The perfect is the enemy of the good, or something like that

April 30th, 2015

So I dusted off my blog and allowed it to get dusty again, and here I am almost finished with my first semester and I’ve hardly said a thing.

So here’s some of what I’ve learned:

* An MFA takes a lot of time, but it is manageable – especially if you’re willing to allow your blog and your bedside table to get a little dusty.

* Writing critical reviews of poetry collections is a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

* Writing critical reviews of poetry collections forces me to deconstruct the poems and analyze how and why they work.

* It’s important to read poets who weren’t previously on your radar; it’s important to read poets whose styles differ from yours; it’s important to read poets you don’t necessarily “like” on a pure enjoyment level but who nonetheless demonstrate mastery. In all likelihood, reading these poets will teach you more than reading the poets to whom you naturally because you will have to read these poems very closely to identify the masterful turns.

* If I wait for things to be perfect – poems, critical reviews, or blog posts – they will never be written. As Marvin Bell says, “No good stuff without the bad stuff. It’s all part of the stuff.” Just write, the good stuff, the bad stuff, mix up all the stuff and see what happens.

* It can be difficult to sustain relationships with your teachers and classmates over a distance, but try. These are the people who will support you and who you will support, so stay in touch as best you can.

* Everybody’s probably got their own system for organizing drafts in progress, notes for future ideas, interesting lines, submissions, and deadlines. However you do it, do it. There’s a lot to keep track of.

* It’s not everybody who gets to sit down with cup of tea, a copy of Seam and a pencil and call it work, so take advantage of it while you can. My first semester has already gone so fast, I can’t believe I’m nearly one-fourth of the way through this already.

* This is really, really fun.

2015 poetry goals

January 2nd, 2015

My first residency begins January 8th; I fly out the 6th. My goals this year are dictated almost entirely by the requirements of my program and are fairly simple:

* 24 -30 polished poems
* read 40 works of poetry or poetics
* 24 annotations of works read

Taking full advantage of my MFA is my top priority for the year. That means not just doing the work, but taking advantage of the opportunity to work with other poets (both my teachers and my fellow students). Make friends, find writing partners, develop relationships with faculty and students. This will be challenging from afar (though in a low-residency program we’re all “from afar” – none of us can wander down the hall and pop into office hours, after all, so in that regard all of us are facing the same challenges of maintaining relationships through largely electronic means) but not impossible. I’ve long believed the community component of a writing program is one of its most valuable aspects, so the goal that I can’t put numbers on, that I can’t check off as accomplished, that should be the on-going goal of any writer is to enter my community fully, contribute to it, sustain it, and stay connected to it.

And somewhere among the rough drafts and the essays, always find the joy in writing.

The adventure begins

December 2nd, 2014

I’m dusting off my blog. A new adventure is about to begin. I’ve been accepted to the low-residency MFA program in poetry at Pacific University in Oregon and my first residency begins in January.

I want to use this space to write about the experience – both logistically, as an international student; and intellectually, as a place to think out loud about what I’m learning and to share poems and poets I find exciting.

I’m expecting a lot of hard work and not enough hours in the day. I’m expecting to be doing homework during the boys’ hockey practices and waking up before the rest of the family. I’m expecting a lot of packages in the mail and international shipping charges. I’m expecting to be challenged. I’m expecting a lot of revisions.

I’m expecting to have the time of my life.