With help from wizard Kindle formatter Joshua Tallent, I now have a new title available at Amazon’s Kindle Store. It’s A Poet’s Progress at Bennington – Vol. 1. It comprises the work I did during my first semester in the Bennington College Writing Seminars MFA program, a mix of commentary on poets and my own original poems. My teacher that semester was David Lehman, editor for the highly successful Best American Poetry Series. David was a terrific teacher and a great wit. The way it worked was that I would send him a packet once a month during the semester, responding to his suggested readings and assignments, so this first volume contains four packets. Then we all gathered on the classic New England campus of Bennington in southern Vermont for a 10-day orgy of workshops, special lectures, and nonstop conversations and arguments among fellow students.
I wasn’t the oldest student in my class, which graduated in January of 2003. The low-residency MFA writing programs are terrific for people who have pursued other careers, like mine as a journalist and corporate executive, and finally decide to try their hand at serious writing. I loved every minute of the program, even the ones which involved painful realizations about the inadequacy of my own work. I always felt I was moving toward something those two years of the Bennington MFA. When I came across the saved files of my packets for David Lehman, I decided to edit them lightly and publish them using Amazon’s Digital Text Publishing platform. I set the price at the lowest one possible, a dollar, and that usually means Amazon will discount it to 80 cents.
I left Bennington eager to take my place in the literary world, and I worked hard to complete a booklength poem titled Downsizing the Heart, excerpts of which appear in this new Kindle volume. But along the way, new passions arose, triggered by a conference I attended in Banff named Blogs ‘n’ Dogs, where I first saw someone making a podcast. That was in December, 2005, and I’ve been podcasting and experimenting with audio and video on the net ever since.
I still write poems occasionally, and I dutifully pack my big leather notebook of works in progress whenever I travel, in case the muse lures me from GarageBand and iMovie to pen and paper. Having my work from eight years ago available on my Kindle may spark renewed interest in poetry. And I bought a paper book of poems several days ago, W.S. Merwin’s latest, The Shadow of Sirius, which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry this year, his second. I’ve been fascinated by the insights and observations that my new Kindlesphere friend Andrys Basten has emailed me in the past two days, as she has taken the time for a very close reading of A Poet’s Progress – Vol. 1. It’s wonderful to have readers, and to hear from them. We all know the Kindle and eBooks in general are making a new world of reading possible. What’s not clear is how this emerging platform will revolutionize creative writing. I’m enjoying my own small experiment as a way to find out.
Here is my description of Vol. 1 as it appears on Amazon:
This volume’s commentary comprises considerations of The Best American Poetry 2000, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T.S. Eliot, nine short stories by Henry James, The Mooring of Starting Out by John Ashbery, The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth, Douglas Hofstadter’s translation of Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, The Sea and the Mirror by W. H. Auden, The Changing Light at Sandover by James Merrill, Sphere by A.R. Ammons, Garbage by A.R. Ammons, and The One Day by Donald Hall. Edgerly’s original poetry takes as its subject literary satire, travel in New Zealand, a villanelle on marriage, poetry. Also included are excerpts of a book-length poetry manuscript loosely drawn from the author’s experience as an executive at a gas company.
All that for a buck, and of course there’s the free sample available if you’d like a taste of the work first…