Sometimes life is just good. I received news that my poetry mentor for my thesis semester is the great poet Angie Estes (my top choice) and this news brings relief because with her guidance I believe I actually have a legitimate shot at getting a book of poems put together by May 1. I have probably close to a thousand drafts of poems in various stages on my hard drive, but these 40 to 60 poems must be “finished.” Angie Estes is not only one of the great poets of our time, she is an incredible teacher. She’s efficient, she brings high expectations to the table and she knows how to assign essays and poems which move her students toward a desired end. I am attempting to take a break from writing to enjoy the holidays and refresh before my thesis semester begins in early January. I say attempting…I can’t seem to keep my eyes out of my folder of possible thesis poems!
Wow, it has been a long time between posts. Here I am in the last semester before my “thesis” semester at Ashland University’s MFA Program, a semester which I would have to label as “Self-Doubt.” It’s the time in the program when after working my poetic tail off, I realize that I have close to 100 poems, all of which need some kind of revision or work before my thesis will be accepted. Opening my blog site and reading through some of my older posts and poems tonight has given me a much-needed boon of confidence. To put it bluntly, I am weary of writing poems, weary of studying about Native American history, and weary of this quest for clarity in my poems which I must achieve before next semester’s thesis mentor is going to give me the “pass” sign. I have learned so much that I am sure I will be blog-processing the ways in which I have grown as a writer for many years to come. I will be sharing poems and poets I have discovered. I will continue to write poems. But right now…I just want to clean and organize my house and cook several decent meals from scratch in a row.
I am officially floundering in the deep end of my MFA program about half-way through my first semester. I haven’t had time to check-in on the blog because every spare moment I have is spent reading assigned poetry books, writing poems that emulate the writers we are studying, or writing responses to poets I encounter. I am enjoying every minute of it, but at the same time I am exhausted.
Here is a link to a blog post I wrote which ran today at Relief Journal’s Blog. Three of my poems are featured in Relief Journal 7.1.
I am committed to revising the rest of this semester. Blah! I would much rather generate new drafts of new poems, but the “Catch-22” of that is, all the new drafts will at some point, need revising. This is the hard work aspect of poetry for me. I am hoping to find resolve and discipline. I now know the answer to why everyone doesn’t publish a book in their lifetimes. It is HARD work.
I love this poem by Joy Harjo. Hopefully, tomorrow I will link some photos of Ashland University’s beautiful campus. I am in intense writer/reader mode! So much to learn…so many ideas…this is an inspiring place.
I found coffee this morning, and discovered much to my pleasure, that Ashland is a very “run-able” little city.
Breakfast for me was the consumption of this essay by Elizabeth Dodd. http://readthebestwriting.com/?p=793.
I am focusing in my solitude on methods to slow down my writing process, to improve within my writing routine, the savory flavor of letting ideas ruminate and cure before spilling them on the page. I need to become a distance runner as a poet instead of a sprinter.
How to slow my mind down? How to wait for the great poem, instead of settling for the onslaught of fast ideas?
Working on a mini-presentation for tomorrow’s workshop on the tense and time travel through light in the poetry of Mark Strand.
True to form, the pace of my summer has not been conducive to a writing life. Usually, I completely table all writing and spend my time outdoors, mostly driving my son to and from summer tennis practices and tournaments. Normally, I embrace the hiatus from writing, however, in two days I board a plane for Ohio where I will begin Ashland University’s MFA program with a two-week writing residency. I am excited, nervous, and a bit freaked-out by having to pay my first year’s tuition. I feel like I can’t waste that much money. I now must succeed. Someone please define “success” for me.
Today, I unpacked my first box of poetry books and placed them on shelves in a new room in our new home. It felt like my mind was opening and I could breath again, to see my familiar friends–these books. In the next two days, I must select a poem to analyze and present at the residency and I must fill out workshop forms for the poems I have submitted for workshop at the upcoming residency.
Most importantly, tomorrow I have a hair appointment. Nothing saps my confidence like gray roots! By far the biggest surprise to me is the angst I feel over leaving my little grandson for two weeks! I like to pretend I am this independent woman with a poetry career, sports interests, friends, hobbies, etc….that little boy has me completely wrapped around his little finger.
It feels good to write something again, albeit a hastily scribbled blog post. It’s a start. All of life is a start, a box to unpack, a changing child to remember.
I don’t consider myself a writer during the summer months. I consider myself a popsicle-eating, sun-bathing, tennis-watching Mom during the summer. I also don’t consider myself a cook or house-cleaner in the summer, which bothers my husband much more than the not-considering-myself-a-writer thing. This summer, however, with my summer residency at Ashland University looming, I have to somehow get myself motivated.
I have to select my poems for workshop during summer residency. Deadline: yesterday.
I have to start writing again. Something tells me that my popsicle-eating persona isn’t going to make much of an impression upon my Pulitzer-prize- nominated- poetry- mentor at Ashland.
As if God knew I needed some external motivation, at just the right moment I recently learned that three of my poems will appear in the July issue of Relief Journal.
Nothing makes my grape-stained popsicle lips curve up at the ends like notice of publication. I am sticky with gratitude.