The Podcasts of Visionary Company


For any prospective MFAer, a peek behind the institutional curtain can be a valuable part of the application process. Beyond the various bells and whistles that a graduate program may offer, the actual classes remain the most distinguishing feature in any Creative Writing department. We at Washington Square Review are happy to have the opportunity to share with our readers a unique look into the experience of MFA candidates at New York University.

Our program is fortunate enough to include among its faculty the poet Major Jackson, who teaches a Craft of Poetry class named “Visionary Company.” Throughout the 14 weeks of this class, the main objective is to explore how elements of craft contribute to the mythologizing of certain poets as visionaries. That is to say, the students examine work that has been considered ground-breaking, and identify attributes within the work that support this characterization. To that end, the students maintain a weekly podcast series in which these visionary works are discussed, analyzed, questioned, challenged, praised, lampooned, and always studied in great detail.

I’m sure my description of this class has only done it a disservice, which is why I am so excited to invite our readers to listen for themselves. For the first time, the PoemChat podcast from Major Jackson’s “Visionary Company” is being made available to any and all who would listen.

Without further adieu, we present selections from the Fall 2018 iteration of the PoemChat podcast, and sincerely hope that it entertains, elucidates, and educates anyone who may be  interested in this insider look at the Graduate Program in Creative Writing here at NYU.

Derek Walcott’s “The Schooner Flight 

In this episode, masculinity and gender are investigated through the sailor Shabine in Walcott’s miniature Odyssey.  

Frank Bidart’s “Ellen West”

This week the group discusses Bidart’s “aesthetics of disembodiment” and his iconic relationship with persona poems.  

Sharon Olds’ Stag’s Leap and Strike Sparks  

This episode explores decades of material from one of the most influential American poets and gives special attention to some of the lingering effects of her extensive autobiographical content.

Washington Square