Philip Brady has taught at University College Cork in Ireland, as a Peace Corps Volunteer at the National University of Zaire, in the Semester at Sea Program, in the Wilkes University Low-Residency MFA Program, at the Chautauqua Institute, at San Francisco State University, the University of Delaware, and SUNY Binghamton. Currently he is a Professor of English at Youngstown State University, where he teaches creative writing and literature.
Teaching Tu Fu on the Night Shift
(from By Heart: Reflections of a Rust Belt Bard)
It’s one of those pre-fab classrooms in the School of Business building that makes you feel like hooking on a straight-jacket: pastel walls, pastel desks, pastel carpet, no windows. Outside, the evening’s warm—maybe the last autumn evening before the rains and snow blacken this ghost-steel town for the next six months. But my students haven’t seen much of the day, or the evening, or probably the Fall for that matter: they’ve driven straight in from suburban jobs, unwrapping a burger as they cruise for parking, or plugging quarters into the basement snack machines before filing into the elevator up to night class.
NEOMFA Workshop in Poetry
Though it takes place under fluorescent light in a pastel room with a group generated by a computer manifest, the workshop is a facsimile of gatherings that have sprung up through history in cafes, homes, parks, churches, and bars. We share their purpose and claim their authority. The difference—and it is a crucial one—is that our group is defined by no school of thought, movement, clique, or shared aesthetic; we have not chosen our constituency. This alters the group dynamic in ways which, if not addressed, can have a corrosive effect. While we partake of the traditions that brought like-minded poets together, we must resist the impulses that guide non-academic workshops, that is, we must avoid forming and committing to a group aesthetic. Ultimately, we must resist the urge to please. Instead, we must delve into our differences to help us define our own theory and practice of writing. I hope we will find like-minded writers, and form our own allegiances, but only after recognizing the necessity of defining ourselves, by our own lights, rather than that of the group. As my first workshop teacher, Jack Wheatcroft, told us, “Resist everything I say.”
Stories That Happen:The Craft and Theory of Memoir
Once the purview of celebrities and literary figureheads, the memoir has burgeoned over the last ten years. In fact, USA TODAY claims that publication of memoirs now outpaces debut novels. In this course, we will survey the expanding field of creative non-fiction and delve into its literary and historical origins. We will explore the boundaries between memoir and autobiographical fiction, and we will develop our abilities to write and critique life stories in prose and narrative poetry. Ultimately, we will address the new phenomenon of memoir-writing in relation to the genres of fiction and poetry to discover how memoirs redefine the complex and quasi-contractual relationship between reader and author, and between world and word. Course texts include William Zinnsser’s Inventing the Truth;Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes; Thomas Lynch’s The Undertaking; Carol Moldaw’s The Widening; and Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory. Students will make a presentation based on assigned reading; write a journal of thirty pages based on class assignments; write two short essays/stories of five pages and one term paper of at least ten pages.
NEOMFA Craft and Theory:Literary Publishing
This craft and theory course will explore the wide and challenging world of literary publishing. We will survey the literary publishing world, from large to small presses, fromFarrar, Straus & Giroux to Twenty Million Flies Can’t Be Wrong, from prestigious lit mags to racy lit rags. We will discuss editorial policies, design issues, book distribution, business models, book marketing, selling your manuscripts, hosting author events, and much more. We have the unique opportunity to see a small literary press in operation, working in-house with Etruscan Press, as well as with Artful Dodge, a national literary journal co-hosted by YSU, as well as our own YSU Penguin Review. For many classes, we will hear from distinguished visitors from the publishing world.
By Heart: The Bardic Tradition from Ancient to Modern
This course will consider poetry as an oral art. We will delve into the sources of literary poetry as orature in prime cultures, and we will trace ways in which the oral tradition survives today in children’s verse, anecdote, joke, and ritual speech. We will consider how the Bardic tradition shaped and continues to shape poetic forms. We will attempt to stimulate and nurture our aural imagination. Drawing on studies in ethnopoetics, we will explore the tension and interplay between literary and oral art, considering the impact of education, technology, and modernity on the place of poetry in our lives.
Introduction to Literature
“In dreams begin responsibilities,” says an old proverb, quoted by the modern Irish poet W.B. Yeats; and later, by the American short story writer, Delmore Schwartz. So the epigram, sourced in dream, is handed down through generations and cultures as a responsibility. Literature courses are poised between dream and responsibility. By reading, we plunge into the dream. By gathering to discuss our dreams we take on responsibilities—to ourselves, to our classmates, and to the intellectual and cultural traditions created by the dreams we read and the relationships we cherish. This course will offer the chance to read a wide variety of poetry and prose, from the 6 th century B.C. to modern time, and to respond to those works, in writing and discussion, to enhance our appreciation and understanding of the double-world, of dreams and responsibilities, in which we live.