Thursday, October 7, 2010

For My First Writing Teacher "L"

So much has transpired since my last post, but let's not hash out the details of all of that yet. For now I'll just say that my husband nearly died, I gave up on my perfectionism, working on my senior thesis has been hell, and I am taking a year off after I graduate on May 7, 2011.

This post is for my first writing teacher. She's called L, for now.

I'd dropped out of school at 15 and gotten married 5 years later. No one in my family had gone to college. My husband and I roamed over the whole country looking for something. In a car with a tent for 12,000 miles, in a rig with a bunk for 40,000. We wound up in Asheville, NC, thinking we'd found whatever it was we were lacking.

When we moved to Asheville, my husband was on the road for 6 weeks at a time, and I spent winter nights reading every single Lee Smith book. I scribbled a few journal entries and poems. I waited until I had residency and enrolled in communtity college.

I met her on my first day of college, over 5 years ago. She frightened me a little, everything about being a student frightened me.

I was lost in so many ways.

But here was this woman, my teacher, with her elegant designer suits and her delicate high heels. Style, class, and what's this? A tattoo? She told me emphatically that I was a writer.

I believed her because everything she said sounded authoritative to me. I hadn't written or read as avidly as I had when I was a child or a teenager. There were circumstances: being lost.

The semester after my writing teacher told me I was a writer, I took my first creative writing class with her.

She was inspiring, hilarious, outrageous, fabulous, and fragile.

I learned that one wrote with one's whole body and entire being. It was a physical, spiritual, playful, and most of all, a therapeutic act. I learned to quiet the voices in my head which attempted to drown out my ability to write.

She gave me, and so many others, opportunities to get up and read our work in front of an audience. I went from a shaking voice, and the immediate threat of vomiting, to being able to read in front of an audience with some semblance of calm. I learned to appreciate the pause just after reading, a pregnant silence where I felt heard for the first time ever.

Before I graduated I took another writing class with her. This led me to the decision to switch my major from Sociology to Literature/Creative Writing. I remember her advising me to stick with Lit or English and write as much as I could, whenever and wherever I could. I disobediently chose Creative Writing. Did I mention her wisdom?

When I went to walk the stage in May 2008, she was there to give me, and many others, a hug on the way up the stairs.

I have often thought of her wisdom, kindness, and generosity of spirit. She helped mold me into a student and a writer. I became someone willing to risk everything for my passion. After all of these years I have continued down the difficult path of being a writer, an experience I described in an analogy to my newest writing teacher as "A calling, a religion. My desk is my altar and the writers I admire are my gods."

Thank you L, you are counted among them, you are a literary goddess!

Much love to you!

From the bottom of my guts, because you taught me that's where the best writing comes from.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rejection, Inspiration, & Confession

I write here not only to celebrate inspiration and acceptance, but to express my writing journey on all fronts, including the inevitable rejections. I was recently denied a scholarship that I applied for, but was happy to find out later that I received grants and loans for my senior year. I also didn't get the editorial internship I wanted, but this may be a blessing in disguise. I need to earn more money than the pittance paid by the internship. Nevertheless these rejections have dampened by spirits a little bit.
Mounting financial problems have made me question the pursuit of my master's degree. There are many programs I want to apply to which have full funding and a stipend, but I wonder how we could even manage to move if I could get into one of these programs. Many of them have upwards of 600 applicants, and they allow for only 6-10 slots! I will be happy enough to finish my bachelor's degree at this point! I am still working as if I am planning to get my master's. I will take the GRE in hopes that I can apply in the fall, but even if I can't then, I will eventually, and the scores are generally good for 5 years.
I have been obsessed with my undergraduate research project. I am simultaneously reading Anne Sexton's biography, letters, and complete works. I also have 10 or so books waiting for me at the library. I have already written 8 pages of poems in a fever of inspiration. These are all very closely mirroring her confessional style in content. I have imitated her techniques such as heavy use of simile, assonance, anaphora, and other types of repetition and rhyme. I have also used her shorter line length and written one very lengthy piece which is 1,000 words. These early poems will hopefully merge into a more personalized
21st century version of confessionalism.
Meanwhile I and others have questioned my total immersion into Sexton's life and works. Given my own demons, is it wise to delve so far into such a tormented soul's psyche? The waters are deep and murky. For now, I close my eyes and take that plunge.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rainy Day Writing Plans

It is another rainy day here in Western North Carolina. The semester is over and summer is here. Time to prepare for my senior year, which among other things, is now going to include a creative undergraduate research project. R, my writing "guru," has agreed to assist me with my project and has shared my enthusiasm for it. I am going to attempt to get into the national conference for undergraduate research, and hope to graduate with the distinction of an undergraduate research scholar.
Okay, that stuff probably sounds incredibly dull to 101%of people reading this, now here's the exciting part: the research project will focus on Anne Sexton and the evolution of confessional poetry. I am studying her collected works, reading her biography, and her correspondence. I also have a slew of books and articles to sift through. My research process generally consists of collecting the material and poring over it for several weeks before selecting my sources. The paper will be roughly 8 single spaced pages and it will explore the roots of confessional poetry, Sexton's poetry, and what constitutes confessional poetry in the 21st century.
The project will also include a collection of original poems, written by me, which are influenced by my study of Sexton's work. I already have one and one half poems written in this vein. The second one is likely going to start off quite long like many of her pieces. It may need to be edited down though. I am hoping to begin working with my writer's group in the next couple of weeks to get feedback on these poems. We'll also be studying for fall exams.
I certainly have enough life challenges going on right now to make for some expressive autobiographical work. However, I am trying to put a 21st century spin on the tradition, not parrot it. This is going to be an interesting exercise I think, and a worthwhile pursuit. The project abstract is due in early November and the symposium is next spring, so I'll have a jump start on my research for sure!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Editorial Internship and Life

Friday I was interviewed for an editorial internship. I think that they wanted to offer me the internship, but it has to count toward my college credit hours. I am not sure if or how I can do this, but I have a few irons in the fire trying to get that aspect squared away. I really want this! It would be such a fantastic opportunity. I would be helping the assistant editor and other members of the team with editing and writing, and I'd be able to sit in on some meetings as well. If I do get the internship they may even want me to write a blog about it for their website!
While there has been some activity pushing me forward with my career path my personal life has been a bit turbulent. My husband has been in the hospital for the past four days. This is the second time he has been hospitalized during final's week, and the fourth time he has been hospitalized in the past three years due to a chronic illness. When he is in there it is hard for me to focus on anything else, but I managed to get through finals and an interview. Then I spent my days entertaining him. I'll admit, I worked on my letter to the publishing house which I have to submit to the parent company of the place where I am trying to get the internship. I also brainstormed a new idea for a poem: strange places we've slept (like the hospital). I obsessively tried to get their intermittent wireless to work so I could see if my professor had e-mailed me back about using the internship for credit hours. I am a workaholic. I am obsessive. Most of all I am determined.
I am happy to say the care he's received this go round was better than the care he's previously received here in town. I think that led to a quicker recovery, and a more "pleasant" stay in the hospital, relatively speaking. We may still be headed down to South Carolina for further tests and treatment though.
I am excited to be done with finals, and at the prospect of bringing my husband home today. I want to focus on home for a few days. It has been a sorely neglected part of my life while the semester was underway. I have to clean, care for my husband, sort through my books, and straighten out my life in preparation for a busy summer.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Manila Envelopes As Opportunities

I have been in a fever of submissions. I have been distracted by my 2008 edition of "Poet's Market" for the past three days. I have been scouring "The American Poetry Review" and the internet. So far I have one set of online submissions in, and two manila envelopes ready to mail out tomorrow.
It is so exciting to find all of these literary publications which are vital, bursting with creativity, and determined, against all odds, to keep print poetry alive! I want to be a part of that. I have sent off all of my strongest pieces for consideration, well, technically I have to put some in the mail yet. So now maybe I can focus on my end of semester responsibilities?
I find the whole process to be so much fun. Selecting the strongest work, putting it in an order which reveals my range, writing the cover letters and bios, and then the envelopes. I have always had a bizarre passion for office supplies. But these envelopes? They seem like opportunities. Even when rejections (inevitably) creep back in my SASE, it means someone out there has read my poetry and considered it. Sometimes an intern, or maybe even the editor of a publication. Perhaps they will even give feedback? The whole process thrills me! I can't wait for finals to be over so I can begin to work on some new poetry!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sacrificing for Art: A Fine Balance

"This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse." ~Ranier Maria Rilke~ Letters to a Young Poet

My poetry teacher quoted from this passage during our final poetry writing workshop yesterday. It really struck a chord in me. He said that he knows plenty of poets who have miserable personal lives due to focusing solely on their craft, and also those who lead rich multifaceted lives built around writing. Sometimes I wonder which camp I belong to. On some levels I think I need to find more balance. I am willing to sacrifice almost anything to continue my education, largely to learn all I can about the craft of writing.
Would I really live in a cardboard box, as I told my husband earlier in the week, to pursue my art? I would never want to give up my marriage for my art. That is one thing that is too sacred for me to compromise. He is so supportive that it has never hampered our relationship that I'm aware of. He is my ideal reader, and my best editor. It is amazing how much he has learned about poetry and what his feedback has done for my work. He is like a Muse to me. So in that area of my life, I have a solid foundation for my art, not to mention my sanity, in a supportive partner. He goes above and beyond support into helping hone my art. He lets me read draft after draft aloud to him, which is an important part of my process. He tells me when something is unclear, sentimental, or far fetched. He brings me food when I have been in a creative whirlwind and haven't stopped to fix anything. He puts up with dust gathering on the bookshelves because I have been too immersed to stop and do my share of the cleaning. Sometimes he even knocks the dust off of the shelves himself. He is a wonderfully intelligent, caring, and patient man.
However, my social life is another story. My social life has taken a hit. This deficit isn't helped by my social awkwardness, but I rarely pry myself away from my work to go out or socialize. I keep up with people on FaceBook, the occasional meal, or a phone call. But how often do I go out and do things? Not very often. Part of this stems from my drive to create, and to do my schoolwork well so that I can pursue competitive MFA programs. Part of it has its source in my lack of funds. Going to school full time limits my availability to work, so I only work part time.
My financial life has also taken a hit. But I refuse to "take a year off" i.e. drop out of college. I have one year left, and I will finish and go on to graduate school. Come hell or high water. Some people don't recognize my focus or determination, or seem to realize that I have been working towards this goal for almost 5 years. I was the first person in my family (on my mother's side) and the first person in my immediate family to get a college degree when I got my AA (which is only useful if you continue on and get your BA). It is remarkable when you consider that up until that point I had a ninth grade education and a tumultuous past. Some people fail to respect the hard work I have done, and what it means to me to finish what I started and pursue an even higher level of education.
I suppose that therein lies the alienation from some people which daily grows the longer I view myself as an artist, a poet. I am willing to sacrifice. I don't need support, or the support that I do need I receive from my fabulous husband. Even if he had a complete turn around and was no longer supportive I would simply carry on with my work. It is work. So many people act as if education and art are the slack and easy ways to avoid working. Being an artist is not easy, writing poetry is hard. IT is work. It IS work. It is WORK.
I love my work. It isn't much different from building a house, besides its lack of physical exertion.
This leads me to my third area of imbalance. My physical health is not so great. I lead a very sedentary life. I need to go on long walks in nature, or even on a treadmill. Some exercise, fresh air, and eating well could help me lose weight, think better, and have better health all around. In some ways this would serve my craft because I would have less stress and more solitude to rest my brain.
In the dark of night, when I ask myself if I have to write in order to survive, my answer is "Yes, I must." There have been stretches of time when I did not write, and I didn't truly feel alive. Yes, I have built the structure of my life to suit this need. I have a drive to push myself rigorously through the educational system as a part of my process. There are some things I need to work on: going out and doing stuff, working more, taking better care of my health which, sadly, hasn't been enough of a priority, dusting my bookshelves, and taking the time to tend to mundane tasks as well.
I don't want to lead a miserable personal life for the sake of art. In fact, that could lead to some pretty bad poetry. I want to strike a balance, and I think I know what I am willing to sacrifice and what I am not willing to sacrifice; the areas where I need to care for myself and others, and the pieces of solitude necessary for my craft. I am going to pursue a balance of these things over the summer. A mix of everyday work (for $), play, self care, and then the real work that I do; the process which drives the blood through my veins: writing.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Publication and Reading

I have been on tenter hooks waiting for news from the national publication Slipstream. Every day when I walked down the hill to check the mail I wondered if that would be the day I'd get a rejection slip or a notice that they'd accepted something. This is the first time I had ever submitted anything to a national publication. I have been accepted by Headwaters, a UNCA literary magazine, and also accepted by The Blue Elephant and The Dirty Fox (twice) when I was attending A-B Tech. I have also been rejected by another UNCA literary magazine Metabolism.
My writing teacher K from A-B Tech showed us how to submit our work to national publications around 3 years ago in Creative Writing II. There was a project where I had to prepare submissions. After some research I chose Slipstream as the place I'd submit to. I thought my work would fit there. However, the poetry was such that it sat in my file cabinet for three years. One of them is a deeply personal piece I will probably never publish, the other two lacked sophistication.
I felt I'd written some worthwhile stuff over this past semester so I dug out the old information, checked the website to make sure it was still accurate, rewrote my letter, submitted five poems, and got a poem accepted! The feeling I got when I saw that they were accepting my poem was surreal. They have been around for 30 years and they are out of Niagara Falls, New York, not far from where I was born in Buffalo. I have to wait an entire year to see my work in print, but it will be so gratifying, especially because I am graduating around that same time. I can't wait to see the issue and read the other poetry and art they select.
I am thrilled, and if it weren't for the end-of-semester mayhem I would be choosing the next place to submit to right now! I am so thankful to my awesome husband John for his unflagging support of my work, and of my education. I am also thankful to my wonderful poetry writing teacher R at UNCA for all of his help and encouragement over the course of the semester. His passion for poetry, honesty, and expertise have helped me blossom as a writer.
I am also excited to be doing a reading at Accent on Books in Asheville today. I am looking forward to hearing some other poets and sharing some of my new work. I haven't done a reading in a year, so it is going to be fun. If you can make it the reading starts at 3 and here is their info:
Accent on Books
854 Merrimon Avenue
Asheville, North Carolina 28804-2405
Phone: (828) 252-6255

Friday, April 16, 2010

End Of The Semester & Summer 2010: A To Do List In Three Parts

There are piles of dusty library books everywhere, stacks of poems that are marked in 10 different people's handwriting, dog-earred books, empty pizza boxes, and coffee cups...Yes it is the end of the semester, and my life has become a little messy. Among other things, I am hovering on the edge of more research and trying to compose my final manuscript for Advanced Poetry Writing. A total of 30 poems.
I workshopped a long piece done in syllabics and it was ripped apart pretty thoroughly. I spent 8 hours yesterday trying to salvage it in its original format.I had to put it down and try to gain some perspective, I'll pick it up again in a couple of days. I think I need seven more poems/revisions to complete my portfolio. I have 2 weeks. I wish I could spend all of my time completing this one project, but I have other classes!
There are many things I have to do over the and make some $, read what is on my senior reading list and do an annotated bibliography, study for the GRE, begin the process of writing essays and letters for graduate school applications, and prepare for my my senior competency exams. I am hoping to hear one way or another about an editorial internship I applied for as well.
There are sooo many more things that I need to do: Sleep, exercise, be outdoors, hang out with my friends, drink coffee, read what I want for a change, actually clean my house, watch movies, do art, write what I want for a change, which reminds me...crap...I am also supposed to spend 6 weeks of the summer writing. Three weeks of poetry and three of fiction. I want to work on the novel I started last semester, but I am not sure that would be something I could workshop in Advanced Fiction Writing in the Fall? So. Much. Work.
I want to go to grad school why?
I also need to: play in the dirt, sit around a fire, visit my family, go on a road trip to the beach, visit UNCW and other schools I want to apply to, listen to music from when I was 15 and dance around feeling young again, cause I am not so young anymore...apparently I need to save to go to a salon to get my hair fixed because I messed it up with a home dye job, I need to cook elaborate gourmet meals, spend quality time with my husband, get my parrotlet to eat more vegetables and fruit, eat more vegetables and fruit myself, go to farmer's markets, antique shops, and festivals, and sleep...did I mention sleep?
Regardless of all I must, should, could, and want to do I am relieved that the semester will be over in a couple of weeks. I am hoping one day it will all be worth it. I wanted to compile a list of things to do over the summer so I wouldn't just sleep the entire time, it has been known to happen. It will serve as a reminder of what I want to accomplish. Which is obviously to drive myself insane, not a far drive at all!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Idea Theft: A Rant on Classroom Etiquette

Today I was verbally plagiarized. My professors want to know why I don't always talk in is because of poor group dynamics and idea theft. There are always those who attempt (and sometimes succeed) in dominating the group dynamic. There is also the matter of a professor who has such a large group that they miss body language cues and ignore the reticent to speak class members' attempt at communication.
One poor guy had his hand raised for 10 minutes and then the instructor had the nerve to check their watch as he was speaking...we had 10 or 15 minutes left at the time too. During this time that he had his hand raised the professor called on at least 4 other people. I was waiting to talk about my idea when some guy wearing yellow, who worked with the small group I'd been in, decided he would repeat my idea, almost verbatim. This yellow-wearer hadn't even brought the text to class! I also had discussed the topic of my research paper with the members of the group quite candidly. I am certain those thoughts will come in handy for the guy in yellow for future discourse.
There are several reasons why I am so quiet in class. Number one, I am an auditory learner, thus I prefer to listen rather than speak, and I rarely think about what I am going to say while someone else is speaking. Yes, I know this contradicts my above comment about waiting to speak, but I was going against my nature for the sake of class participation credit. Number two idea theft. While speaking in small groups, before the broader class discussion, it is not cool to use someone else's ideas as your own. The proper thing to do would be to say "so and so from our group said this." The third reason I don't talk in class is poor group dynamics...the dominators who interrupt, think that everything they say is of the utmost importance, and who ignore their class mate's raised hands and frantic eye contact.
All of these things are frustrating and annoying. Why should I have to go against my learning style in order to garner my professor's favor or the necessary participation credit? Especially if I am going to be verbally plagiarized or bulldozed? Perhaps I need to kick it up a notch and be more assertive. Or perhaps the people in that class need to recognize classroom etiquette. Maybe there should be a standard Emily Posts's guide to Behavior in a Classroom Setting?
Some guidelines:

*Give credit if you are using someone else's ideas. Even verbally.

*Pay attention to other student's body language. Is their hand raised? Are they staring intently at the instructor? Let them speak. If no one else notices a raised hand perhaps even point out: "I think Jenny has something to add." This kind of goes above and beyond the call of simple etiquette into the realm of "Lending a Helping Hand to Those in Need."

*If you are a natural talker use the method prescribed by a brilliant professor I once had: Step up, and then step back. You may have some off the charts great thoughts, but dominating the conversation is incredibly impolite. Write them down. Hang out in the hall after class to talk with other students or follow your professor to bombard them with your brilliance.

*When someone else is speaking, especially someone who is normally quiet, listen with attention and respect. Don't just spend the whole time they are speaking formulating your own response.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Claiming What is Broken

Aren't we all broken in some way? Even the smallest things we do on a day to day basis that don't fit with who we think we are. No one thinks that they are perfect...right? We've all drifted off into our own headspace when we were supposed to be listening to our spouse, or left dirty dishes in the sink for too long, or muttered something under our breath while waiting in line or when a driver cuts us off on the interstate. We are flawed as human beings, but does this mean we are broken?
Another universal human experience, aside from our lack of perfection, is our capacity to feel emotional pain. Most of us manage to feel it to a point, and then our bodies and brains kick into survival mode. We turn away from what is broken in ourselves: our hearts, little bits of our souls we thought we knew, our minds and our bodies. The pain is too much for us to bear, so we deny its existence in our lives and choose to anaesthetize ourselves. We choose TV, food, arguments we made up to distract ourselves, alcohol, shopping, and anything we can find to comfort ourselves. All of this is done to fill a void; there is an emptiness within where our emotions could dwell if we claimed them.
When we choose to ignore our feelings, like an uninvited guest who's stayed too long in our house, we are constantly reaching out to find something to dam up the flow of our true emotions. What if we let ourselves feel them all? Would we die? Would we be carted away in a straitjacket? Would we end up wandering the streets and sleeping in dark alleyways? Could we choose to simply acknowledge what is broken, maybe even to let ourselves howl and scream if we need to, and survive?
There is a certain level of distrust in ourselves if we can't allow ourselves to view and experience the tidal shifts in emotion in our lives. Does this diminish the capacity for things such as joy, love, or peace? Sometimes the pain is so great we mentally pack our baggage into a neat mental U-Haul and decide to put it into storage and move away. Far away. Yet every month we are paying on that storage unit. It may be a thousand miles away, but somewhere in the musty depths, there are things we care about that we'd hate to lose. So we pay and we pay. It may not seem like much, but there is some level of energy extended to that discarded baggage, and it takes its toll in nickels and dimes. It adds up.
So the next time I am feeling angry, or there is a hurt which makes my chest and throat feel like they are going to explode, I am going to claim it in all of its broken stinking humanity. I am going to let the wave crash over me and feel the earth disintegrating under my feet. Because there is more space hollowed out after this marriage of what is broken with "real life." With the mundane. There is room for a force greater than me to move in and expand. The reward of this is a low tide, a period of calm where I can wade out farther than I ever imagined, until I can just barely see the shore.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Living In the Moment

Ironically enough, I had the idea for this blog in my head last night, and didn't remember it when I first woke up. That was a prime example of not living in the moment. I was too busy making a to do list and it was only through the great coffee meditation that I remembered the topic.
The other day I pulled out my dusty gratitude journal, a lovely little book with "Flaming June" on the cover given to me by an old friend. I hadn't written anything in it since June of last year. The journal has gotten me through some extraordinarily tough times: my husband's serious, undiagnosed (for two and a half years), chronic illness, my battles with depression, two moves (each one a "downgrade"), and so many other events in our lives. I used to spend 5 or ten minutes writing in it every morning as my coffee was brewing.
I would write some outrageous things that hadn't even happened yet, particularly "I am so grateful now that my husband is healed." That was a mantra repeated over and over throughout the book. I also took the time to thank the universe for the things many people take for granted and I wasn't sure we would have: "Thank you for the power bill being paid, for food, for rent." So many of these things manifested through unexpected means. When my husband was at his sickest his family sent us a flood of cards and checks for a period of around three weeks. We were so grateful and didn't know how we would have survived without the help. A gratitude journal is amazing because it can keep you in the moment. Even if the moment hasn't occurred yet you can act as if it has and sometimes manifest great things.
Living in the moment is hard. My good friend V and I discussed this last week. We are both hard driving type A personalities, always looking to the next step in a chain of steps leading to the "ultimate goal." This is not very conducive to living in the moment. We pondered whether or not we even have the capacity to live in the moment. How many of us really do this? Do you find yourself reflecting on the "coulda, shoulda, wouldas" or the "wills" instead of the "I ams?" I am writing in my blog. I am enjoying a cup of delicious Costa Rican coffee. I am realizing that I sound far too much like a wannabe life guru or something.
There are so many clichés which express this, but the reason they are tried and true clichés is because they are true...It is the journey, not the destination. I have spent far too much of my life waiting for my life to begin. I have spent years focusing on my goals only to let valuable friendships dissolve, my health problems run rampant, and lately, I've begun losing focus on what I am trying to accomplish right now. This chaos, and living in an uninspired not-nearly-as-rich-as-it-could-potentially-be, existence is a sort of half life. Waiting for the next thing to happen to you is not living. With the risk of sounding more like a bumper sticker: living is that thing that happens to you while you are waiting for your life to begin. I am going to try to live in the moment for small moments, incrementally, one step at a time. Hopefully this will change my life, we shall see.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You May Say I'm a Dreamer

I am a dreamer. This can be an amazing thing because many times I've had a dream and then it came true. Sometimes serendipidity had something to do with it, mostly it was sheer force of will. It didn't always last "forever," but part of being a grown up is realizing that nothing is permanent. I have had some pretty low points in my life, but I have never stopped dreaming. I've always gotten back up, survived, and sworn I would thrive. I owe a lot of this perseverance to my husband. He's taught me so much about optimism and is such a rock of strength for me. He's helped me get back off of the ground so many times. I've watched him resurrect himself from some pretty dark spaces too.
But being a dreamer is also at the core of who I am. It is in the connective tissue of my being.
Here are some things that I've dreamt of that have manifested: Meeting my husband (whose qualities I listed in a journal weeks before we met), travelling the US with him (we've traveled the US twice 62,000 miles and 10 solid months altogether), moving to Asheville, owning a business, buying and decorating a home (which we did sell, but it was still a dream lived out), being the first one in my family to get a college degree, reading my poetry at poetry readings and having it published (albeit in small school publications, but it is still gratifying to see your words in print), being well again after so much sickness, seeing my husband well after so many years of a mysterious illness, and many more small moments which have felt like dreams.
I still have so many things that I dream of doing. Here are some of them: getting the scholarship I applied for, finishing my BA with distinction, blowing the GRE out of the water, getting accepted to one of the many MFA programs on my list, getting my MFA in creative writing, publishing a collection of poems, publishing a novel, publishing creative non-fiction, getting a job as an editor, living near the ocean again, living in New York City, moving back to the mountains, buying and decorating another home, having land and a German Shepherd, getting healthy and in shape again, and growing old with my husband.
Yesterday one of my dreams came true. I got accepted into NYU's summer writer's program. I was so excited and in a state of disbelief. For some reason I think, well I hope, that $10,000 and a place to stay will fall into my lap. Even if I cannot actually go, getting accepted is one dream that I accomplished, and it motivates me to apply for the MFA at NYU later on. A place where poets like Sharon Olds and Yusef Komunyakaa teach. I can still see myself wandering Greenwich village with my ten pound laptop, searching for a bench where I can sit and write poetry for that evening's class, I can imagine myself at the historic Lillian Vernon townhouse listening to a brilliant student from some unremarkable place like Omaha (no offense Omahaians) read from their work, I can see myself at a slam poetry reading in Manhattan surrounded by new friends I met at NYU. So maybe it WILL happen, but even if it doesn't I can still mark one off of my list. I did get in, and I am still a dreamer so there's always tomorrow.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Admitting the Truth About Reading Comprehension

Yesterday I took a research day after eking out a few poetry critiques. When I had exhausted my research with the materials I had, I contemplated going to the UNCA library to get the books on hold for me. But it was raining. Hard. I made a cup of hot tea and some Asian noodle soup, and watched "Revolutionary Road." For me watching a movie on a Sunday evening is unheard of. I am reaching burnout these days so I needed to recharge.
I then proceeded to read, for the first time ever, Paradise Lost. Well, that just about ended me. I was almost in tears, if not for the beauty of the language, then for its incomprehensibility. As a literature student I can admit I am not as well read as many of my peers. I am a non-traditional student. Meaning I dropped out of high school 15 years ago at the age of 15 before I was forced to read many of what my 20 something peers were forced to read.
However, I get really good grades, and I care about literature. Yet for the life of me...the long sentences and the technical skill of Paradise Lost detracted from the action. What the hell is going on? Once I actually looked up a synopsis online (I admit this only with great shame), I was still losing myself in the language. As a poet I just felt that sick jealousy one feels from time to time when reading something finely wrought. I only read the first book, and I am hoping something inside of my brain will crack open as I continue, like with algebra, and suddenly I'll be able to comprehend the text. Then I'll be able to shed tears of joy that I am not a complete moron. Perhaps the point is to draw the reader into Pandemonium literally? Word Pandemonium.
At any rate, here is my cold hard truth: literature can be really challenging. I am coming out of the closet and admitting this fact. Maybe I am just a hack, but I'd like to think I am someone who is confident enough in their own intelligence to admit that some reading is just hard on some of us. I spent hours reading 20 pages. I think I will try to speak up in my Renaissance lit class today and admit before 20 some odd other students that I had no clue what was going on until I looked it up. Perhaps they will be brave enough to admit it too. Maybe they will judge me; maybe you are judging me now. Either way this confession feels like a relief.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

It's the first day of spring. Unfortunately this coincides with a maddening time in the semester.
I have so many things that I need to write! I decided to take a break from it and write here. I have written three poems for my workshop in as many days, none of which I am satisfied with, and I am working on critiques of other's poetry. I also need to start one of my research papers. I am excited about it because it is on Toni Morrison's Sula. She is one of my favorite writers. I am also a little intimidated; all of these years as a lit major and I've never written a research paper on an entire novel.
I am actually feeling a little blocked. I am distracted by so many things. Not the least of which is my new blog...I am in that mode where I just want to read a bunch, maybe do some research, and not write anything for a few days. Yet here I am. I am compelled. I just wish I could focus, but there is a nice spring breeze coming through my office window. Spring fever, a major cliché, especially considering I usually hate this time of year. I get allergies, the time change screws me up, the weather shifts in the mountains are brutal, and other people being so happy that it's spring all serve to throw me off.
It is not the ideal time to be holed up in my office aggravating what feels like the beginnings of carpal tunnel. Plus my house is kind of a mess. I think all writers need a studio away from the distractions of housework and that people should bring them cooked meals. Oh to go to a writer's colony. There I would not be blocked. I would not need a couple of days off. Perhaps I should just ignore my laundry, clear the bills off of my desk and put them on hubby's instead, and get back to work?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Introductory Blog Written Before My Coffee Has Cooled Down Sufficiently

This is my first posting on this blog so I figured I would begin with the obvious introduction. My first cup of strong, black, Costa Rican coffee is cooling in front of me, not yet sufficiently cool enough to take the first sip. This is tantalizing. I am a hardcore coffee drinker. Since this is the first thing I do every day, besides the obvious like brushing my teeth, it seems like a good place to start. Okay, had the first sip.
I am a writer and I decided I needed a blog. I think blogs are supposed to be specialized. My topic is pretty broad, writing. I am a non-traditional student (I am thirty) majoring in Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. I hope to attend graduate school to receive my MFA in Creative Writing (I have heard it can be useless, but refuse to listen to reason on this matter). After this semester of undergraduate work I have a year to go. My primary focus is poetry, but I love to write most anything, other than academic papers, which I am tormented by. I will likely write on this blog when I should be writing academic papers.
After getting accepted into one of the dozen or so grad programs I want to apply for, hopefully, I would like to work in publishing. Don't judge me! I love to edit and read just about anything. I also want to make a little bit of money as I pursue my writing. Last time I checked poets didn't have anything considered a "salary." I am also interested in book design and learning more about every aspect of publishing. Of course I'd love to write The Great American Novel or a weekly column, or just about anything else.
I have been married for ten years to an insanely supportive man. I have often questioned his sanity due to him supporting my writing so vehemently. If I have false confidence and bravado it stems from his stubborn declarations of my word prowess. He is my ideal reader and I often bounce ideas off of him during revision. I don't think he really identifies himself as a "writer," but one day we hope to collaborate on his memoir. He has had a fascinating life, and will probably be mentioned frequently in this blog. Yes, we are one of "those" couples: madly in love, together as much as possible, best friends, and partners in crime.
Well, I have finished my first cup of coffee. I am off to pursue the rigors of academic life before I go to work this evening. I am excited to begin this new venture. I think it will be interesting. If this post does not dazzle with brilliance, blame it on the slow processing of my morning caffeine. Just wait until I have had too much coffee at midnight sometime...that's when I truly dazzle!