All posts filed under: First year

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 …

An Ode to the Part-Time MFA

I remember the MFA post-application period like it was yesterday. I was six months into a dead-end job that I had found through a temp agency. I felt my brain liquefying every day I worked there. The profound apathy in the building was practically on the payroll. I knew my time at this job was short when my boss declined to give me a raise (and I had earned that raise, damn it!) upon converting me from a temp to an employee. His rationale? “You’re a smart guy, you’ll leave here eventually.”

How to Actively Wait…list

[Photo cred: teo_ladodicivideo] Up until March 17th, the signs were not looking good for me to get into grad school. It was my second round of applications and I had been rejected by eight different programs already. My creative writing spirits were low. On that fateful day last winter, I was waitlisted at Indiana University. While being waitlisted was encouraging, it wasn’t what I needed. What I needed was to distinguish myself. What didn’t the selection committee know about me? I sent a hardcopy (and electronic copy) of a letter updating both the director of the program and the director of admissions on my writing life since submitting my application (projects I was working on, recent publications, and creative writing mentorship I had undertaken) as well as my continued interest in IU. I didn’t hear back from them but I confirmed receipt of delivery with IU’s program coordinator. You’ll see from my previous post on choosing a diverse program that I had also sent in an application to the University of Miami. That winter, I had …

In Defense of Actioned Poetics

While it is important to interrogate our motives and impacts when we write, to dismiss any act of writing, but especially poetry, as irrelevant involves both misguided utilitarianism and overgeneralization. Acts of political resistance begin with the imagination. In order to create a more just and equitable world, we must have an idea of how that world may look. Once we have an idea, we must be able to communicate it. Inarguably, revolutionary ideas have been communicated in language throughout history.

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

Image credit: Moyan Brenn 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? That anxiousness you get after you’ve sent your applications in is always present. You’re waiting to see if you will be potentially moving across the country. That kind of news is huge! The key to surviving is diverting that anxiousness by keeping busy. I was lucky enough to be working full-time after I was done with my applications. I was one of those people who constantly checked the MFA Draft and Gradcafe. I got so obsessive that I ended up leaving the Draft and then requesting to get back in (multiple times). To those admins on the page, I’m truly sorry! For the post application period, I did mainly stress-free things: I read books, worked at my job, watched reality TV and spent time with friends. It was definitely my escape. What’s the best …

Butterfly at the Museum of Natural History. Photo Credit: Jess Silfa

On (Necessary) Self Care

When I was six years old, I started seeing a therapist. There were many reasons why I was in Doctor Davis’ care—an overactive imagination, inappropriate concern for World War III, existential dread—but the majority of our sessions revolved around relaxation. He and I played this game where we would try to relax as much as possible, calling out the names of the body parts as we felt them loosen and unwind: my neck is now relaxed, my shoulders are now relaxed, now my arms. I would never get past my knees before blurting out something like, “What if Russia invades us?” And then to lighten the mood: “Do you know how hard it is to learn Russian?” Twenty-five years later I still have trouble getting myself to relax (and surprisingly I’m still worried about Russia). I didn’t change who I was when I entered the MFA. My life didn’t get magically amazing; my insecurities didn’t disappear; my neurochemistry didn’t become more typical. But that’s me. The truth is even if you’re not mentally ill, grad school is …

On Snow and Fiction

Image: Nick Ford When I travel north from the South, the South in the winter, the South that is grey-and-brown bleary and blurred with a sleepy, grungy sort of winter, the snow is captivating. The similes have all been written: snow like glitter, snow like a blanket, soft snow, white as snow, pure and sparkling. And it is enchanting, it is, this soft, unadulterated substance that dusts the earth. Over winter break, we drove the 14 hours north (from my school, in South Carolina, to home in Chicago). We slowly progressed towards the cold. I let myself be enchanted by the snow this year. It’s been a while. As we neared the Chicago suburbs, I pressed my face against the glass of my passenger seat window. I giggled involuntarily at the scene. It is magical, mystical, and that, I think, is in the soft covering. The suppression, the gentle blanketing. Overnight, in a few hours of tufts drifting down, the world is clean and new. It’s pure and sublime. It’s not us. While watching the …