name a hundred books

Of poetry, that is. Ron Silliman:

I am not at all certain that any MFA program should admit a student who cannot name a minimum of 100 books of contemporary poetry – published in the past 25 years – and say a little about each. And I am not sure that I would graduate any student who did not then seriously read 200 more such books over the next period of time – some schools require as few as 25 – and again could say a little about each.

On the bright side, it’s just “a little” about each.

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5 thoughts on “name a hundred books

  1. Well, can you do it? I’m pretty sure I could do it, especially if I am allowed to include German books.

  2. I saw you had a great start on your blog! I haven’t tried yet, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it off the top of my head. Am hopeless with names and titles. Food for thought though — makes one think about reading poetry as a separate activity from reading anything else.

  3. I haven’t read the comment in context, but taken in isolation, it’s exceptionally foolish. If the goal of an MFA program is to produce fashionistas with expert qualifications in Au Courant, Modishness, and Zeitgeist, it ought to work out fine; if the goal is to produce poets who can write good poems…well, if you were training a young poet, would you rather see your student devouring Horace, Herrick, Housman, Hardy, and Herbert, or the collected works of the latest BAP-represented writers? Young writers don’t need to cram their contemporaries; they absorb the aesthetic spirit of the moment along with the air they breathe; what they require is what doesn’t come to them simply by being around at a particular time and place.

  4. Scavella says:

    What Richard said.

    I would never qualify for a MFA programme under those terms. But then, I wouldn’t particularly want to qualify for a MFA programme that set those terms anyway. So there it is.

  5. sjane says:

    And those of us without MFAs will be left alone to read as we think best.

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