I’ve mentioned before that my route to the professoriate was circuitous. I earned my B.A. as an autodidact, and bluffed my way into the Masters’ program at Kentucky, a school to which I applied because I was in love with a young woman who was a student there, back before I found The Real Mrs. M. I had no background in scholarship, and little interest in it — largely because I had arrived in the midst of the Theory Wars, which I found dispiriting indeed. So to keep my grades up, I took lots of creating writing courses, particularly in workshops with James Baker Hall.
If you’ve ever been in a college writing workshop, you’ll know that some of it is pretty good, some of it is pretty bad, and some of it is just vanilla. Me, I was writing sonnets and trying to get past my own glibness to something with substance. Maybe I succeeded occasionally, but in retrospect, it’s probably a good thing I’ve switched to fiction.
However, there was the occasional exception. In a couple of these workshops, there was a young woman who attended Morehead State U — a couple of hours away to the East — and would come down to Lexington once a week. I’m glad she did, because her work was good. Really good. Good enough, in fact, that I knew we’d hear more about her one day (at least to the extent that we hear about poets in this era, which ain’t a lot, but it’s something.) I recognized that she had a genuine talent. Then the workshops ended, and I graduated, and went into the magazine business, and didn’t think too much about contemporary poetry.
When Facebook came along, I remembered her name and looked her up, as one does, and we’ve gotten back in touch. In fact, she’s one of my favorite people on the site, with posts that delight and amuse me. We disagree utterly about politics (of course), but she’s gracious enough to put up with it from me, and I’m much more interested in the fact that she’s kind, funny, and talented.
And now, Karen Craigo is the Featured Poet at Atticus Review, where you can find out a little bit about her and check out some of her work. And you’ll forgive me for giving myself a pat on the back for being able to recognize good work when I saw it, even 25 years ago, even in a college writing workshop.