Sunday, April 29, 2012

How Do You Celebrate Getting into Grad School?

Not by going to Disneyland. At least not if you're me.

Nope, I celebrated by writing a terrible, terrible poem. An execrable poem. A poem for which a call to FEMA would not have been out of order.

I sat reading my terrible poem, swooning with humiliation, seeing no way out of the hash I had made of a promising subject, when it hit me: I had no business in an MFA program. My acceptances were a fluke, a mass hallucination across multiple admissions committees, and the only thing to do was change by name and move to Iceland. I am entirely unsuited to life in the cold and dark, but at least I would be able to cross "Northern Lights" off my bucket list. Eventually.

Fortunately, cooler heads (Ben's) prevailed, and I realized that the delusion was mine. Not my judgement about the poem—it was terrible—but about the magical properties of an acceptance letter. It turns out that admission to an MFA program does not, after all, cause the Poetry Fairy to whack you over the head with her silver wand. It turns out that you still have to write an unbearably awful first draft; that you have to figure out some way to make that dog a little better; that you rewrite until you can't even see the poem anymore; that you then realize that it is still awful and you have also created a whole new set of problems. And just like before, you repeat this process over and over, until you can look at your poem without cringing, until it looks nothing like the poem you were originally trying to write but at last looks like the poem it wanted to be all along.

Who knew?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Big Decisions

I received the first bit of paperwork for my upcoming residency in June: the Housing Form. Most of the questions were pretty easy. Do you smoke? No. Do you require a room on the first floor of the dorm, which has no elevator? No. Roommate preferences. Hmm, I don't know anyone yet. Is there a check box for "Just nobody crazy, please"? No? OK, leaving that one blank.

Then came the question that gave me pause: Do you prefer to stay in a quiet or more social wing of the dorm? That "more social" leaves a lot of room for interpretation. What does it mean in the context of a low-residency program where the median student age is in the mid-thirties? That people hang out in the halls and talk about the Black Mountain poets after 10:00PM? Or that people are having drunken brawls about the merits of language poetry and throwing up in trash cans at 2:00 in the morning?1

I took a deep breath, reminded myself that one of the main reasons I wanted to get an MFA was to have more poetry friends, and checked social. It's only 10 days, after all...

On a completely unrelated note, Jenny Factor wrote this post on the Best American Poetry blog yesterday that made me very happy all over again that I am doing this.

1 Since my undergraduate degree is from the school whose fraternity system inspired National Lampoon's Animal House, this requires exactly no effort of the imagination for me. Except for the poetry part.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Back to School!

At an age1 when most people are contemplating the rising contribution limits on their 401(k) plans, I've decided to invest in what is probably the most unprofitable profession ever: poetry.  With a lot of help from teachers and fellow-writers, I've been accepted into a low-residency MFA program, and so for the next two years I'll be reading and writing up a storm and (somehow) continuing to work a day job that I also love2,3.  I'm pretty much thrilled.

A friend4 asked to be kept informed about how I was doing and what the program was like, and so here, for your reading pleasure: the narcissistic, neurotic ramblings of a full-time employee, part-time student, and all-time stress case.

This is going to be awesome.

1 None of your damn business.
2 Also exercising.
3 And maybe sleeping.
4 Hi, Ed!