blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


PIVOT POINTS  |  Second Generation Poet

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan

I loved words from the first ones I could read. I loved words that made meaning and words that simply sounded luscious and words that affected me by their appearance, like abstract art. I read a lot, and some time in adolescence I became aware of the difference between imaginative literature and all other writing. For one thing, literary writers seemed to love words as I did—not only for their meaning but for their color and sound. And not only for the meanings I could look up, but for meanings I couldn't—the rich resonance of a word's history and its associations.

Two experiences shaped my artistic—thus my entire—life. One was the four years of knowledge and encouragement I got at Hollins College, where great writers and (girl) neophytes alike were treated with utmost respect. The other was a period almost as long: my three and a half years studying poetry writing with Dave Smith. It is impossible to describe a great teacher in action, short of memoir. But I can say this: he pushed me up to a level of seriousness and commitment to the art of poetry I had never-and might never have-reached. Unfortuately, but perhaps necessarily, two decades of unfocused writing stretched between those two experiences.

As a teacher of literature and writing, I hope I have paid some of my debt to Hollins and Dave Smith. Some of my students have made me feel that I promoted a love of poetry in them. Laura Gray Street was not my student, but my young friend. I've had the pleasure of sharing very similar ideas and enthusiams with her since she was a novice writer, and I have watched her growth as a poet with admiration.

Larry Levis, through his poems, was a mentor to us all. And his words are with us now.  

 The Adamsons'
   Without a Philosophy
   Sin una Filosofia

   Notes and Acknowledgments
   Levis Reading Loop