May 31, 2011

Quick Updates

  • I graduated! I am now a Master of Fine Arts. Which is more impressive than being a Master of Ordinary Arts, let me tell you.

  • My parents came up for a visit. After trying to entertain them with all the wonders Madison has to offer, it turned out all they wanted to do was go to the public garden. So that's what we did. Every day.

  • I got a job with Advancing Wisconsin, canvasing all over this great state and talking to folks about the Governor Walker's Budget Bill and all its evils. I've really loved doing it, but it's nearly 60 hours a week and most aspects of my life have been on hold until this campaign is over, which is this Friday. But I've still been able to write some, which is comforting to me.

  • As of Friday, I'll be unemployed all over again. This three week campaign did give me a boost, so some of the pressure is off. I just need to find a way to get me through September. As much as unemployment causes me slight panic (to someone who's already predisposed to panic), I'm looking forward to catching up on some phone calls, reading more, writing more, and cooking again as opposed to stuffing burritos in my mouth while falling asleep.

  • I did have a day off yesterday, which was really nice. Made brats (albeit vegan) on a charcoal grill, went dancing, rode my bike halfway round the lake, ate strawberry shortcake, watched Kill Bill, picnic'd, napped more than once, etc.

  • Brandon and I celebrated our 18 month anniversary with lilacs, our favorite local wine, and ume plum maki rolls.

  • It looks like rain today. You'd think that would mean Wisconsinites would be more sympathetic to my walking around outside, but instead it means they'll only speak to me through their screened-in windows while their gutters drench me and my postcards even further.

May 9, 2011

Ducklings, Poems

Last Friday, I taught my students for the last time this semester. It was a bit difficult to gauge my rapport with this hatch of ducklings than it has been in previous semesters, but after I gave them their evaluations, they all thanked me in unison and clapped as I left the class room, and any bitterness I possibly had from this semester melted away. 

Two of my ducklings from the fall won awards for best freshman composition essays (2 out of the 3 awards given  for over 2,000 fresh comp students!). I was really proud of them and all their hard work and not surprised at all that they won. One of the ducklings told me that after taking my class she switched from Zoology to English. I told her I was sorry I ruined her life.

Furthermore, at the end of the year reading where our last fellows Rebecca Hazelton and Andrew Mortazavi read and the Institute gives out a bunch of awards, I received the Freshman Composition teaching award. It really meant a lot to me. I've really enjoyed teaching these last two years, and I feel really lucky that I'll be able to keep teaching next year. 


As a final bit of good news, I have poems forthcoming in Third Coast, American Literary Review, and Natural Bridge. All good journals and all poems I hoped would find good homes.

Currently, I'm reading Ada Limón's Sharks in the Rivers and am loving it. Here's a great poem from it:

Flood Coming

The pulled-apart world scatters
its bad news like brush fire,
the ink bleeds out the day's undoing
and here we are again: alive.

The tributary of this riverine dark
widens into the mind's brief break.
Let the floor come, the rowdy water
beasts are knocking now and now.

What's left of the woods is closing in.
Don't run. Open your mouth big
to the rising and hope to your god
your good heart knows how to swim.

(Sharks in the Rivers, Milkweed, 2010)

May 1, 2011

Beltane Cleansing

Last night, my household celebrated Beltane, the pagan holiday that celebrates the first of May and includes a cleansing ritual, fire, wine, and human sacrifices. With no spare humans to sacrifice, one of my housemates decided to burn drafts of her thesis and I decided to burn all my rejection letters.

I don't know why I kept onto my rejection letters for so long, but ever since I started getting them, I've saved them. I suppose that I was attempting to humble myself, or keep a log of nice notes, or have some physical record of failure, but mostly, I kept them because I always have. Now that most of my rejection letters come via e-mail, the pile has lost most of its sentimentality. So at this point, I just wanted to get rid of the damn things. The Beltane fire offered a rather dramatic way to do it. The drama was only heightened by a fire dancer who came over and did her thing, which looked a lot like magic.


The semester is nearly over, and so is my MFA. I turn in my thesis this week, and after not touching it for the last month or so, now I have all these ideas as to how to change it. I came to the conclusion that many of the new poems may actually still belong in the first manuscript, so now I want to break it open, add the new ones, take out some others, and reorder it all again for something like the 12th time.

National Poetry Month has come to a close, and the first half of the month was much more productive than the second half. All said and done, I missed eight days, but it's more optimistic to say I got 22 poems out of it,  which is great, even if most of them are pretty early drafts.


I really love the way Theodore Roethke's poem "The Lost Son" opens:

1. The Flight

At Woodlawn I heard the dead cry:
I was lulled by the slamming of iron,
A slow drip over stones,
Toads brooding wells.
All the leaves stuck out their tongues;
I shook the softening chalk of my bones,
Snail, snail, glister me forward,
Bird, soft-sigh me home,
Worm, be with me.
This is my hard time.