All posts filed under: Poetry

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.”

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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.

Learning to Read (Again)

As a child, I felt like I belonged in The Boxcar Children, The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown more than I belonged in my own life. Reading became less about fantasy and more about escape as a teenager. My portals were contemporary fiction which allowed me to imagine a world outside my troubled narrow slice of New Jersey. Books remained my companions as a young adult while I bounced between unsatisfying jobs and relationships. My knowledge of the classics was pitiful, but Nick Hornby, Adam Davies and Augusten Burroughs wrote words that kept a spark of hope flickering intermittently in my brain even in the darkest of times. Once I got through those turbulent years, I became serious about school. Reading, writing, and poetry in particular, became joys in my life. On some days, moments spent reading Kay Ryan or Terrance Hayes or Li Bai and responding with my own bad poems were my only joys. I expelled words out of head and onto the paper with extreme force. As I finished my associate degree after four arduous years …

Winter Break

When people ask you where you are from, practice a different answer each time.  Give the name of a region, an adjacent town, the street you last lived on.  Take each place and hold yourself against its light to see where the edges meet. In January, move the writing desk to the other side of the room.  There is no window there.  Later, you will empty the last of the boxes from August, the ones filled with ephemera: photographs, letters, slips of paper that hold memories of people and places that have never been more distant.  There, you will find the porcelain figurine that belonged to your late grandmother, the one your mother accidentally smashed, then glued back together again, and gave to you when she could no longer stand to look at it.  In this reordered room, set it in the corner of your desk. Christmas will have come and gone in this new place.  A month ago, you felt the blood of your origins ticking through your veins and wondered how this type …

Writing as Healing

When I applied to nearly a dozen fully funded or mostly funded MFA programs last winter and spring, the only expectation I had was that something unexpected would happen. I tried to not fantasize about New England winters, California freeways or whatever the hell it is people do in Virginia college towns. I hoped one of those scenarios would be my life, but I didn’t want to lock myself into needing an MFA from one particular program or one particular place. I knew my odds, but more than anything it felt like the right time to chase this MFA dream. Wherever I ended up, I would get that chance. As it turned out, something unexpected did happen. I received an acceptance from Rutgers-Camden, one of the two programs I applied to in my home state of New Jersey. So I traded my fantasies for familiarity. It wasn’t exactly the school in my backyard: Camden is just outside Philadelphia, a part of New Jersey that is new to me. The Rutgers-Camden MFA program offered so many elements that excite me: the …