2015, Archives, October 2015, The MFA Years

My Life Is Reading

I am still adjusting to living without friends or family close by and replacing them with reading and writing. The forty-hour work week has turned into a full work week with different amounts of time dedicated to different things. The daily tasks revolve around reading and writing. I have Fridays off and the weekend is structured around reading. Sunday is the day I do my laundry and cook my meals for the week; I still read on those days.

I am taking three classes this semester. First is poetry workshop, second is postwar American poetry, specifically focused on the New York School, and third is post-colonial literature. My favorite class has been workshop so far. Some poetry books that we’ve read that I’ve liked are Debt by Mark Levine, The New Black by Evie Shockley, and A Hunger by Lucie Brock-Broido (which, incidentally, was one of the first books of poetry that I fell in love with). We also get assigned exercises to write and critical articles to read. I really like the critical articles because it’s another way of looking at poetry and another resource to inform my own writing.

In postwar American poetry, we are in the midst of reading John Ashbery. We just finished a unit on Frank O’Hara. I didn’t really like O’Hara’s poetry at first, but as class progressed and as we read different critical articles on how to view O’Hara, his poetry grew on me more and more. Ashbery is difficult and less straight-forward, but I think at the end of this unit, I’ll develop an appreciation for his work. We were also reminded in this class that our annotated bibliography for our twenty-page paper was due mid-October. This semester I have two twenty-page papers and a ten-page portfolio due at the end. I am freaking out about the long papers because the last time I wrote a paper was during undergraduate and I wasn’t very good at writing them. I always found myself running out of things to say before I reached the minimum page limit and felt I was repeating myself a lot.

The professor in postwar stated that the annotated bibliography wasn’t so important in terms of number, but in terms of developing a body of knowledge about our particular topic. He wants us to start reading around and see what’s out there. I liked this “body of knowledge” part and it brought me back to why I was in school in the first place. It’s the “reading around” part that got me panicking. When am I going to read these extra critical articles when I’ve got so much reading on my plate already? Aaaggghhh! This is crazy!

But it will be fine, right? One reason I came to back to school was so that I could further develop my thought process, better articulate my ideas, and be more confident when articulating them. And that’s what papers are for: to see how far you can push an idea. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Post-colonial lit is my heaviest reading class this semester. We’ve been reading one novel and three to four critical articles per week. I was very ambitious in the beginning, reading everything. Right now, I try to get most of the reading done. I still don’t know what my twenty-page paper will be about for this class; I should really roll around to my professor’s office and see if he has any suggestions.

At orientation, the graduate student panel had many things to say. One good piece of advice was to form your papers around your larger thesis/final project. If you start this your first year, by the end you’ll have writing that supports and strengthens your final project. Doesn’t that sound incredibly useful? It’s probably one of the most pragmatic and sustainable (in terms of longevity and seeing how your work progresses) practices I could employ during my time here.

It’s important to take breaks during long reading days. I’ll put a load of laundry in, clean up, or go to the supermarket and buy a piece of cheesecake or something. I love reading, but there is a point when my brain stops processing and I’ll find that I’ve read the same paragraph three times without taking in anything. Exercising and showering are good things, too.

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