From Jam Tarts:
How has your experience as a professor of creative writing and literature influenced your personal tastes? How has what you've taught – and perhaps who you've taught – over the years challenged or even transformed your sense of what’s pleasing and what’s not?
RP: For years I've required the young poets in my MFA workshop to compile an anthology: 36 pages that show what you mean by the words “poem” or “poetry.” Ideally, typed up by hand. The students learn from the exercise – sometimes typing something they didn't realize they liked, sometimes beginning to type something they thought they liked, then abandoning it.
A kind of secret function of that exercise has been to develop and expand my taste. The student anthologies are scouts for me, keeping my taste limber, I think. Sometimes, there’s the plausible mediocrity that the young poets (or their teachers) are reading in a particular decade, or lustrum, or year. But sometimes I get some free education. Not only contemporary finds (it may have been in one of those anthologies that I first read a poem by Terrance Hayes or Katie Peterson) but poets translated from other languages. And re-discoveries: some very hip, rather experimental young poet types out “Lycidas” and I realize I’ve sort of underestimated it as a dusty, ornate perennial.