Author: Alleliah Nuguid

A Map of Influence

Image: Pietro Bellini To complete the first semester and thus 50% of this MFA program, we had two final projects. One was the first draft of the thesis (!!!!!), and the other, a curated collection of 35 poems—not our own—that are personally important in some way. The anthology was to be modeled after Robert Pinsky’s book Singing School, in which each poem is accompanied by a brief annotation explaining its inclusion. We in the cohort exchanged our anthologies with each other; this was so we could learn about the diverse influences that drive our group and see where there may be intersections. Surprisingly, there were very few—no one poet, other than our professors, was included in everyone’s anthology. It was a testament to the expansiveness of the poetic tradition, as well as the diversity of our group. I found this to be a super helpful exercise in mapping out my influences and articulating their impact. It was also humbling to realize the limitations of my reading: the plurality of poets I’d selected were living white …

The MFA Year, Singular

Image: Daniel Oines For me this is The MFA Year, singular. Boston University’s creative writing MFA is, as far as I know, the only 1-year program in the country. I’ve had varied reactions to the length of this program. Those who are not in the writing world generally think it’s a benefit to return to school for only 1 year. A short program means less time away from the workforce, during which, depending on the field, you might worry about becoming less competitive. Those familiar with MFA programs—which are generally 2 years but can be 3 or even 4—ask if 1 year is enough. Certainly, it’s an intense year. By the end of my first semester, I will have workshopped 16 poems and put together a first draft of my thesis. I will have taught a multi-genre creative writing course to undergraduates, something that was unimaginable to me last year. This is one factor that drew me to this brief program: in a compressed timeframe, I’m pushed to accomplish what I wasn’t sure I could …

On Writing for Your Younger Self

Image: VisualAge My poems so far have largely been investigations into my identity, often performed within a certain framework; namely, retelling of myths, gender-swapped. I joked with a cohortmate about this formula: “This story used to be about a dude, but now—wait for it—it’s about a lady.” Intertwined with this examination of my woman-ness is the intersection with my ethnic identity as a Filipina American. For one reason or another—I have not yet determined the why of it—I feel the fact of my racial identity much more potently in Boston than I ever did in California. This is not to say that I’ve been mistreated or singled out for this in any discernible way thus far. Here’s an example: at the Boston Book Festival, I attended a panel (I’d prefer not to say which one) centered on authors writing on a particular topic. I asked the three white authors if any of their books had POC (people of color), and if so, how they were impacted differently by the topic at hand. Two of the …

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 …

Alleliah Nuguid Introduction (Boston University ’16)

Image: Louish Pixel When introducing yourself, the general rule is that who you are is what you “do,” and what you do is what pays the bills. Occupation is inextricably twined with identity. In spite of the fact that my jobs post-college have had nothing to do with poetry, I’ve qualified my introduction as “poet working in __________.” I couldn’t help it; writing had been a core part of my identity since age 12. But after college, I grew to lose sight of it. Through my work at various desk jobs, I learned a great deal, made potentially lifelong friends, and had unique experiences you’d be hard-pressed to get anywhere else (e.g., exploring the workings of the local sewer system). But office bureaucracy was sometimes aggravating, and the monotony shifted my mental landscape. When I was under consideration for a 3-year government position (an extension of the work I’d been doing for 1.5 years), I imagined sitting in my cubicle and watching the years pass one after another like a row of dominos, varied in the details but …