"Intro to Poetry Writing is always like this: a long labor, a breech birth, or, obversely, mining in the dark. You take healthy young Americans used to sunshine (aided sometimes by Xanax and Adderall), you blindfold them and lead them by the hand into a labyrinth made from bones. Then you tell them their assignment: 'Find the Grail. You have a New York minute to get it.'"--The Poetry Lesson
The Poetry Lesson is a hilarious account of the first day of a creative writing course taught by a "typical fin-de-siècle salaried beatnik"--one with an antic imagination, an outsized personality and libido, and an endless store of entertaining literary anecdotes, reliable or otherwise. Neither a novel nor a memoir but mimicking aspects of each, The Poetry Lesson is pure Andrei Codrescu: irreverent, unconventional, brilliant, and always funny. Codrescu takes readers into the strange classroom and even stranger mind of a poet and English professor on the eve of retirement as he begins to teach his final semester of Intro to Poetry Writing. As he introduces his students to THE TOOLS OF POETRY (a list that includes a goatskin dream notebook, hypnosis, and cable TV) and THE TEN MUSES OF POETRY (mishearing, misunderstanding, mistranslating . . . ), and assigns each of them a tutelary "Ghost-Companion" poet, the teacher recalls wild tales from his coming of age as a poet in the 1960s and 1970s, even as he speculates about the lives and poetic and sexual potential of his twenty-first-century students. From arguing that Allen Ginsberg wasn't actually gay to telling about the time William Burroughs's funeral procession stopped at McDonald's, The Poetry Lesson is a thoroughly entertaining portrait of an inimitable poet, teacher, and storyteller.
Andrei Codrescu is an award-winning poet, novelist, essayist, and NPR commentator. He edits the online journal Exquisite Corpse and taught literature and creative writing at Louisiana State University for twenty-five years before retiring in 2009 as the MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English. His recent work includes The Posthuman Dada Guide (Princeton) and Jealous Witness: Poems.
"This book, with its punishing, dread-inspiring title and pleading skeleton on the cover, is actually one of the funniest, most irreverent you'll read this year. Part memoir, part novel, part poem, part essay. . . . The Poetry Lesson requires the willing suspension of credulity and a reader's refusal to get offended, hard as Andrei Codrescu may try. He's not quite Borat in emeritus robes, but almost."--Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
"Andrei Codrescu's The Poetry Lesson, the description of a single, three-hour poetry-writing class, is genuinely entertaining. . . . [I]t is . . . funny, moving, daring and even, at times, profound. . . . The book is a kind of ode to eccentricity, to imagination within the institution."--Jonathan Taylor, Times Literary Supplement
"A series of zany autobiographical sketches and satirical reflections on youth, literature, and academia."--Anthony Cummins, Literary Review
"Beneath Codrescu's wacky, self-amused teaching methods, perfected poet-in-a-phrase descriptions, off-kilter teacher-student dialogue and old-timer digressions, there can be found a pestering ambivalence toward the university and a suspicion that he is a hypocrite."--Yelena Akhtiorskaya, Forward
"You should read this book and absorb its lessons as soon as possible."--J.C. Hallman, Quarterly Conversation
"This genially disillusioned, free-associative romp delivers plenty of pleasures in the course of 118 pages. . . . Faced with time and mortality--the quintessential poetic subjects--Codrescu does what great artists have done for millennia: He tells stories, writes poems, and, yes, he teaches."--Chris Waddington, New Orleans Times-Picayune
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Andrei Codrescu: