Specificity: MFA Road Trip Days 6-9

Posted: August 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

To recount each day since Tuesday like a play-by-play announcer would be the blogger’s equivalent of a broken record: repetitive and rapidly growing in level of annoyance until you want to throw off the needle and toss the record across the room, smashing it. I would feel responsible if you did this to your computer, so I’ll avoid the mundane repetitive details in lieu of the highlights.

Wednesday’s workshop was my day under the microscope. I had the fortune of working with three women with poetic aesthetics very different from my own, so it was good to see where things were working and where things were not. Some of the criticism I was already mindful of, most predominantly that I sometimes get overwhelmingly caught up in abstractions, leaving my reader to have to think a little too much about what the poem is about. This is something I’ve been cognizant of for a while, and an issue I’ve been deliberately paying attention to as I’ve been writing throughout this past week. The exercises we’ve done in class have certainly helped with that, now I just have to work on moving those lessons learned over to my own poems. Since this is the same group I’ll be working with in the fall, I’ll have plenty of time to write through it. That’s really the plan, actually: just generate more and more material and see if I can’t write myself into a frenzy and fix the unnecessary commitment to abstraction.

Wednesday night as karaoke night at Buffalo Wild Wings, an unofficial program event. Several of the people from the program went, though, including the administrative director and her husband, and, quite surprisingly, the poet who was the visiting writer on Wednesday and Thursday. I sang two songs—“All At Once” by The Fray and “Iris” by The Goo Goo Dolls—and surprised most everyone there by, in their words, “killing it.” I don’t know why, but those are some of my favorite moments, when you get to shock people by doing something they didn’t know you could do. One of the other students I met even asked me what happened to the “shy boy” that was sitting in their apartment a few days before. I told her it was the microphone.

I proved this point yet again on Thursday, overall another day of the same flow here in Ashland. But that night we had a student open mic, where students signed up to read poetry or sections of nonfiction. I find these moments fascinating, especially in regards to how different people approach a microphone. Most of the readers that night did okay with it, others stared at it like it was some sort of visual anomaly they would rather ignore. As usual, I jumped right up and read a few poems from my MA Thesis project at UNC-Charlotte, and fell right into the flow of the verse. The running joke amongst several of the students and myself now is that I need to carry a microphone around with me so I can engage everyone in conversation with the brooding self-confidence I have when singing or reading my poetry. It’s funny, though a little sad in some ways, but this does lead to a good point: this is one of the more accommodating groups I’ve ever been a part of.

Yes, we joke on each other, there are lots of opportunities to, but it all feels good-natured and safe. Nobody here really seems stuck inside himself or herself too much or overwhelmed by what could certainly be ridiculous amounts of intrastudent competition. We are, after all, potentially going to be fighting for jobs, publishing rights and journal spots for years to come, but the overall feel of everyone here is that we are truly just a group of like-minded people who want to help one another out. We’ve had fun just sitting around and talking, usually about writing, but often times just about what’s going on in each of our lives. And I’m sure it’s not perfect, but it feels very homey and collaborative.

Friday night we were introduced to a few publishers who also write for the evening readings, and then they spoke at a publishing panel on Saturday morning. It was an eclectic group of artists, from an understated, soft-spoken editor of a journal out of Emerson College, to the head of the Arkansas Poetry Press, to the boisterous, blues-singing Keith Flynn, the owner and founder of the Asheville Poetry Review. The publishing panel wasn’t as insightful as I would have hoped, especially once the Q&A started and the tangents dipped off into a few places slightly off topic, but overall I was impressed with all the opportunities I have. I was challenged to do two things out of those sessions: 1) make trips up to Asheville and see what’s going on with the arts up there; I’ve heard fantastic things and 2) I need to start submitting to journals again. My goal, I think, is to make as many trips up to Asheville as I can over the next year. It’s a long drive, but not long enough that it should deter me, especially when I can have opportunities for open mic nights and to read and hear from poets who are right in my backyard. And as far as journals, I feel like being able to show that I’m making an effort beyond this degree will go far when it comes time to start submitting my manuscript in late 2015 or so; and if I catch a break and get a few poems in a journal or two along the way, that can only help.

Today marks the beginning of week two. We’ve got a few alumni in town who are doing a reading this afternoon and then a reading from another visiting writer this evening. I am starting to realize that this is going to be a good deal of work—especially in the reading and writing department—but I’m very much looking forward to the process. And in the back of my mind, I think I’m already excited to be back here next year even though this first residency as yet to reach its end. There’s still work to be done this week, and I know that, but I believe a program like this requires to be thinking ahead at least on some level, so I’m trying that a little bit. We’ll just have to wait and see where it takes me.

God bless,

PS: Here are my WoD’s for this first week here at Ashland. I’m having to get a little creative because a) the gym is not set up for CrossFit and b) I’m having to work quickly, so I have to keep them short since free time is at a premium and the gym is only open until 9. But it’s good to be myself back into the groove of working out, something I was falling down on the last few weeks. Feel free to borrow my wonderful programming 🙂

7 rds 3 back squat ladder
(95, 135, 185, 225, 275, 295, 300)

5 rds
10 box jumps
10 ab mats

4 rds
400 m run
8 push presses (95)
12 hand release push ups

Dead lift ladder
185, 225, 275, 315, 355(2x, new PR)

Torso rotation x30 (15 each side)
Abdominal crunch x30
Back extensions x30

Rest day

5rds, single rep clean and jerk ladder
115,135,155,185, 205 (dnf)

5 air squats
10 push ups
15 sit ups

6×3 front squats

8 lunges (alternating legs)
12 dumbbell curls (alt arms, 30#)
16 sit ups


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