Author: Stephanie Lane S.

Choosing an Emerging MFA Program

When I was applying to fully funded MFA programs for the second time, my strategy was simple: to ignore the rankings as much as possible, & to apply where I felt I would be happy. Since I was looking for programs with an interest in queer poetics, I ended up applying to many small or obscure MFA programs, ultimately getting accepted at one of my top choice schools, the University of Miami.

However, a few days after April 15th, one of my dream schools called me, offering me a last minute acceptance off of the waitlist. Getting into a program I’d fantasized about attending since I was an undergraduate was an incredible feeling. But at that point, I had already accepted the University of Miami’s offer. The program suggested that, despite this, I withdraw my acceptance from UM in order to come to their school. With not much time to make a decision, I had to go with my gut.

Letter to Myself a Year Ago

Photo by Gray Malin.  Do you remember the ancient summers of your childhood? Our fingers would search the dirt between tree roots for acorns. We found so many with their shells cracked open, waiting to unfurl itself deep into the dirt. This is how it feels to be you. — You might find this hard to believe: the other night, I had a dream about our parents that was completely mundane. There was no chase, no violence, no public nudity. Our mother was looking for an apartment in Florida. Our father and I were building a new cage for small animals. We could not find the parts needed to complete it. — You are tired of the grey concrete, the spires of corporate towers, the achingly long commutes on red and blue trains. You are tired of the same lakes as big as seas. More than anything, you are tired of what you remember about this city, all the people you used to love it still holds. I am tired of writing about how my …

Spring Break

Photograph by Ron Magill.  You can live your whole life in the springs of T. S. Eliot. There, snow fades to street charcoal, ice water soaks through in the seams of your shoes, and the sky remains an unmovable gray as the clock ticks forward an entire hour all at once. But somewhere, on the other side of this city, there is a beach lined with bodies getting tanner, an MTV camera crew in attendance. Somewhere, in the heart of this city, a celebrity you adore leans over a balcony, aiming his phone’s camera at the pool below. His lens is filled with bikinis, inflatable volleyballs, waiters in white button ups serving tropical drinks, the pool deck: a pink concrete, the pool itself: an azure glass. It’s the undergraduates attending class in their swim suits that makes the campus swimming pool visible again, and you realize you now live in the place of vacations. What does that mean for you, the poet? Spring break is always something quiet. Every day, you open the windows and doors of your …

In Defense of Actioned Poetics

While it is important to interrogate our motives and impacts when we write, to dismiss any act of writing, but especially poetry, as irrelevant involves both misguided utilitarianism and overgeneralization. Acts of political resistance begin with the imagination. In order to create a more just and equitable world, we must have an idea of how that world may look. Once we have an idea, we must be able to communicate it. Inarguably, revolutionary ideas have been communicated in language throughout history.

Winter Break

When people ask you where you are from, practice a different answer each time.  Give the name of a region, an adjacent town, the street you last lived on.  Take each place and hold yourself against its light to see where the edges meet. In January, move the writing desk to the other side of the room.  There is no window there.  Later, you will empty the last of the boxes from August, the ones filled with ephemera: photographs, letters, slips of paper that hold memories of people and places that have never been more distant.  There, you will find the porcelain figurine that belonged to your late grandmother, the one your mother accidentally smashed, then glued back together again, and gave to you when she could no longer stand to look at it.  In this reordered room, set it in the corner of your desk. Christmas will have come and gone in this new place.  A month ago, you felt the blood of your origins ticking through your veins and wondered how this type …

5 Frequently Asked Application Questions Answered By Current MFA Candidates

Photo Credit: Alfred Stieglitz, “The Steerage”  It’s mid-December, which means it’s high tide in application season. A year ago, we were exactly where you are now. We spent our free time navigating unintuitively designed web portals for universities, editing our statements of purpose to be personal for each program, and tallying all the money we spent on application fees. We all shouldered the nauseating uncertainty of it all, wondering if we were acting in vain. Somehow, we all managed to be admitted. So maybe we knew a little bit more about applications than we thought. This month, myself and 3 other first year MFA candidates decided to get together to reflect on how we got here. So, we decided to answer some of the most frequently asked application questions. Though we don’t always agree, we hope that our insight will provide some perspective to this year’s MFA contenders. These questions were answered by Stephanie Lane Sutton (Poetry, University of Miami), Carlos Alonso Chism (Fiction, University of Maryland), Craig Knox (Poetry, Rutgers-Camden), and Shakarean Hutchinson (Fiction, Cornell).  How …

Surviving The Poem

In March 2011, the midterm of my last semester of undergrad, I sat in my thesis advisor’s office, waiting for feedback on a recent packet of poems I had turned in. Specifically, I wanted to speak to her about a 2-page experimental poem. The piece discussed, in few uncertain terms, that I had recently been sexually assaulted. It was my first attempt at rendering this particular subject matter in my work as a poet; no one else had yet to read it. I knew, instinctively, that writing about my experience with assault would be something I had to do. I knew, also, that as a dedicated poet, it was necessary to write well and with ingenuity. I expected my advisor to offer some sort of words of support and acknowledgement, and mainly to offer advice on how to improve my draft. What actually happened is that she made it clear she did not want to discuss the elephant in the room, that she actually felt disdain toward the subject of my poem.

4 Ways I Improved My MFA Applications (After Failing Miserably the First Time)

When I failed in my first attempt at MFA applications, my resolve to try again meant taking a critical look at myself and considering where I could improve. At first, it seemed daunting, because I had spent a lot of time on my applications. But then I began to consider not the quantity of work I had done, but methods I had used.

Introduction: Stephanie Lane Sutton (University of Miami ’19)

To realize that I was perhaps being courted by my favorite programs for the wrong reasons was strange and shocking. Then again, I had mainly applied to programs that pitched themselves as being inclusive. My application materials focused on my interest in queer poetics and feminine experiences of violence with the intent of weeding out schools that were not mutually receptive to this work. I never considered that it could have the opposite effect: that my poetry could be seen as a bullet point in a response to criticisms of hegemony within an academic writing program.