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.
Over the last decade, G.C. Waldrep's attention has been drawn to what he terms the "physicality of the body" due to a serious cancer scare followed by a provisional diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. These experiences helped inspire his forthcoming book of poetry feast gently, due out in May 2018.
"Ultimately, the Parkinson's-like symptoms were caused by a B-12 deficiency," he says. "But living with those symptoms for three years was a very intimate thing. Illness is a very intimate thing — the way it touches our bodies. And as we age we are often forced to examine that intimacy."
With feast gently heading off to press, Waldrep now turns his attention to a subject that has always inspired him: nature. His course in ecopoetics invites students to enhance and extend their engagement with the natural world. "The Susquehanna is an amazing river," Waldrep explains. "There is much to see if you truly look at it. I encourage my students to express that experience."
He also urges them to be pay attention. "In our present culture, awash as it is in sensory stimuli of every sort, attention is something we don't have natural access to," Waldrep says. "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."
In his poetry workshops he balances students' creative endeavors with selected writings by established poets. As the editor of West Branch, Bucknell's literary magazine, Waldrep works closely with student interns, giving them a taste of the real-world publication process.
Waldrep is the author of five full-length collections of poems including Goldbeater's Skin (2003), winner of the Colorado Prize; and Archicembalo (2009), winner of the Dorset Prize and the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. His work has appeared in numerous journals including Poetry, Ploughshares, APR, Harper's, The Nation, Kenyon Review, New American Writing and Tin House, as well as in Best American Poetry 2010 and Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (Second Edition).
In 1996, after earning a Ph.D. in American history, Waldrep left academia to join an Amish community in North Carolina. Later, he returned to academia as a poet and creative writing teacher. Today, he divides his time between the Bucknell community and the Lancaster district of the Old Order River Brethren.
Updated Sept. 22, 2017
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