Month: October 2016

October in Three Acts

  Ryan my waiter is “happy having me.” I’ve just downed an 11 dollar burger with bacon and blue cheese. Food is fuel and fast and should be, why else eat? Redskins vs. Saints. Lions vs. Panther. Cubs vs. Indians. There are 300 TVs. Half blare Trump. Players are kneeling for the anthem, but their screen time has obviously been cut by owners and media outlets. The FBI have sided against Hillary. Drones vs. Yemeni hospitals. Who wins America? Sundays. I used to enjoy the flipping the pages of a newspaper. Today, “the Oregon Militia” have been claimed innocent, white guys with guns protecting an amendment. Meanwhile natives are being rounded up and beaten for trespassing on their own land. Their beef is water and the 13 million people below them that don’t mind or care that the extract economy is running oil pipes under their water source. They side with consuming more. Their temple is a mall and Chinese plastic is better than anything else. Trump Trump Trump will bring back coal mining, manufacturing, …

What Does Home Mean?

Does home mean decorating your apartment? Does it mean buying a map of the world to fill the empty wall in your living room? Does it mean running along the Oconee River and learning how many songs it takes to complete a loop? Does it mean adopting a gray and black striped tabby named Allie, who meows at your bedroom door in the morning, who falls asleep in your lap? Does it mean receiving two homemade chocolate cakes for your 23rd birthday? One from your roommate Pooja, who uses frosting to write your name in pretty cursive letters. The other from your friend Scarlett, who brings the triple-layer cake to nonfiction workshop, and asks for a list of birthdays so she can do the same for everyone else. Does it mean gathering for Channing Tatum movie nights and Grey’s Anatomy nights, where you take turns bringing red wine, popcorn, pizza, sour gummy worms, and brownies? Does it mean exploring the cities that surround you? Does it mean experiencing southern hospitality firsthand in Macon—where, in the …

Surviving The Poem

In March 2011, the midterm of my last semester of undergrad, I sat in my thesis advisor’s office, waiting for feedback on a recent packet of poems I had turned in. Specifically, I wanted to speak to her about a 2-page experimental poem. The piece discussed, in few uncertain terms, that I had recently been sexually assaulted. It was my first attempt at rendering this particular subject matter in my work as a poet; no one else had yet to read it. I knew, instinctively, that writing about my experience with assault would be something I had to do. I knew, also, that as a dedicated poet, it was necessary to write well and with ingenuity. I expected my advisor to offer some sort of words of support and acknowledgement, and mainly to offer advice on how to improve my draft. What actually happened is that she made it clear she did not want to discuss the elephant in the room, that she actually felt disdain toward the subject of my poem.

Accessibility and You (Yes, You)

Although I am carting many identities with me to grad school—Afro-Latinx, low-income, LGBTQ—my disability is often the first hurdle I face when in a new environment. I posted back in March that applying to schools as a disabled applicant had been extremely stressful. I had a hell of a time finding information on a lot of college websites, let alone the specific program websites. When I contacted some schools, I felt as if they’d never had a disabled student before. Their confused noises when I asked questions about accessibility didn’t give me much confidence. Many current students had no clue about accessibility either. “I’m not disabled so I wouldn’t know anything about all of that,” was the common response. I felt like I was going at it alone, and yet during my application period, I met other disabled applicants. How was it that there were several of us and yet schools still treated us like we had never existed before this application cycle? *** When people ask me about my experiences as a student with limited …

On Balancing Your “MFA Life” with Your Personal Life (Or At Least Trying To Do So)

I’ve been meaning to write a post about my second year for a few months now. The delay hasn’t come from a lack of ideas, but in part from the difficulty of deciding what I should say, what would be the most useful. The other factor, of course, is that my workload has been significantly heavier this year than it was my first year. I’m taking three classes (“Hypoxic Workshop” again, “Uses of History,” and “The Personal Essay”), whereas most second year MFA students at Alabama take only two (I don’t regret my decision, but….). I’m also teaching two classes (English 101: Freshman Composition), which takes up far more time and mental energy than my position as a TA for a lecture class last year. Because I have so much to do, it often feels like time spent “working” should be spent on reading and researching and writing for classes and lesson planning and grading and responding to students’ e-mails, and any time beyond that should be spent actively unwinding, socializing or watching TV or …

Time to Write: An MFA Myth

Unfortunately, most of us can’t dedicate more than a small portion of our time to writing. We fit it into a larger schedule that usually involves working long hours, taking care of kids, and attempting to maintain some semblance of a social life. The vast majority of writers practicing their craft outside of academia have to work within these restraints, which help fuel one of the great myths of MFA programs: they give you a large amount of time to write, if only for two years or so. This line of thinking also posits that having a lot of time to write is crucial to developing craft. This isn’t always the case. While there are certainly studio programs out there focused only on the workshop, many of the programs in the US require students to take literature and/or composition courses, along with departmental duties like teaching first-year comp or working in the writing center. The time spent doing work for these other classes and extra duties adds up, and while there is certainly time to focus on creative writing, it’s …

Navigating the MFA Application Process: An Interview With Sarah Duncan

Image: AI_HikesAZ How many programs did you apply to? How did you narrow your list down? I applied to about 8 programs—one of which was not an MFA, but an MA in Expressive Arts Therapies. I could see myself taking a few different paths, so I wanted to see what the applications brought me before I made my decision. I narrowed my list down based on the programs themselves. I was looking for programs that didn’t seem too pretentious or too steeped in the white western cannon; I wanted programs that allowed for other study, like a minor or a dual focus; I wanted programs that allowed for multiple kinds of teaching opportunities; I did look at rank, but not very seriously; I looked at the way the programs presented themselves to students, and if they made it difficult or easy to apply. I also looked at only fully funded programs, because for an MFA I wasn’t looking to go into too much debt (though I don’t judge anyone who does!) How did you approach your …