Suzanne Gardinier & Rickey Laurentiis, Sarah Lawrence College, 2010
The Making of the Complete Lover
I started teaching at Sarah Lawrence in the fall of 1994; after that first semester I stopped teaching a traditional writing workshop, and made a class in which we could study great poems and try to steal from them, discussing student work only in individual confereces. I've been teaching poetry that way for almost twenty years now.
I called the class "The Making of the Complete Lover," thinking of Walt Whitman—"The known universe has one complete lover, and that is the greatest poet"—and of James Baldwin: "The role of the artist is exactly the same role, I think, as the role of the lover," he said, in an interview with The Black Scholar in 1973. "If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don't see. Insofar as that is true, in that effort, I become conscious of the things that I don't see. And I will not see without you, and vice versa, you will not see without me. No one wants to see more than he sees. You have to be driven to see what you see. The only way you can get through it is to accept that two-way street which I call love. You can call it a poem, you can call it whatever you like. That's how people grow up. An artist is not here to give you answers but to ask you questions." Here's a syllabus below, and one from a new class called "On Form."