Cowboys and Indians

A Few Notions About Creative Writing

This little piece requires a head note.  Oddly, it is the only thing I have ever written that was honest-to-God censored.  I was asked by the Chronicle of Higher Education to write a short opinion piece on the subject of contemporary creative writing courses, etc.—the scene.  I wrote this piece, following their guidelines exactly for length and general tone.  After a while it came back to me with the explanation that they didn’t approve of my opinions.  Not at all.  They didn’t even suggest revising my opinions.  Beyond the pale.  See if you can figure out why.  I can’t.

In the beginning we were the rebels.  The real beginning was during the late 40’s and early 50’s, that astonishing time of the GI Bill when American colleges and universities were suddenly booming and changing.  We asked for courses in 20th-century literature, and we got that, together with fair and accurate warning from the elders that the canon would, sooner or later, constitute a bloody battlefield.  Along with that we wanted the opportunity to write our poems and stories and novels on the institution’s time and for credit.  Won that one, too, and so completely that now there are poets and writers teaching writing courses in hundreds of colleges and universities.  It has been a radical change far beyond the wildest expectations of the very few...

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