Everything important I know about poetry and writing and literature came from Millsaps College, and mostly from Greg Miller. There is really no better place on earth to learn about writing than Jackson, Mississippi. The rest of the country might like to pretend that the deep South is a backwater, but it is, in fact, the cultural heart of America. It is an unpleasant truth to have to acknowledge that because like many things American, our cultural heart is deeply flawed and sometimes ugly.
In Jackson, Mississippi, I took Introduction to Interpretation from Greg Miller, an introductory, required course for English majors. It was there I read for the first time William Carlos Williams, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson, Robert Browning, T.S. Eliot. In fact, many of the poems I’ve posted come straight out of my textbook for that class, which I still have. There is probably no one better to teach you to love poetry than a poet himself.
I was a little in love with Greg Miller. I carried a picture stolen from the yearbook office around with me. I was in love with the energy and the passion he brought to teaching. I was in love with how nervous he seemed sometimes. I was in love with the fact that once in class when I got mouthy, he made me come lead discussion. As I have discovered over and over again in the intervening years, it was a lot harder than it looked, being the one in front of the classroom.
So today a poem by a person who taught me to love teaching and poetry and writing in general.
BY GREG MILLER
Oh, goodness. This post took me back. I loved Greg Miller, too. Though it surprises me to learn that you had a required course as an English major that I never had to take, and there’s only one year that separated us at Millsaps, right?
It’s been a long time since I opened Iron Wheel, so maybe it’s time to revisit some poetry in my life.
Jackson, MS. One has to reconcile a lot with that town, but its cultural and literary heritage cannot be denied.
Maybe I was wrong about it being required, Emily. Maybe I just took the class because I loved Greg so much. Howard Pickett was in that class and he was also something of a trouble-maker, intellectually speaking. It was a great class, though, and I could still tell you which room it was in.