This is a topic that has come up a few times in the Gandy Dancer class, both this semester and last. I’ve talked a little with Lucia about this, and we both seem to agree: Geneseo has a definite school or style of poetry. Complex, multidimensional lines; intricate details and images; an aversion to the abstract and vague—these are all things I tend to see in the poems being produced in our workshop and by other Geneseo students that write poetry.
Which kind of makes selecting poetry for GD difficult. In the past, pretty much all of our poetry readers have been involved in the upper-level poetry workshops at Geneseo and wrote/read poetry similar to the type being taught/written here. And when you’re receiving poems from across the state, in all different types of form and style and content, you tend to pick the poems you think are the best: which, it often seems like, are the poems similar in style to the ones you’re used to seeing and writing.
Not the greatest thing when you’re trying to put together a lit mag featuring writing from across the state. Only publishing Geneseo poets in a SUNY-wide lit mag doesn’t exactly show the breadth and diversity of talent within the SUNY system. But, then again, you don’t exactly want to be publishing poems you think are sub-par to the rest of the selection pool just to throw another SUNY school or two into the mix.
I mean, look at some of the poems we have in our class Reader. Tamarin Norwood’s “Anyway I ran at the tree again” and William Carlos Williams’ “XXII” are both beautiful in their simplicity and the restraint—things I don’t really see a lot in our workshop or from other poets I know here. But, although the Williams and Norwood poems don’t subscribe to the Geneseo school of poetry, they’re obviously beautiful and well-crafted enough to have been published and discussed in an upper-level poetry class.
So, as Geneseo students, are we biased when it comes to poetry? I know, for instance, that when I’m in a workshop I tend to pick up on the styles or forms other students in my class are experimenting with—if I see something I like, I try to do something similar. Which is great–I love being around other writers for that very reason: to learn from what they do. But has that led to a certain style of poetry being promoted on our campus? And should we be attempting to read and write outside our own comfort zones, for the sake of exploring the diverse range of poetry that obviously exists ‘out there’?
I guess what I’m asking is: does Geneseo have a specific style of poetry? And is that a bad thing?