All posts tagged: community

Choosing an Emerging MFA Program

When I was applying to fully funded MFA programs for the second time, my strategy was simple: to ignore the rankings as much as possible, & to apply where I felt I would be happy. Since I was looking for programs with an interest in queer poetics, I ended up applying to many small or obscure MFA programs, ultimately getting accepted at one of my top choice schools, the University of Miami.

However, a few days after April 15th, one of my dream schools called me, offering me a last minute acceptance off of the waitlist. Getting into a program I’d fantasized about attending since I was an undergraduate was an incredible feeling. But at that point, I had already accepted the University of Miami’s offer. The program suggested that, despite this, I withdraw my acceptance from UM in order to come to their school. With not much time to make a decision, I had to go with my gut.

What Is a Mentor, Exactly?

On Father’s Day, a former creative writing professor of mine from college (let’s call him B) wrote a long and eloquent post about his thankfulness not only for his father but also for a dear mentor of his. This mentor had been B’s professor when he was an undergraduate many years ago. He had given B advice and guidance when B was rejected from graduate school, had continued to read B’s stories after B had had said mentor for workshop, and had introduced B to his literary agent. I acknowledge that this was a Facebook post and thus I certainly don’t know the full context of this mentorship. What I do know is that when I read that post, I felt a little jealous, although it was hard to parse out the exact nature of that jealousy. B’s post made me wonder, how common is it for writers to have mentors in this day and age, and what is the nature of those mentorships? How do different people interpret the idea of mentorship? On the …

Contractual Community: Minority Students’ Place in the Creative Writing Program

Image: Conal Gallagher A lot has happened since the events of last semester as detailed here. I thought about what it might look like for me to give an update on promises given, what has improved, what hasn’t. And yet, I feel like it’d be unnecessary, in a sense, to give another somewhat in-depth barometric of things overall. A problem had been pointed out, namely the program’s inadequate approach, specifically under the helm of the current director, Jeff Lockwood, to address issues uniquely relevant to minority students. A call had been made and had been heard. Anymore expended emotional and intellectual energies, other than acting for the sake of my own survival if necessary, would be undue labor on my part, at least in my view. Then, there’s simply the matter of our program’s change in directors starting next year, from Jeff Lockwood to Brad Watson. So rather than go in that direction, I thought I would discuss a topic endemic to the creative writing program generally: problems with the notion of “community.” (Although, if …

What Does Home Mean?

Does home mean decorating your apartment? Does it mean buying a map of the world to fill the empty wall in your living room? Does it mean running along the Oconee River and learning how many songs it takes to complete a loop? Does it mean adopting a gray and black striped tabby named Allie, who meows at your bedroom door in the morning, who falls asleep in your lap? Does it mean receiving two homemade chocolate cakes for your 23rd birthday? One from your roommate Pooja, who uses frosting to write your name in pretty cursive letters. The other from your friend Scarlett, who brings the triple-layer cake to nonfiction workshop, and asks for a list of birthdays so she can do the same for everyone else. Does it mean gathering for Channing Tatum movie nights and Grey’s Anatomy nights, where you take turns bringing red wine, popcorn, pizza, sour gummy worms, and brownies? Does it mean exploring the cities that surround you? Does it mean experiencing southern hospitality firsthand in Macon—where, in the …

Surviving The Poem

In March 2011, the midterm of my last semester of undergrad, I sat in my thesis advisor’s office, waiting for feedback on a recent packet of poems I had turned in. Specifically, I wanted to speak to her about a 2-page experimental poem. The piece discussed, in few uncertain terms, that I had recently been sexually assaulted. It was my first attempt at rendering this particular subject matter in my work as a poet; no one else had yet to read it. I knew, instinctively, that writing about my experience with assault would be something I had to do. I knew, also, that as a dedicated poet, it was necessary to write well and with ingenuity. I expected my advisor to offer some sort of words of support and acknowledgement, and mainly to offer advice on how to improve my draft. What actually happened is that she made it clear she did not want to discuss the elephant in the room, that she actually felt disdain toward the subject of my poem.

Introduction: Stephanie Lane Sutton (University of Miami ’19)

To realize that I was perhaps being courted by my favorite programs for the wrong reasons was strange and shocking. Then again, I had mainly applied to programs that pitched themselves as being inclusive. My application materials focused on my interest in queer poetics and feminine experiences of violence with the intent of weeding out schools that were not mutually receptive to this work. I never considered that it could have the opposite effect: that my poetry could be seen as a bullet point in a response to criticisms of hegemony within an academic writing program.

Lessons Learned After Year One

This time last year, when I already held the knowledge that I would be moving out here to Wyoming, I had already mapped out thematic threads and research leads for my to-be book project. I knew where I was going with my writing, so there would be no need to veer off course. This path I had set out for myself seems to me now to reflect two tendencies/impulses of mine that are, on the surface, contradictory: my desire to be exacting and my desire to wander. While I like listing out everything I need to account for and plan accordingly, these plans almost always reflect an unrealistic optimism. I’d like to think of this habit as both a strategy to organize myself, but also as a kind of daydreaming. I like to plot out sky-high possibilities as if it were all actually possible, even if it’s almost never quite within my reach, at least within the initially-charted conditions. As you might guess, this kind of planning has its pros and cons. In the instance …