One of the classes I took that Fall was English 202 Craft of Poetry. The teacher was John O'Connor. His father was also a faculty member there. His name, I think, was Phil O'Connor. Our teacher told us early on that he wanted the class to have a workshop feel to it. We were expected to engage each other with our poems and welcome constructive criticism from our classmates. I still have the texts that were required for this class: The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets and Writing Poems by Robert Wallace with Foreward by X.J. Kennedy.
One of the assignments for this class was to select a book of poems by one poet and write about the poems in that book. Also to say whether we thought the book we chose was worth recommending to other readers. I wish I could remember the assignment details better than that. I do remember that the teacher announced to the class that he would look at an early draft once if we wanted and offer constructive criticism.
I chose the book by John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. I have a vague memory of showing him a draft of my essay which mentioned seven elements used variously throughout the poems. He said the categories were good ones and that it would be enough to provide an example of each element.
Recently, while I was looking for my 2007 tax return, I happened to find the essay I wrote for the poetry class in the Fall of 1988. I showed it to my friend Jack when we met to discuss the Ashbery poem "Voyage in the Blue" which is in the book Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. When he read my essay, Jack remarked that, back then, I read idiomatically. We agreed that that was probably the best reading strategy I knew at the time, and that's why I read those poems that way. Mind you, in the Fall of 1988 I was 22 years old. I offer my essay here as an example of a young poet struggling to put things together. Here's what I came up with. The paper is dated October 19, 1988.