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The Interdisciplinary Thing

Image: Whitney H Hello! Apologies for the long break since my last post — my laptop did that fun thing where it wouldn’t turn on and I had to send it off to Apple for a couple of weeks, and then the next couple of weeks were spent catching up on all the homework and writing I’d failed to do while laptop-less. I’m now a semester and a half into my MFA, and one of the things I’m finding incredibly (and surprisingly, in my specific case) rewarding about being at Michener is the interdisciplinary focus. Our program requires everyone to declare a primary and secondary genre, but on top of that, we also take a multi-discipline first year seminar together with our entire cohort of fiction writers, poets, playwrights and screenwriters, and we’re allowed to take classes in disciplines that are neither our primary nor secondary genre. I hadn’t thought much about this when I applied to Michener. I know for some people this is a big draw, because they already write some combination of …

On Writing When You’d Rather Not

Reflecting on the first semester of my MFA program at UVA, I’m struck by how lovely, how dreamy it’s been. I had various worries about beginning the program, but none of them ended up being confirmed: except one, maybe, just a little bit. I worried that it would be harder to write once writing (good, successful) poems became my main responsibility. This is both true and not true: on the one hand, writing is easier because I’m doing it more often, and because it’s hard not to feel inspired when I’m surrounded by such astonishingly talented people. Most of the time, writing is what I want to do. On the other hand, the point of an MFA program is that you must write regularly, even if inspiration doesn’t arrive. You have to hand work in to a group of people you earnestly want to impress, and are not certain of impressing. I’m not always in the mood. It is different to have to do something, and that fact sometimes triggers an impulse to procrastinate. While …

My Two Cents

I’ve been hesitating with this post for a while because I don’t think I still quite know how to appropriately articulate what I’ve been feeling, but here it goes. Maybe it’s because these are the narratives I’ve been taught as a woman of color, even in my own household — stay quiet and be grateful. But I am grateful, and we’ve been shushed for too long. These are my very brief two cents. Cent 1: Having grown up in Miami — a minority-majority, strange placewhere Spanglish reigns as the official/unofficial language of the city — my experiences in predominantly white circles had been limited. Business signs are in Spanish. I speak to my parents in Spanish. For seven words, you toss in three in Spanish. It’s arguably fair to call Miami the capital of Latin America. But despite having grown up wishing Celia Cruz was my celebrity grandma, I’d spent most of my life reading predominantly white literature. I learned, early on, that names like my own were nowhere to be found in books. Much …

The Tax Bill and Graduate Students: What We Know as of December 2, 2017

I wish this post didn’t need to be written, but unfortunately, it’s a tumultuous time with regard to the future of funding for graduate students, including those pursuing an MFA. As many of you know, earlier this week, Republicans in the House passed a comprehensive tax bill, and last night, Republicans in the Senate passed a similar comprehensive tax bill in a 51-49 vote. The Senate and the House will now have to reconcile the differences in the two bills before creating a unified bill to pass on to President Trump, who will undoubtedly sign it into law. So how does this pertain to graduate students? Well, we’re not sure yet. The reason for this is because of a key difference between the tax bill passed by the House and that passed by the Senate. The provisions in the tax overhaul passed by the House would be detrimental for any graduate students in the United States receiving a tuition remission as part of their financial package (this is the case with most if not all …

Filling The Tank

Image: David Wright Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this Joss Whedon quote: “The last piece of advice on that level is fill the tanks, fill the tanks, fill the tanks. Constantly watch things and things you don’t [normally watch]. Step outside your viewing zone, your reading zone. It’s all fodder but if you only take from one thing then it’ll show.” He’s talking about movies, but when I read this a couple of years ago it really resonated with me in terms of my writing practice. Back then I was in a pretty intense corporate job that involved lots of late nights, weekend work and business travel, so what I thought ‘filling the tank’ meant was making the time for creative consumption: reading books, watching movies, going to plays. It was about taking myself out of the spreadsheets and presentations that dominated my days and feeding my creative mind. Back then, all I wanted was more time to do this. 3 months into my MFA program, I have all the time I could …

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines

Photo credit: Henrique Simplicio I’ve developed a complicated relationship with deadlines. On the one hand, I’m super thankful for them. It’s not every day people ask you to write, much less read your work closely and give thoughtful feedback. Also, deadlines give me structure and keep me productive. On the other hand, getting bogged down is inevitable. Since the beginning of the semester, I’ve gone through two workshops, and I have two more deadlines within the next month. I’m pretty sure I have writer’s fatigue. What is writer’s fatigue? Is it a real thing? Well, no. I sort of made it up, but I think many writers in programs can relate. Writer’s fatigue is as its name describes; it’s getting burnt out from back-to-back deadlines. I’m an incredibly slow writer. This probably has a lot to do with perfectionism and my terrible habit of editing as I write. I’ve also become accustomed to the short-and-sweet quarter system from my undergrad and MA days. Usually, a ten-week long workshop means only one or two writing deadlines. …

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 …