I have a job cocktail waitressing at a dutch pub in the west end. I’ve only worked one day but everyone seems incredibly sweet and welcoming. I am currently working Thurs/Fri/Sat–three days! Before I panic and run out and get 7 more jobs I am going to see if this is enough to sustain me. In the meantime, I am making the most of my 4 free days.
Which means, getting myself together. The hazy, medium-to-long range plan is: Short-list, and stick to, MFA programs to which I will apply. Start studying for the GRE in August (that’s the day after tomorrow!) Study 3 times a week for 8 weeks; take the GRE at the beginning of October. While waiting the 4-6 weeks for written results, start writing and fretting over application materials. This leaves a nice generous swath of time to get MFA applications in early.
MFA programs! Here are the importantest criteria:
- Full funding. That means for the whole time I am there. Tuition waiver, stipend, the whole nine. I don’t have any money and I’m not going into debt to write. I can do that spectacularly on my own.
-Location. Because duh! Wherever I wind up, I’d like to lurk around for a few years afterward.
-Length of program. I’m getting more attracted to 3+ year programs. The longer I can write, and try to publish, and write a book, the better. I talked to a woman at Tin House who earned a degree from Purdue in 3 years. She said the additional year allowed her a really concentrated year of Lit courses. She took her time and took more from it. I support that attitude.
-Teaching Opportunities/ Literary Magazine. This means more student funding and more workplace experience.
-Faculty. After Tin House, this criteria is falling down, down, down, plummeting really, on my list of priorities. I actually feel like I have marvelous, strong, attuned mentors already. And maybe, after having had an affair with an undergrad professor, getting all entangled with another authority figure isn’t the way to go. Besides, profs migrate to other programs, go on sabbatical, or suck. Perhaps a good idea to go it alone a bit.
-Reading series. Because geez oh man, that’s like my rock concert.
-PhD program. If possible. Because dudes, I love school.
Tom Kealey says, apply to 8-12 programs. MFA candidates do what Tom Kealey says. Here’s my too-short short list:
University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa)
University of Oregon
University of Washington
University of Virginia
University of Minnesota
Here is my heart: one red lozenge
Sitting pretty on a heap of slow
Putrefaction, its breathing hole at my ear. It is my own heart and
I love it.
Let’s talk about weather—only for a moment,
I know how it peeves you,
Let’s go ahead and get blinded
To sorrow under a bright filament.
I can remind you about yesterday’s noon lit
Pond and the wrung woman across
It who told her boyfriend “I don’t get drunk anymore,”
you making understanding noises, the same slow-petalled burn, “just a plague of headaches.”
Dragonflies were her strongest fetish (as they lit, red and blue,
Over its surface). I won’t talk about mirrors. They protected her. And then:
They are shaped like the catheters the technicians slipped
Into her hand the morning she was rushed to the hospital.
Jaundice. They had the same strong wings. She says
Dear so-and-so, I’m sorry and
Also I haven’t a thing to apologize for, you sycophant,
Did you know, you can make a red mettle from
A jar of bees? Arthritis, even human things.
To say: I was harvested, my
Jagged joints poisoned clean.
I’ll let you raze the first inconsistencies but for god’s sake
let’s talk honestly, let’s make an agenda of an agenda dismantled
And stop the shorthand deference to kindness.
We don’t believe in kindness,
Moreover there is none, no magnets, no garnets in the sand, no wax hands in the shape of a heart—no limp and milquetoast tendrils to lead
Us in circles through this poem.
You are a material object, an insect, a machine,
or an animal, your singular obsession to
Follow the sound of the sound down into your own red heart.
You can listen to its murderous bleats, like any other. The stories
You tell yourself to stay alive.
A mouth clamped shut because the body folds
over. A body bowed. A body that never grew
hair and skin sweet as honey—half as sticky.
Would a woman laid waste make a maid. Is she
an act that grants her own reward.
Still life with an asp-mouth and carbon teeth, self portrait in
A storm, playing a dirge,
a weather system, a clatter in the shower,
a ritual cleansing, a sacrificial
A mouth clamped shut because the body folds over.
This does not live where you live, or vibrate at the strike of your feet.
A body bowed. No grief, not grief, not black grief nor gray dread, not dead jealousy or jealousy in the act of murder
One vocation will pay me and for the other
I will pay and pay and
I remember a disquisition on forgiveness as a way to keep returning to the hurt.
Swell of a thousand silent trespassers.
Mother rolls out the purple cloak.
They bear up no bodies only shadows that shapeshift
The choice is to self-parent—the hurt was the love
Not this and no, and not the stuff of this. This is not yours, not grief for holding, not for to admire or pass around, not to name or nurture
A navel mouth singing heart’s songs in the shower’s clatter.
Arabesques make inroads for the timorous,
The brain braids water down tile walls
Does this water move—if I set a paper boat on its face
would we sail? Would it rain again?
Movies cost millions to make. Not so, books. They just take the author’s time. You can argue, with justification, that they also take talent – which is priceless – but the point remains. No great sums of money are required, only effort. Had the writer been merely sitting around talking he or she would have had nothing to show for those ideas. Now, what flights of the imagination should you be giving greater wings to? It’s easy now, to create a lot of hot air. That’s all the more reason to build yourself a balloon!
I liked it. DAMMIT!
…If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention
he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.
–From “The Man-Moth”, Elizabeth Bishop
I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am I am I am.
Our love is not the short
courtly kind but
long inside — enjambed,
enjoined, conjoined, and
jammed, it’s you, enkindler,
enlarger, jampacked man of many
stanzas, my enheartener – love
runs on from line to
you, from line to me and me
to you, from river to sea and sea to
land, hits a careless coast, meanders
way across the globe — land
ahoy! water ahoy! — love
with no end, my waters go
wherever you are, my stream