As part of my over-the-break reading, I have been catching up on posts, so I have just discovered that Erinn Batykefer is blogging over at the Ren Hen Press blog. Batykefer’s book, Allegheny, Monongahela was published this past spring, and because I believe that all Pennsylvania poets (she is from Pittsburgh) should somehow stick together (a post for another day — my belief has something to do with the fact that Pennsylvania retains its residents, but these residents also tend to have identity issues), I purchased her book right away. And of course, I loved it. Hilda Raz calls this collection “a series of invocations to memory — of the divided self in the body of another, the blood residue after loss.” For me, Allegheny, Monogahela is a book about a poet wrestling with violence — but physical violence that leaves the scars we can see, and the emotional violence that leaves wounds we can’t. One of my favorite poems, “Allegheny Love Letter” has the river speaking directly: “You know this, as you must know that in me/eyeless, limivorous fish dig food from the muck/among rotting suicides, that every flood//has me spilling sewage and gore over my banks./And still, there you are among sycamores or waving/from bridges.” Rivers play a big role in my own poetry — and when I reread this poem, I smiled because one of my students just wrote a poem about the Allegheny River in his life — except that he lives in the state of New York, so his writing was coming from the northern end of the river.
The most recent post has to do with creative writing pedagogy and the use of the persona poem. My students love persona poems. Love them. However, I have found that some of the topics are a bit out of my personal understanding. (I am just not that hip — I guess). What I mean is that I don’t get all the pop culture references — Batykefer, on her post, mentions the use of figures from the Twilight series — and I have to say that while every year, I get some poetry about vampires, I have never read so many poems that focus on vampires, werewolves and aliens. Sometimes, I want to throw my hands up in the air and simply outlaw poems about pop culture (I do outlaw a few things — sunsets, butterflies, and pretty flowers, for example). But I don’t really want to do that — especially when so many poets do a wonderful job using images and icons from pop culture. Batykefer’s post suggests that we shouldn’t outlaw those images — but consider about how to use these images well. I know that she is right, and as a creative writing professor, I have to think about how to teach my students new and better ways of using those figures from pop culture (yes, including the characters from Twilight). Her own personal example (yes — she wrote a poem inspired from the Twilight series) was insightful.
Now, I suppose I have to go back and rethink my rule about those sunsets, butterflies and pretty flowers.