In responding to the posting of a Donald Justice poem last week, I mentioned the story Charles Wright tells of a conference with DJ when Wright was a student at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. During the conference Don swallowed a fly. Here's the whole tale, as CW tells it.
As I say, this [Don's] concentration was much in evidence in his teaching as well [as his tennis]. I shall never forget my first conference with Don to go over my poems. It was, in fact, my first conference with anyone about my poems, and I was anxious, to say the least. The subject matter of our conversation--Don's conversation--escapes me now. Some ineptitude I was trying to suggest was a poem. Something, no doubt, about goddesses and the Aegean Sea. But Don, as was his manner, was taking it seriously, very seriously. Certainly more serious than I, having already seen in a couple of workshop sessions what the level of performance was, a level far above what I was doing. In any case, Don was patiently going over the poem. At the same time, a fly was going over it, too. And over us, circling our heads, circling the page, circling Don's face as he kept his concentration ardently on the poem and on what he was saying. I, of course, was mesmerized by the fly as it got closer and closer to Don's face, and, abruptly, as Don inhaled to say something, flew into his mouth. His mouth! Don gulped. Bye fly. He actually swallowed the damn thing, so intent was he on the poem at hand. "Did I swallow that fly?" he asked, astonished. I allowed as to how he had. "Jesus," he said. Amazing! Then he actually went back to the poem. From that moment, he had me in the palm of his hand."
This comes from an essay, "Improvisations on Donald Justice," in a volume of Workshop reminiscences, A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, edited by Robert Dana (University of Iowa Press, 1999).