Author: G. Douple

Reasons To Go Out On A Limb (Alternately: Pursuing an MFA)

When I’m back staying with my parents—usually on school breaks or work breaks or what have you—I end up working at the restaurant that I’ve been at for years. During this most recent little break, at the end of May, I was chatting with some regulars that have seen me come and go for almost ten years now. They’re a married couple with a penchant for white wine and sitting at Table 1. “We forgot what you’re going to grad school for!” said the woman, a stylish Belgian lady with flowing scarves and salt-and-pepper hair. When I told them it was a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I could see that the couple didn’t quite know what to think. “Of what practical use is that?” asked the woman, her accent making the question sound more dramatic. “Oh, very little practical use,” I said, and then we all laughed and she began to question me on my real-world practical skills (I do have some, I promise). This whole exchange forced me to examine the …

A Poet in Prose Land

This semester, I took Forms in Fiction with Garnett Kilberg-Cohen. You may be thinking to yourself, There goes poet Gillian, prose-ing around like she’s frolicking through a meadow! Way to experiment! My Forms in Fiction class this semester was all about studying the textures in the genre of fiction, and so we looked at hybrid work with So Long See You Tomorrow (autobiographical and simultaneously fictionalized), postcard fiction/flash fiction, fabulist works, a bit of horror, and A Shutter of Snow, which was a book that somehow seemed to encompass all of those. We looked at graphic short stories. We created our own creative pieces in these different species of fiction, and we workshopped them. We wrote critical pieces about the works that we’d read. And though I would liken my fiction class to frolicking through a meadow any day, I will say that there were certain learning curves, especially at the beginning of the class. I kept single-spacing my work (no one liked this), and I kept referring to the narrator as “the speaker” (I …

Eight Thoughts About Teaching College Kids

I teach Writing and Rhetoric II to seventeen art school kids. Pretty much all I do is use extensive metaphors to explain somewhat simple points. The metaphors make things far more complicated, albeit far more memorable. I use a lot of PowerPoints to keep me from embarking on stream-of-consciousness lectures, a la Virginia Woolf. The students know what kind of class it is going to be based on the level of powerpointing that occurs. At the beginning of each session, I ask, “Who can summarize what we did last class?” My favorite response: “We learned that humanity is just a bunch of boats with crab legs.” In that class, I was attempting to portray the concept of “passing as normal”, which involved a cartoon music video and a ship with legs. In the video, there was a moment when a boat grows crab legs and traverses the land—but, towards the end of the clip, the boat goes back into the water, sucking his legs back in, and the audience just looks at him, a normal …

So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Gillian Douple

For the next two months we’ll be asking some of our first year contributors to talk about the post application period and how they dealt with it last year. What did you do to get through the post application period? During the post-application period, I wrote in my journal a lot about my anxieties of not getting into any school. My friends and family were great and supportive about my attempts to go to grad school, but I knew it would get pretty tiring if I could only talk about one thing. Journaling was a good outlet. When that didn’t work, I went to the gym. Obsessively. What’s the best piece of advice you received about applying? Best advice received: one of my undergrad professors told me that I was terrific, but that this entire process is a crapshoot. He told me I could slip through the cracks, that there were just too many applications, that sometimes the professors pick the wrong students. There was just no way of knowing. His advice helped me be realistic about …

A Love Letter to My Craft Seminar

When I first set foot on my Project-Based Poetics class, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this craft seminar. There were six of us in the class, and the professor was young and bearded and enthusiastic. As my first class in a new school, I took a seat around the circular table in our classroom and just looked at everyone. We talked about the definition of project poetry. One of the other professors at my school had written a project/book about Peyton Place, a prime-time soap opera that aired in the 1960s. He wrote a haiku for each episode, and then crafted them all into a snarky, interesting, personality-filled book. (I always used his book to explain project poetry to my parents, well-intentioned non-poets that they are.) Before this first class, I probably couldn’t have given you a succinct definition of what project poetics entailed; I am pretty inexperienced with poetry written in this day and age, actually. I could tell you more about medieval poetry, complete with esoteric texts like The Nibelunglied and The Poetic Edda. …

Crafting a Beautiful Statement of Purpose

My own Statement of Purpose for my MFA applications was groomed better than my own hair, and it was all structured around a conversation with one of my undergrad professors. “Gillian,” my professor told me, “The SOP does not solely determine if you’re accepted to a program or not—we put far more emphasis on the writing sample and the letters of rec. The SOP is used to determine if the candidate is a jerk.” I thought about this for days. How could I write a strong SOP that told the world that I wasn’t a jerk? What did I want my SOP to stand for? (Also, what did I stand for?)

How To Write A Lyric Poem (and how to challenge yourself with your writing)

Classes at Columbia College Chicago are chugging along, so much so that I can see the end of the semester creeping up, and it’s terrifying. (The rapid forward motion of time seems incongruent with the stasis inside my head. Or is it stasis? Is it just being stuck in the past?) I’m taking three courses this semester: Composition Theory and Praxis (I’m getting so much background in teaching theory), Project-Based Poetics (a craft seminar), and the core of any MFA program: the workshop. This semester, the workshop is composed solely of our cohort. There are nine of us in there, all first-year students from a variety of poetic backgrounds, and we all have a different outlook on writing in general and what space poetry should occupy.  Because I’m back in workshop after years of academic-free life, I’ve been trying to switch up my poetry styles—I don’t want to look back at grad school and think, well, I really left that stone unturned.