MFA program SDSU

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My first meeting today with the MFA students at SDSU. I have one word for these students: Fabulous. They’re funny and clearly so well read and talented and diving in and out of ideas and language and metaphor. They read all the time. They are going to watch the Superbowl and they are not ashamed of it. And why should they be? My poetry mentor Benjamin Saltman watched baseball and vampire movies. I bet that Pablo Neruda, the man himself, the poet/god had some crazy things he did with his spare time and even writing all those odes, he must have had some time. He composes “Ode to a Lemon,” then he takes a break.

My students are excited about life and I think that’s the first thing you need going into poetry. You need drama, you need energy, you need to believe that you are sitting at the center of the world ready to write some really amazing poetry, you need to believe that you’re cooking. Ilya Kaminsky runs the MFA program at SDSU and the students are so fortunate to be able to study with him. He has fire, brilliance and a wild kinetic energy. I like that the SDSU students want to make poetry such an essential part of their life.

When I wake, I want to think of poetry, when I dream, I want to dream of poetry and sometimes I do dream that I am on a stage reading poetry and I am swimming at the same time. There are all these glowing balls and I can juggle them. I like these students, and this program is fantastic. Not for the faint of heart but for the poetry students who dissolves metaphor in strange ways and make wild.

I got the Neruda book of all the odes for Christmas but I haven’t broken into them yet. They’re discouraging. Good god, this guy could write about a tomato, an orange, a mango. A fig sure, anyone can write about a fig. A poem about a pomegranate? I laugh in your face, I could write one in about two seconds. But a tomato? What is there to say?
Ode To Tomatoes by Pablo Neruda
The street
filled with tomatoes,
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.
In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera
a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhaustible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

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Published in: on January 28, 2014 at 8:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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