Hey there. Daniel Nester here. I've guest-blogged before in this space, so I'll cut to the quick and start posting things. If you want to know more about me and whatnot, check out where I live online as well as my usual blogging space, the group blog We Who Are About To Die.
I'll start off with a scan of W.H. Auden's "daydream College for Bards," from his essay "The Poet and The City" collected in The Dyer's Hand. I love bringing this up when, as the seasons seem to dictate, people start talking about the utility of graduate, and even undergraduate, writing classes.
I think I first encountered the Auden quote reading Clayton Eshelman's piece in the collection of poetry/prosody, Conversant Essays, in a class given by Mark Rudman. David Lehman mentions the Auden Daydream College in his introduction to the 2008 edition of Best American Poetry.
Writing in 1991, Erica Riggs addresses Auden's Item #5, the bit about cultivating a garden plot. Good ole Wystan stipulates this, Riggs writes, "perhaps to teach them how a crop is brought to "'ripeness.'"
Riggs continues to say that "a gardener can do much, using experience and judgment to produce asuccessful crop, just as a poet may bring critical judgment to bear on the composition of poetry. But the crucial processes of germination and fructification draw energy from earth and sun in their seasonal cycle--vast powers that he can only hope to engage by being humbly responsive to them."
I'll leave this this kicker-quote, also found in the Riggs. "I am always interested," Auden writes, "in hearing what a poet has to say about the nature of poetry, though I do not take it too seriously. As objective statements his definitions are never accurate, never complete, and always one-sided. Not one would stand up under a rigorous analysis."