The Luncheon Society/Poet and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu on his new book, “The Poetry Lesson”/Los Angeles—Napa Valley Grille/February 25, 2011

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While teaching at LSU, Andrei Codrescu dared his students to write a poem that would get them arrested.  His students sat stumped. 

Maybe there were no new worlds to conquer in the classroom, but a half century ago, a simple poem written by Sophie Scholl during the horrors of Nazism resulted in her beheading. During the Cold War, poets and playwrights like Vaclav Havel and others often found themselves jailed or placed under the constant scrutiny of 24 hour surveillance. In oppressive societies, poetry represented a scream from the deepest parts of the soul; in free societies, poetry told the truth.

It was great to have Codrescu back with The Luncheon Society in Los Angeles, his first visit in 2 years. His new book, The Poetry Lesson, represents a summation of a long and successful teaching career. He has a new collection of poetry coming out later this year and we shall see him again in Manhattan.

Codrescu has retired from teaching at LSU and now lives on a large parcel of land in the Ozarks, complete with a spring-filled lake and two caves.  While he may be retired from the classroom, I sense that he is preparing for a renaissance because he can create, destroy, and create again (in true Dada fashion) without dealing with a number of meddling students.

A Note from Andrei Codrescu: “My new book is The Poetry Lesson, is out from Princeton University Press. I’m modestly adding some other opinions, but I must say three things: 1. the bonfire of poetic vanities is ignited, 2. poetry is the currency of the future, and 3. the enemy is at the gates. Friends, the castle is yours. Bring your pets. After a quarter of a century of amusement and terror, here are the maxims of a teaching wretch.  Intro to Poetry Writing is always like this: a long labor, a breech birth, or, obversely, mining in the dark. You take healthy young Americans used to sunshine (aided sometimes by Xanax and Adderall), you blindfold them and lead them by the hand into a labyrinth made from bones. Then you tell them their assignment: ‘Find the Grail. You have a New York minute to get it.”

The Luncheon Society is a series of private luncheons and dinners that take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Manhattan.  We essentially split the costs of gathering and we meet in groups of 20-25 people. Discussions center on politics, art, science, film, culture, and whatever else is on our mind. Think of us as “Adult Drop in Daycare.” We’ve been around since 1997 and we’re purposely understated. These gatherings takes place around a large table, where you interact with the main guest and conversation becomes end result.  There are no rules, very little structure, and the gatherings happen when they happen. Join us when you can.

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