Alumni CLASnotes Spring 2006
In This Issue:

Critical Thinking

The Undeniable Influence of a Literary Crank

William Logan
William Logan
He is often referred to as the “Most Hated Man in American Poetry.” Pulitzer Prize winners have threatened him with violence. But the power of William Logan’s criticism cannot be denied. On March 3, the UF creative writing professor was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism for his book The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin.

“Winning was like being struck by lightning,” says the New York Times Book Review critic. “The best aspect of the honor is that even my friends seem impressed. I’m sorry that my parents weren’t alive to see it — they always said I was too critical, but they would have been proud.”

The award-winning book includes essays about Shakespeare’s sonnets, Whitman’s use of the American vernacular, the mystery of Marianne Moore, and a ground breaking analysis of Sylvia Plath’s relationship to her father, as well as the chronicles of the poet whose sharp opinions of contemporary verse have sometimes been controversial.

As Slate magazine writer Eric McHenry once commented, “If you write a book of poems, he’ll pan it. If you write a poem about being panned, he’ll pan that, too. He’s a perpetual demotion machine.” Even so, he goes on, “Logan does, periodically and grudgingly, give positive reviews, and it’s impossible to distrust a compliment that’s coming through clenched teeth. His recommendation means something.”
Over the years, many brave UF poetry students have entered this notorious critic’s workshops and seminars. From 1983 to 2000, he served as director of the UF Creative Writing Program, and he continues to teach those who are up to the challenge. The result is a number of successful poetry alumni hailing from UF.

Some books published by students of William Logan
Some books by students of William
“I can say for certain that William Logan was instrumental in all our successes in some way,” says 1997 MFA alumnus John Poch. “All my professors at UF were influential and helpful, but for me, William Logan was the most effective teacher. I needed to hear the hard truth about my poems, and he certainly didn’t shy away from that. And when I finally got praise from him, I felt I’d really earned it.”

Now an English professor at Texas Tech University, Poch has two books forthcoming in 2006—Hockey Haiku: The Essential Collection and Ghost Towns of the Enchanted Circle. These follow his 2004 book, Poems, as well as the publication of several individual poems in venues, such as Paris Review and The New Republic.

Deborah Ager, who also received her MFA in 1997, is the publisher and executive director of 32 Poems magazine. Noelle Kocot (MFA, 1995) is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and has published three books—4 (2001), The Raving Fortune (2004) and Poem for the End of Time and Other Poems (2006).

C. Dale Young (MFA, 1993) went on to earn a degree in medicine from UF in 1997 and has published more than 100 poems and a collection, The Day Underneath the Day (2001)—all while running his own medical practice in San Francisco. His latest book of poems, The Second Person, is due out in 2007. He is also poetry editor of New England Review and a faculty member in the creative writing program at Warren Wilson College.

Geri Doran (MFA, 1995) published her first collection of poems in 2005, Resin, which won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She is currently touring the world as an Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholar. Randall Mann (MFA, 1997) is a visiting professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and published a collection of poems in 2004, Complaint in the Garden, as well as numerous individual poems. He is the winner of the Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry.

“It is actually quite unprecedented for so many poets in a program together to go on to publish so well,” says Poch, who theorizes that part of the success is due to the coaching of UF professors like Logan. “He is certainly the best teacher I ever had. While he can be as tough in his criticism of students as he is with major poets, I have never known another teacher so generous with his time. I don’t think he’d want too many people to know—as it might ruin his reputation as the ‘most hated man in American poetry’—but he is really so helpful and kind.”

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