I am having to read a lot of books for this degree. I suppose that was to be expected. And reading is one of my favourite occupations, so it's not a hardship, although as the course leader predicted during my interview, being told what to read sometimes is a hardship for someone whose mind has roved wherever it pleased, in literary terms, for a long time. That freedom has not been especially productive for me, however. It helped me reach the interesting lands inhabited by what you might call the outlaw sensibilities of people like Li Po, Dostoyevsky, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bukowski and Hunter Thompson, but I haven't written anything I'm really happy with in response to my unnoticed invasion of their psychological turf. Except my long poem 'Oldtime Beautiful', which appeared unexpurgated in Bryn Fortey's 'Outlaw' magazine and then disappeared seemingly forever, along with my ability to write poetry (or so it has seemed).
I am expecting the degree to wake me up to writing even if it does so by giving me something to define myself against. And it has already done that, in some ways, with only two weeks of it under my belt. The lecturer who pronounced Kerouac 'hippie shit' and William Burroughs 'unreadable' incensed me. I considered what he said seriously for a while, wishing to examine earnestly whether I might have been misguided in my love for their writing over all these years and that perhaps the time had come to 'grow up', intellectually speaking, into the world of adult literature. Then I lit some incense, put Jack's 'Blues And Haikus' on and went crossly to sleep. The poet who teaches us has a warm, endearing manner about him and writes very sweet, sentimental, unambitious poetry about the past. I'm not sure I would publish it in BEATNIK. He wants us to bring in a memento of childhood to the the next seminar to provoke discussion and then reflective writing. Perhaps I misread him, but it didn't seem to occur to him for a moment that not everybody had a warm, fluffy childhood and that talking about it might bring up some very painful memories for some. I have been working on something that will rattle him out of his complacency. He will probably mark me down for it, but the marks you get in the first year don't count towards your degree anyway, so it's not important. We are poets and writers, are we not? There are statements to be made about Art and Truth, as crazy as that might make me sound.
Two last points for today: firstly, the prices that uuniversity presses fix for academic tomes are scandalous -- sometimes a third or more of what the Government believes an unemployed man needs to live on for a week -- and secondly, it's interesting how the universities are using the internet to pass off their tuition costs onto the students while every year they increase what they ask for from the State. I am having to print off inordinate amounts of information from different web pages; it's costing me pounds. But that's just an observation, and probably understandable, on their part. It's a philistine world the universities have to survive in, and it grows more so with every year that passes.