Author: Roy G. Guzmán

SO YOU DIDN’T GET ACCEPTED INTO AN MFA PROGRAM…

…Now what? You’re probably asking yourself: What is the value of my life if I can’t even get into a single MFA program? Why did I spend all that money on a hopeless dream? How will I transform the world and influence future generations if my words can’t even connect with admissions committees? How relevant is my work if I don’t have an MFA to back up what I’m saying? How will I continue facing my boss and coworkers past April 15? No matter how delusional these questions sound, they are all valid. Only we know how much we want this degree, this opportunity, this sense of validation. We believe our work will flourish in this Midwestern city. Or that the faculty from this low-res program are the reason I exist. Or that my characters live in New York; I should, therefore, live in New York. Whatever your reasons for applying to MFA programs—and let’s hope most of them revolve around your desire to grow as a writer—it’s never good to feel like your work isn’t …

The Writer of Color’s Agenda & How to Champion Your Otherness

You will get accepted into an MFA program. You might get accepted into several MFA programs. You have spent a lot of money on applications. It’s time you decide how to make this transition possible. With no money, so much is possible in the sphere of dreams. But you’re a writer of color. It has taken you so much effort to get here. You’re in debt. You’ve spent weeks, months, or years explaining to people in your community why you’ve decided to pursue this route. You have translated what an MFA means into Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Mandarin, Bengali, Arabic, Somali, Yoruba, and Private Language. The future will often appear bleak, like a crow that has to dream before it can fly. How many synonyms can you come up with to describe race politics, linguistic diversity, heteronormativity, public aid, or “I, too, have the right to be here”? You will either own a car or take public transportation. On the bus, you might learn more about yourself than if you spend that much time in …

The Imagination Lives On: The Challenges of Teaching (Genre) Fiction

By the middle of the fiction unit it was clear some of my students understood that fiction is not just about randomly inventing but also about deliberately constructing worlds and sharing those worlds in an appealing way. For one, students were not ready to produce so much material. Poetry had been a challenging unit for them, but some were getting by with just writing a poem that fit within a page—nothing more. Obviously, poetry asked that they put more attention to how they write about an incident and what the poetic form can do for the incident they chose (this was one poetry exercise, for instance). Therefore, the transition between poetry and fiction was not only abrupt for them, I could also sense the same sentiment as we went over the elements of fiction and they had to apply them to their stories. Me being me—and always wanting to challenge them while challenging myself—I assigned them a nontraditional assignment: I had them write a modern fairy tale and gave them the option of debunking or …

(Re)defining Genre

At the beginning of the month I scheduled individual student conferences. Students had a chance to discuss their poetry portfolios before submitting them; this was all done before we began the fiction unit of the course. At the University of Minnesota creative writing courses delve into the three popular genres—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—and that gives students a chance to explore how narratives are derived, what makes for compelling storytelling, and how poetry is architected. The student conferences under the poetry unit showed me how students are approaching our course and their work; they offered me the opportunity to direct my students to areas that needed more work or areas where the poem already had the fiber of a precious poem. True: most of them expressed their concerns with poetry, the intensity of the revision process, and what they wish they could’ve written instead or what they hope changes by the time the fiction unit starts. But it was also true that as a whole they’d written superb material.

Icebreaker

On September 3rd one of my best friends flatlined on her way to the hospital. Victoria had faced a blend of illnesses: diabetes, a heart condition for which she had to get a pacemaker, excessive water retention, and hypothyroidism. She was only 32. The last time I saw Vicki she had lost a lot of weight. She had been released with an oxygen machine from a long-term care facility, with a tube protruding from her throat. She didn’t like these changes. But the long hospitalizations wouldn’t outweigh Victoria’s positive outlook. Yes, she did have bouts of depression and anxiety, but she tried so hard to find love and energy in every moment. The extent of her influence can’t possibly be contained in a post this size. It will take years before I’m able to bring some justice to her story in my poetry, one of the countless stories that demonstrate how Americans slip through the cracks of a fractured health care system even after Obamacare. I’d like to think that through my work my friendship …

Roy G. Guzmán – Introduction (University of Minnesota ’17)

Five Songs to Put that MFA Dream into Overdrive Poets are lauded in Latino communities for their vision, but very few of our members embrace or understand the ramifications of pursuing this vocation. For instance, I grew up idolizing Rubén Darío, but it wasn’t until college that I studied his work; in Miami, José Martí’s words echo in salsa songs, but his influence is disappearing with the passing of older generations. When you’re a Latino in the United States poetry is inescapable because your reality frequently switches between anguish and hope, un-documentation and patriotism, a lack of identity or an ethnic oversaturation. The Replacements’ “I Will Dare” is my oblique attempt at inviting the MFA dream into my life. Any step is important. I was born in Honduras, and during my first few years in the United States I was undocumented. Through my stepfather’s Cuban refugee status, my mother and I obtained our green cards. However, all that time I wasn’t able to go to school. Mom had no choice other than to take me …