All posts filed under: First year

On Reading Poetry and Poetry Readings

Do you read poetry out loud or in your head? Do you read so slowly you lose interest or so quickly you have motions sickness by the end of the poem? Is it okay to space-out during a reading? Are boredom and confusion acceptable experiences to have when, say, you read a poem that doesn’t stick, that slides right off your mind back onto the page? This semester, in Lisa Olstein’s seminar class on sixties poets, we’ve been reading a poetry collection weekly and discussing the effects they have on us as readers. Two poets we’ve read recently have taught me one thing: No one can tell you how to have an experience. My gratitude for this lesson goes out to John Ashbery and W.S. Merwin, and to their books, Rivers and Mountains and The Lice. Ashbery is notoriously difficult and polarizing in certain ways—a divide usually opening up between “I don’t get it” or “I don’t get why it matters.” I’ve loved Ashbery for years but also always felt myself space-out during his longer …

First Year MFA Survival Guide

Photo Credit: Brenna Daughtery It’s the middle of summer and time is flashing before our very eyes. Let me the one to tell you that someone can constantly beat you over the head about how precious and short your time is during your MFA experience. Even after your entire first year you can still be blown away by this very fact. And yet, after being attending workshops and classes you can feel like you’re still at the tip of the iceberg in regards to the literary community as to what it has to offer. It’s a growing/learning process. When reflecting on my year, I have compiled a survival list that can be paired with the many other survival lists that will help those who are approaching their first year at an MFA program. It’s a crazy, but exciting literary world out there (almost as crazy as a zombie infested world). You can never have too many tips and trips to keep your body afloat. Read/Reread Past MFA Years Blog Posts Why? Or should I say, …

It’s gonna be…oh wait, May’s over!

Photo Credit: Photos Public Domain Well, clearly time got the better of me this year. And now I am met with the task of summing up months of the MFA experience in a single blog post. Here goes! Compared to the fall, the spring semester was pretty calm from a personal standpoint – no houses were flooded, no childhood pets died on me, mid-term assignments did not coincide with working at a costume shop at Halloween time (though there was another move involved – we moved the store right before finals, so that was wonderful timing.) I managed to explore Orlando some more (well, really just the thrift stores between Sanford and Orlando and also spent a lot of time tracking down the Beyond Burger and my favorite Philly beer, Victory Kirsch Gose, at stores in Altamonte Springs.) Oh, and I saw my two favorite musicians/humans in the world, Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde (the Pretenders), play together at the Amway Center. One of my courses had us taking friend trips in the area and …

Letter to Myself a Year Ago

Photo by Gray Malin.  Do you remember the ancient summers of your childhood? Our fingers would search the dirt between tree roots for acorns. We found so many with their shells cracked open, waiting to unfurl itself deep into the dirt. This is how it feels to be you. — You might find this hard to believe: the other night, I had a dream about our parents that was completely mundane. There was no chase, no violence, no public nudity. Our mother was looking for an apartment in Florida. Our father and I were building a new cage for small animals. We could not find the parts needed to complete it. — You are tired of the grey concrete, the spires of corporate towers, the achingly long commutes on red and blue trains. You are tired of the same lakes as big as seas. More than anything, you are tired of what you remember about this city, all the people you used to love it still holds. I am tired of writing about how my …

A New Beginning

If you’re reading this post on this blog, it’s because you have some level of investment (financial, emotional or both) in the MFA degree. When I applied to write for this site last year, I fully expected to recount a year chock full of nothing but reading & ‘riting, the first such year in my life. However, that’s not what happened. Life (& death) reared its ugly head. Over the past year, my MFA was a mere background note. To be honest, I’m lucky it was even that. Not every MFA program would allow you to enroll in August after you turned them down months earlier. Not every program would let you attend classes part-time. But Rutgers-Camden is not like every other MFA program. If you’re reading this while considering your own applications or while you are in the midst of your own MFA year(s), I urge you: please make sure your program cares about whatever issues might potentially affect your life while you pursue this degree. Nothing is more important, not even funding. I say that as someone who needed his MFA degree to be …

April Showers Bring ANXIETY

Image: 陳 冠宇 Springtime can be confusing. The weather is friendlier, the world unfurls from its winter slumber, birds sing in the tree outside your window, etc. But this time of year also brings tax returns, looming seminar papers, and summer work struggles. For those who have braved the tumultuous MFA application process over the past few months, there are three likely mindsets at this point in the year: Sadness at knowing they won’t be sitting in a graduate workshop in the fall Pulling their hair out (with excitement/anxiety!) trying to decide between offers, or Pulling their hair out (with excitement!) figuring out living situation and moving details for August. Each position comes with its own anxieties and challenges. Each can invite a sense of futility and/or imposter syndrome. I’ve been the sad applicant, the anxiously-comparing-stipends-applicant, and the oh-my-god-I’m-moving-in-four-months applicant. I am also now a graduate student in a creative writing program, and now realize that perhaps a slice of this perspective would have placed my anxieties and worries in a more helpful context. I hope reading this …

Spring Break

Photograph by Ron Magill.  You can live your whole life in the springs of T. S. Eliot. There, snow fades to street charcoal, ice water soaks through in the seams of your shoes, and the sky remains an unmovable gray as the clock ticks forward an entire hour all at once. But somewhere, on the other side of this city, there is a beach lined with bodies getting tanner, an MTV camera crew in attendance. Somewhere, in the heart of this city, a celebrity you adore leans over a balcony, aiming his phone’s camera at the pool below. His lens is filled with bikinis, inflatable volleyballs, waiters in white button ups serving tropical drinks, the pool deck: a pink concrete, the pool itself: an azure glass. It’s the undergraduates attending class in their swim suits that makes the campus swimming pool visible again, and you realize you now live in the place of vacations. What does that mean for you, the poet? Spring break is always something quiet. Every day, you open the windows and doors of your …