Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Interview With Second Year Students Liz Chereskin and Sara Peck

Brian Miles

I met Liz and Sara at New Wave Coffee in Logan Square. We talked about the manuscript process, the  joys of being a second year MFA student at Columbia, and advice for incoming students on how to get the most out of their MFA experience.

INTERVIEWER

So you’re both pretty much at the finish line with your thesis/first manuscript. How are you feeling?

PECK

It’s really exciting. I definitely feel that it’s going to be…I was thinking about it as a manuscript much more than my thesis. We’ve worked really hard on these, and I’m very excited about how it’s changed through that work and also through Lisa’s input. Lisa has been amazing.

INTERVIEWER

You both have Lisa Fishman as your thesis adviser. What contribution has she made to the manuscript process?

CHERESKIN

Lisa has given me a different way of thinking about revision and a process for how poems are formed. She has been awesome about finding the poems within the poems I bring her, and that has helped me to shape the way I write and then revise. I can find what’s really the poem and what’s just stuff around it. Now when I write a poem, I’m trying to be more concise and eschew as much of the extra stuff as possible.

PECK

Like Liz said, she finds the poem. Plus, she’s been so optimistic and supportive, and that reinforcement is really great when you’re going through this huge process and really kind of at a transition in your life finishing the program. I feel more hopeful after every meeting with her.

INTERVIEWER

What have you learned in the course of compiling this manuscript that is different from the expectations you had about it a year ago?

PECK

A year ago it honestly seemed almost impossible. It felt so far away, and I didn’t feel prepared at all. I still don’t know if I feel prepared but I have this one done and two more I’m pretty far along with so I guess we’ll see.

CHERESKIN

I was most worried about cohesion and whether my poems were similar enough to all be included together. I had a lot of work that I wasn’t very excited about and I think that’s why a third to half of the poems in my manuscript come from work I’ve done in the last few months. Maybe more.

PECK

My worry was more that i was writing the same poem over and over and they were too similar to be next to each other.

INTERVIEWER

Has the work you’ve been doing over the last year basically been writing for your manuscript?

PECK

I’ve definitely been writing for this manuscript.

CHERESKIN

I’ve been writing for the manuscript and I’m excited to get away from this style and start writing different poems. I want to move past the themes I’ve been writing with and away from couplets.

PECK

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do next. I’m finishing up these three manuscripts that I think are all really different. I’m excited about them but I have no idea what I’m going to do next. I’ll probably give myself some sort of project to stay on task once I’m out of the MFA environment.

INTERVIEWER

Finally, what is some advice you would give to incoming MFA students regarding the program and the city?

CHERESKIN

Buy any book you want; it’s what you’re studying. Especially buy any book your professors recommend to you. I’ve had really awesome success with those recommendations and now they have become some of my favorite poets. Learn who reads you work well and whose work you read well. Those are the people you will share poems with both outside of class and past the end of the program. Some people might just have a totally different aesthetic to yours and their advice on your poems doesn’t really jive with what you’re doing and that’s fine.

PECK

I agree with Liz: finding your community within the community is really important and rewarding. You need to be reading way more than the required reading for class. I also think you should read your professor’s work to see whose aesthetic you best align with. Also, things will come together your last semester and life will generally be awesome. This semester has absolutely been the best part of my MFA experience.

CHERESKIN

I totally agree: this semester has been wonderful. Finally, find the cool bars early. Don’t go to Villain’s; go to Manhattan’s instead. The owner there is awesome and Villain’s sucks.

Interview With Second Year Students Liz Chereskin and Sara Peck

I met Liz and Sara at New Wave Coffee in Logan Square. We talked about the manuscript process, the  joys of being a second year MFA student at Columbia, and …

Creative Writing - Poetry MFA Brian Miles, brian.c.miles@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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