Tuesday, May 27, 2008

MFA Residency: Day 5

Day 5 is just ending of the residency for my low-res MFA here at Spalding University in Louisville. A lot has happened so far, adn I'll cram as much as I can into this post before I feel the tug of poetry draw me back to my notebook.

I got in on Thursday night (after being completely raped by a Chattanooga cab company - $28 to take me one and a half miles to the airport! WHAT?! Mental note: call Beverly and beg a ride home from the airport on Sunday), and the Brown hotel is as beautiful as ever, and equipped with the same decadently absorbent towels. I love crossing back into Kentucky - even Louisville, though my heart is closer to Danville and Lexington. It always feels like coming home.

Residency started on Friday, and I amazed myself by remembering the map of Spalding's small downtown campus - I got myself turned around regularly in November, but now I'm pretty adept at getting around our little 4-block cube of the city, and its homeless folk. (Thanks for the catcalls, guys. Seriously. You have no idea how that makes the day of a big-bootied woman like myself. I heart the looeyville homeless!)

Coming here is really like coming home. As a writer, there's little better than finding an entire gaggle of people who understand your random frisking of yourself for a writing implement to jot down (on paper, or your bookbag strap, or your arm) a thought that you think might grow into a nifty little sapling of a poem or story. Folks who understand the devastation of those teensy little impersonal rejection slips that count as responses to your deepest secrets sent off to editors. Folks you don't feel guilty with when you press your latest pieces into their hands for workshopping, because you know they're really interested in your work, and you know you'll get honest and constructive feedback from. Smell that? That's beer mixed with artistic potential. Those stains? Ink. I love it.

So far, I have attended lectures on:

Pico Iyer's Sun After Dark: Flights into the Foreign, lyric essays on travel

Creative Non Fiction: Where the Public Meets the Private

The Life of the Place: Ko Un's Abiding Places

A Rhetorical Approach to the Sentence

There are No Zebras Among the Roses: Negation & the Imagination in 20th Century Poetry

The Art of Poetic Failure: Identification, Method & Practice

Metaphor as Analysis: Transparency, Translucence, Opacity in Language

the Shapely Poem

On Translation

Writing in Animal Time

The History of Every Country

Structural Screwity: A brief Guide to Reading & Writing Experimental Fiction

Sudden Physical Moments in Short Fiction

And we're not even done until Saturday night!

I've been workshopping daily with my small group and Greg Pape, who will also be my mentor for this upcoming semester. He's not only a hell of a poet with a real eye for the details in nature, he's also Montana's Poet Laureate and an all-around interesting guy with a really intense reading presence and a good sense of humor. (He's going to need it, with me as a student.)

Tomorrow I've got my small group discussion on syntactic doubling and line breaks, an expository writing workshop where we'll go over each other's critical essays (on a book we all hated, so that should be particularly painful), poetry workshop, a lecture on fiction for the book in common for this coming semester, and a play at the Bunbury Theater, Rabbit Hole.

All told, it's going pretty well, though not quite as gangbusters as last residency, when I seem to remember staying up until past 4am drinking beer (um, I do not even like beer), and there may have been an occasion or two where I raised my shirt above what was proper to show off some ink. So far it's been pretty tame, with folks quitting for bed before 10pm. I do hope that we end up hitting Fourth Street Live again sometime this residency, because the poetess desperately needs an excuse to shake her tucchus on the dance floor sometime in 2008. One more dance while I'm twenty-eight, before I turn the big two-nine next week.

Anyway, among the great workshopping and the notes I've made on lectures, I've also been hitting the student and faculty readings at night, which are really impressive. Last night I read "Love Letter from a White Woman," "Intercession" (a rewrite of the ail Mary prayer), "For my Unborn Son" and "Thorns," and they seemed to go over really well with the crowd. (It was getting on 9pm, so it is also altogether possible the crowd was simply pleased to be getting out, since I was the last reader.) Anyway, it was a good time, and I was re-impressed with the crop of talent in my classmates.

That's about it for now, and you likely won't hear from me for awhile, since I don't get home until June, and then I've got three book chapters and one poster session to complete before July hits. I also had a conference presentation pitch that I made with a gaggle of other librarians picked up as a half-day preconference at one of the big librarian conferences (Internet Librarian 2008, in Monterey) picked up, so the fun never stops! For now, I need to go back and make margin comments in this batch of critical essays, and try to crank out some of the poems - or at least flesh out some of the ideas for poems - that have been growing in my head. Much love from a poetess steeped in her element...

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