Poet deNiord shares advice from masters in Brown Bag

Poet-in-residence Chard deNiord won’t be teaching a master class, but he will be imparting his audience with wisdom from 20th- and 21st-century masters of poetry.

deNiord, author of five books of poetry, will discuss some of the guidance he’s received from some of the most notable names in poetry with his Brown Bag lecture, called “Lessons from the Masters,” at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

The lecture was inspired by deNiord’s book Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs, a collection of poetry history and criticism. Over the course of his career, deNiord interviewed esteemed poets such as Lucille Clifton, Robert Bly, Jack Gilbert and many others, all of which he compiled in his book. It also contains essays on Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, James Wright and Philip Levine.

“After interviewing the great senior poets of this generation, I thought I would have fun picking out snippets from these interviews and talking about the wisest things they said about poetry and their careers as poets,” deNiord said.

deNiord said he hopes the diverse examples he presents of poets who successfully made careers out of their art will be encouraging for his audience.

“I hope they take away an appreciation for these long, brilliant careers in poetry and what these poets learned,” deNiord said.

The advice he received from the poets he interviewed was grounded in reality but also in humbleness, he said.

“We live in a time with dozens and dozens of MFA programs and this sort of professionalization of writing,” he said. “And what these poets really offer is a sobering and helpful view — with humility at its center. That’s one of the important lessons for young writers to learn. These comments, these sayings, these examples that are both in their comments and in their poems, I hope will provide a really helpful, spiritual, as well as attitudinal direction for people starting out.”

deNiord said that poetry can be a tough discipline, but words of wisdom from some of recent history’s most notable poets could be inspiring for his audience — especially for those that are aspiring poets.

“You can’t teach poetry,” he said. “You can nurture poets, you can expose writers to poetry, but you really can’t teach it at all.”

deNiord said he started writing in high school, but went on to major in religious studies while he was in college. He also received a Masters of Divinity from Yale. He could not deny his passion for poetry, however.

“It often takes a writer — or poet, especially — time to admit to himself or herself that this is something that you really want to take seriously and pursue as a profession or as a vocation,” deNiord said.

He went on to attend the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and taught high school before landing at his current job at Providence College. He’s now been teaching for almost 20 years.

“I decided to follow this route, for better or for worse,” deNiord said.