The 10 Best Books for College Composition

I’ve taught various levels of composition for over twenty years and finding a “perfect fit” composition textbook seems to be as difficult as finding an earthly soulmate.  Often we don’t know what texts to choose or where to turn for advice and suggestions.  In the end, textbook choices are more or less a compromise. My […]

Susan Howe’s Definition of Poetry

Ludwig Wittgenstein makes the following remark about poetry: “Do not forget that a poem, although it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information.”  However, it seems that Susan Howe’s poetry and prose does in fact enact the language-game of giving information.  As is evident with her latest […]

Thinking about Robinson Jeffers Again

I’ve been thinking of Robinson Jeffers.  Recently, I came across a short documentary of his writing and family life in Carmel, CA.  He made recordings of several of his poems which are available, such as “Night,”  “The Day is a Poem,” “Wise Men in their Bad Hours,” “Hurt Hawks,” “Night Without Sleep,” “The Place with […]

Hermann Hesse on the Self…

“We always draw the boundaries of our personal selves much too narrowly!  We count as our selves only what we can distinguish as individual or anomalous.  But really we are all made up of the substance of the whole world–every one of us.”   “If the whole human race died out except for one single […]

Teaching Good and Bad Writing: The Truly Avant-Garde

Most good writing is clear, vigorous, honest, alive, sensuous, appropriate, unsentimental, rhythmic, without pretension, fresh, metaphorical, evocative in sound, economical, authoritative, surprising, memorable, and light. –Ken Macrorie. These days it’s not popular to talk about good and bad writing.  In textbooks and “how to” writing manuals we’re plied with rules, advice and suggestions, but aren’t […]


Whenever I begin a new academic term I’m consistently reminded of Franz Kafka’s splendid parable “Before the Law.”  I believe it adequately sums up what Mike Rose in Lives on the Boundary calls the “mismatched expectations” of students who attempt to gain entrance into the academy.  School is made for their edification and enlightenment but […]

Seamus Heaney’s “The Peninsula”

A link to Seamus Heaney’s Nobel Prize Speech The Peninsula When you have nothing more to say, just drive For a day all around the peninsula, The sky is tall as over a runway, The land without marks, so you will not arrive But pass through, though always skirting landfall. At dusk, horizons drink down […]