Month: September 2015

On Taking My Coffee Mug’s Advice

  Last week, I sat at my desk, a pile of student papers before me, a cursor pulsing in the blank document that needed to become an essay draft for workshop. It was 10:00 at night. I wanted to be marathon-ing The Twilight Zone. Across the room, my cat raised her head. She was sitting in my armchair, curled up on a throw, and nestled among several pillows. I am frequently jealous of my cat’s lifestyle, but never so much as I was in that moment. In my first post, I wrote about how nighttime is usually a sacred time for me, but as the midpoint of my first semester at WVU approaches, I’ve had to make some sacrifices to ensure that I stay on top of my work. Sometimes that means giving up my nights. I’ve lived here since the first week of August, and I’m still not sure what to make of Morgantown. I like the old people bars where I can have a cocktail in peace without worrying that I’ll see one …

The MFA in Fixing

I did undergrad in three years, taking extra summer and winter courses to knock out credit requirements. It was in the summer after my first year that I wrote the first short story of my adult life, then another two stories for a class I took in the fall of my second year. In spring of that year I didn’t really write. Over the summer, I think I wrote two new stories, which I workshopped online in the MFA Draft Fiction Workshop. Then, in my third year, I took two fall workshops and a yearlong thesis, workshopping three more stories in the process, along with a bunch of flash. I even pounded out a bunch of terrible poetry in my last semester, which somehow got me into the Salem Poetry Seminars for Massachusetts public college students. As I’ve said before, I applied to a ton of MFAs. I applied with the best work I had, which probably wasn’t the best work I would have been capable of had I waited another year. Some great schools …

First Times, Community & Superstitions

What can I say? It’s going well. Well, that’s no good. It’s hard and it’s not about the classes. Only just a little, but it’s so much more. It’s the classes and when you’re not in class and when you’re in the city trying to get your shit together and the shit will not stick. Upon writing this I was thinking about my first month in the program and how much I have learned inside the classroom and how much I’ve learned outside. I also evaluated my first month weighing out the good and bad things. Back home in Venezuela, and I think people do this in other countries too, when the new year arrives and it’s January 1st people tend to pay extra attention to the first twelve days of the year. They say that each day will mirror the general mood of its respective, attributable month (i.e. Jan 1: January; Jan 2: February…) That’s how I saw this first month and it wasn’t exactly the most pleasant month, which is why when I …

Week 6 Already

Image: Wally Gobetz When my poetry cohort met up in the forest to drink beers and read political poems to each other, I couldn’t believe that this was my life. Nearly everyone I know in this city is a writer, and I spend most days at the nearby cafe working on my next poem. California and my cubicled world seem so far away. We’re in Week 6 now. It’s been really busy, and I’ve been almost too occupied to feel homesick (almost). The poetry cohort takes two workshops per term, one on Monday and one on Thursday. This semester, the workshops are led by Robert Pinsky and Karl Kirchwey, and both, as is tradition, take place in Room 222 of the English building. Legend goes, Room 222 is where Robert Lowell taught Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, W.D. Snodgrass, and George Starbuck. This was something that had me in a measure of awe at first. But now, Room 222 feels like my cohort’s and our mentors’ space, the tiny room with squeaky desks where we chip …

The Process and Pathway of a DIY M.F.A

There is no way to avoid Emily Dickinson as a poet or someone who is studying poetry, same with Walt Whitman.  I knew they were going to be chapter one reading in the Contemporary and Modern American Poetry class. I know this because I have signed up for the class two other times with varying levels of participation. I liked the course but I was intimidated by all that I didn’t know. As many of my fellow contributors sit in classrooms and participate in University life; I am taking what I call a DIY M.F.A; Utilizing Massive Open Online Classes (MOOC), discussion groups, in person writing and study groups. Taking classes with thousands of other students has many freedoms and also many dangers. My professors do not know me; I am not accountable to anyone but myself. My education is completely in my own hands. I decide if I pay extra for certificates of my classes or if I am okay with a statement of accomplishment, I decide if I follow up with local people …

8 Lessons from 8 Weeks at The Elephant Machine.

It’s the last September Sunday night in Albuquerque and you can still sit outside barefoot in shorts and watch the super-blood lunar-eclipse, which last came around in ’82, without even a hint of autumn. I am 8 weeks into The Elephant Machine. Or is in 9? 10? Yeah, we started early. I knew graduate school would be busy, but busy is an understatement. I have learned more than a few things so far, but I’ll keep it to 8: My upper-class men and women are more than a resource. From finding furniture, to taking me camping, to telling which classes to take and avoid, they have not steered me wrong. I share an office with two second-year poets, and although our office hours are not the most productive, the information I have gleamed is priceless. Where to download software? How to mark freshman comp papers in record time? Sample travel grants? Here you go and this is how you do it. I need an apartment. Hey, I’m leaving mine, take the lease. On the first …

On the Move

Image: Ignacio B. Peña Greetings from Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m still under a week away from our first introductory workshop session, but I thought it best to write what it’s been like living in the city for what’s coming up on two weeks now. Arriving in the city still hasn’t proven to be the great big sigh of relief that some might have expected it to be; I have arrived at my destination but I am still on the move. It’s not appropriate to say that I am homeless. Indeed, it would be greatly disrespectful to the large amount of homeless people that sit on the streets here begging for money from the swathe of tourists flooding the Royal Mile. But I can easily say I’m feeling a little weary at the idea of classes coming on soon and still not being terribly sure where it is I’m going to be laying my bags down for the rest of the year. At the moment, it’s looking like I may have found a place for the 1st …