Month: August 2014

Jennifer Obi Introduction (Northern Arizona University ’16)

It’s probably providence that I waited to the absolute last minute to write this post. I’m constantly doing that when I have writing deadlines, and I guess old habits die hard as they say. I spent a long time trying to figure out the perfect way to write this introduction. What should I highlight? What should I speak on as an authority? It was all a waste of time. I’m no authority, and there isn’t any right or wrong thing to highlight. But I guess that speaks to who I am as a person. Always trying to figure out the right way and trying to figure out if just being me is enough. I’m still trying to figure that one out. I should start from the beginning. My name is Nkechi. My name is Jennifer. I go by Jen. Just call me Jen. I’m a pieces, and as any pieces will tell you, I’m entirely ruled too much by my emotions. And the last couple years for me were pretty bad. Really bad. I’ve always …

Interview with The MFA Years

An interview with TellTellPoetry

Roy G. Guzmán – Introduction (University of Minnesota ’17)

Five Songs to Put that MFA Dream into Overdrive Poets are lauded in Latino communities for their vision, but very few of our members embrace or understand the ramifications of pursuing this vocation. For instance, I grew up idolizing Rubén Darío, but it wasn’t until college that I studied his work; in Miami, José Martí’s words echo in salsa songs, but his influence is disappearing with the passing of older generations. When you’re a Latino in the United States poetry is inescapable because your reality frequently switches between anguish and hope, un-documentation and patriotism, a lack of identity or an ethnic oversaturation. The Replacements’ “I Will Dare” is my oblique attempt at inviting the MFA dream into my life. Any step is important. I was born in Honduras, and during my first few years in the United States I was undocumented. Through my stepfather’s Cuban refugee status, my mother and I obtained our green cards. However, all that time I wasn’t able to go to school. Mom had no choice other than to take me …

Gillian Douple Introduction (Columbia College Chicago ’16)

The chronic bad dreams started when I was 17. They continued for the next seven years all the way to last night, where I had a dream that two of my family members died on the Fourth of July. During my years as an undergrad, I had much of what my father calls “exam dreams”—that is, the genre of dreams where you suddenly are forced to take a huge, future-determining examination you haven’t studied for (and maybe you’re naked, too, just to spice things up). During my volunteer year at a soup kitchen, some mornings I would wake up with bad dreams blending with the calling of the homeless three floors beneath my window, which had me wondering what was actually real and what was a dream. And while working and traveling through Europe, whether sleeping on some stranger’s floor, in a hostel, or in my tiny caravan, I would get complaints that I kept talking in my sleep. The dreams were just as bad as ever, and they ranged from me bleeding out pounds …

Lauren Westerfield Introduction Post, Applicant ’15

Note: Throughout the 2015 application process, we will be following and featuring writers who are currently applying to creative writing programs. This fall marks my third foray into MFA applications. By the time I submit the last batch of samples, transcripts, tears and hope, I’ll be thirty. I’d like to think there’s something auspicious about all these “3’s” — that they signify manifestation of dreams, maybe, or even good old-fashioned luck. But looking back, I’m mostly just grateful: for the false starts, trials, errors and confusions of the past two cycles that have landed me here, finally ready, finally clear on what I want to explore as a writer and how an MFA best fits into that dream. Of course, there are those who think it’s crazy, applying three years in a row. Those who, in the thick of their first “draft season,” take to Facebook with a chorus of, “how does anyone ever do this more than once?” and “I would never survive the stress.” If you are or have been one of these folks, …

On Wishing & Leaving

“I wish you weren’t leaving.” I get this not from my friends and/or boyfriend but my coworkers. This is the case, I think, for two reasons. First, my friends aren’t ones for IWYWL because now is the time to leave.  Also, to possibly return to a brighter and more bubbling Boston in two years. But mostly to acknowledge that, while I’ve worked since graduating (TWO WHOLE YEARS!) to become an adult and pay for my own health insurance and wipe down my stove-top, realistically I have no responsibilities. I say this with confidence because the hardest thing I’ve done to prepare for my imminent departure is sit in my boss’s office and tell him I’m leaving. Which leads to number two. I really like my job, and my job likes me back. Here’s the takeaway: it’s inherently satisfying and rewarding to be to be great at something. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be life-changing or liberal-arts-approved meaningful; I’m not distributing books to low-income orphans, I’m not publishing the wide-eyed try-hard innovators of tomorrow. I’m working for …

An Inside Look with Sarah Crossland, University of Wisconsin-Madison ’13

Sarah Crossland received a BA in storytelling from the University of Virginia and an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The recipient of the 2012 Boston Review Poetry Prize, a 2013 AWP Intro Journals Award, and the 2013 Pablo Neruda Prize, she was invited to read her work at the Library of Congress for their Poetry at Noon series in the spring of 2011. Her manuscript, Tomorrowland, is currently under consideration at first book contests, and her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Crazyhorse, Narrative, Shenandoah, FIELD, TriQuarterly, The Iowa Review, A Public Space, and others. Sarah currently lives in Charlottesville, VA, where she serves as the production editor for Devil’s Lake and the program assistant for WriterHouse, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting writing in the community. You can read more of her writing at Note: The current stipend at UW-Madison is 18,500 per year. What was it like living in Madison? How far did your stipend go there living wise?

Southampton Writers Conference (aka My First MFA Workshop)

Summer camp for writers; short stories instead of leather lanyards, playwriting instead of slapstick, and poems instead of finger-paints, but otherwise my twelve days at the Southampton Writers Conference was pretty much that, summer camp for writers. It was also my first for-credit writing adventure as a part of my MFA program at Stony Brook University making me now an official grad student. All of the paperwork went through ages ago to support my student status, but now I feel official after summer camp, um, I mean the writers conference.

An Inside Look with Justin Carter, Bowling Green State University ’14

Justin Carter is a graduate of the MFA program at Bowling Green State University & a current student in the PhD program at the University of North Texas. The winner of the 2014 Sonora Review Prize, his poems appear/ will appear in The Collagist, Hobart, The Journal, Ninth Letter, & Whiskey Island. Find him online at What was it like living in Bowling Green? How far did your stipend go there?

Leaving My Heart in San Francisco

I decided to apply for an MFA my junior year of college, shortly after declaring as a creative writing major. The more I sat in workshop and seminar, the more I understood that there was no place I would rather be. I never wanted to leave and I realized if I could become a publishing poet who taught creative writing, I would never have to. I could vacillate between my writing desk at home and a classroom for my entire life; spending my days reading poetry and talking about it with my students and colleagues, and my nights writing. But, I had no idea what it actually meant to apply—to wait, to cry and thrash in anticipation of 12 rejections, to be sure you have been found a fraud, only to finally receive not one but multiple acceptances—and to then have to decide. I had no idea at the time that not only would applying for an MFA mean making a decision that would impact the next two years of my life and maybe its …