OMG guys I’m famous on the internet.
Spit-balling here, but: a place like Alabama is calling the folks they’re trying to steal away from higher tier schools. Give them tangible back up options incase a) they don’t get into an Iowa, Brown, etc. or b) if they don’t get decent funding. Probably why some folks are hearing so early from Alabama as they are an up-and-coming school. They’re playing hardball.
So, I’m thinking I am going to unsubscribe from that Creative Writing MFA blog. The din over there is driving me a little nuts.
“It is said that doubt is a weapon in the arsenal of a ego trying to protect itself.”
Well, I’ve just gotten to avant-garde ’50s composers and the early John Cage samples I’ve been streaming via Alex Ross’ blog are stressing the dog out.
13. Anyway, the poem doesn’t care whether I can write her or read her or even think her. She laughs and runs out barefoot to the chicken pen, scattering feed behind her.
Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
So giiiiirrrrrrrrrl, you better thicken that skin of yours.
Dear J****: As requested, my response….
I am omnivorous by nature and naturally hungry. This week I’m reading The Rest is Noise, by Alex Ross, a history of the twentieth century through the lens of classical music, but last week I was deeply entrenched in “The Laugh of the Medusa” by Helene Cixous and Bright Existence by Brenda Hillman, at which I am still reeling and spluttering. In November Fanny Howe’s book of essays on writing and living, The Wedding Dress, came at me like a galloping horse and left me trembling and exposed and fantastically inspired. Like Anne Carson (whom I previously—naively!—thought no essayist could supplant in my pantheon), she is preoccupied with essence and the essential, and is fearless in her trek through disparate eras of history and schools of thought, swooping confidently through these on her way to the question—as opposed to answer—the edge of chaos, the boundary of knowledge, where art can get itself born.
A generous swath of my reading time over the past several months has been spent poring over graphic novels and comic books, a medium I have lately fallen into because of my fascination with the collision of pop art and cinema and literature on the page, and how much a reader can be cued stylistically, by a font or the progression of panels, as by the narrative itself. Maus and Fun Home and Watchmen, oh my. I delved into this medium with the thought always in the back of my mind that I’d like to teach a graphic novel class, and have embarked upon it like a course of study.
But while I crunch away at essay and novel, criticism and comic books, the poems are meaty, sinewy, bloody —these sustain me. This year has been the year of Richard Siken’s poems about obsession elevated to art form in Crush, and Sabrina Orah Mark’s haunting and terrific The Babies. This year birds talked and men took to the sky in Peter Streckfus’ The Cuckoo. This year was the year of Mary Jo Bang’s sensibility in the face of the senseless, the dirge of Elegy.
Being a bit of a didactic poet and an entirely straightforward person, I gravitate toward the mystical, the noncommittal, poems that allow: the trespass of sound, genre, image, the collapse of form in service of the experience of the poem. I am trying to learn how. Always: Wallace Stevens. And CD Wright in all her books, but especially Deepstep Come Shining, a book I read at least twice a year because it is rendered in the hue that I used to dream as a child (the same way I suspect a lot of Southern children dream). And, like mothers: Cate Marvin, Louise Gluck, Gretchen Mattox, Dana Levin; naturally, Rich and Plath. Beyond the poets that fundamentally influence the way I write and read, there are the prose-ists: Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina; Jim Crace, who loves nature and science so much that it bleeds, quite naturally, into his prose and plotlines; Rikki Ducornet, that treacherous and sensual and wicked mistress of intellect; the unadorned and massive presence of Lydia Davis, particularly (and also twice a year) in Samuel Johnson is Indignant.
If it reads like a list, admissions committee, forgive me for being unable to choose, and attempting the survey of a hundred favorite landmarks in the space of a single frame.
Thanks! Now your application file is complete!
Argh! So I *DID* miss an application requirement! My sincerest apologies.
Farren – but only you and I know.
But also, interesting, to now observe the wheel of OH GOD IS IT ME AM I LOVED as soon as the school made contact with me… when it was just a formality. And of COURSE I couldn’t have known what the deal was until I really pulled out the stops and wrote the shit out of that essay. I wonder if there isn’t some amount of getting on the anxiety train in order to summon the energy I need to deploy this essay. Anyway, whatevs, it’s done and I’m still in love with my favorite school.
When we are all alone we can both agree we have a thing in common this was meant to be
The Creative Writing Admissions Committee would like a brief response to the following questions: Whose work do you admire? What collections of poetry and/or works of fiction read in the last year have been important to you, and why?
Please send this to me via email.
I re-checked the website to make sure I hadn’t missed out on a basic application requirement, but it’s not there. So this is…good news, obviously, no?
“Everything begins in mystique and ends in politics.”
“Unfortunately for most people who pursue art, ideas become their opium. There is no security to be one’s self.”