al. I wanted something of a road map, and there wasn't one. The anthology is such a map — or at least, we hope, the start of a map," says Waldrep.
Waldrep teaches creative writing with an emphasis in poetry and directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets each June. He hopes to impress upon each student the sense of engagement so critical to poetic exploration.
"What I hope," says Waldrep, "is that my classes teach students to pay attention. One way of thinking about a poem is not only as an act of attention, but also as a unit of attention. In our present culture, awash as we are in sensory stimuli of every sort, attention is something we don't have natural access to. It's something we have to seek: a discipline, in the old sense of that word. Poetry is one way to cultivate and practice attention."
Posted October 2012
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