Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Hall Chat: Reading & Writing in Atlanta

Jenn Tatum

It’s been about three weeks since I finished the semester, and I haven’t written a single word. That’s right. I’m admitting it. I haven’t written. Nor I have read (well, barely). I know, I know. I’m a fraud. I needed some relaxation, and I finally got it. Mind cleared. I am always thinking about writing, and I do jot down ideas, but lately I haven’t really been working on anything too significant. I haven’t been inspired or found a comfortable place to even begin, and revising old work hasn’t really been of interest to me. So, instead, I watch HBO. And way too much of it. And now, three weeks into summer, I am visiting my sister and brother-in-law and those gorgeous nieces I’ve blogged about before. And, wouldn’t you know. Take me away from the bricks, from the city that has inspired so much of my writing this semester, and I find inspiration. I find it in the trees and the fact that I can see trees for miles and miles and I’m flicking bugs off of my skin and wiping sweat from my brow and sitting on my sister’s porch watching the most amazing lightening display amongst pink and orange cloud cover and there it is. What I’ve been missing. Inspiration.

For the flight out here and for the many days that I plan to spend at the pool, I brought along two books to read: Lia Purpura’s On Looking and Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty. I’ve had Nelson’s book on my shelf since last fall and recently began reading Purpura. I think that each will provide a little inspiration, a little theory and some ways to strengthen my own work as I begin thinking about the new writing I would like to work on over summer, that will eventually be what I begin working on in the fall for my thesis.

There is much to write about a tree. There is much to be written about lightening. There is much to unpack. The project I’ve been working on explores relationships and the ways that they are built, destroyed, reconstructed, and abandoned, in the same way that buildings and landscapes are built, destroyed, reconstructed, and abandoned. I have a list of topics and writing tasks, if you will, that I would like to explore this summer.

  • Speak to an actuary, a person who actually assesses loss for a living. (This idea given to me by Aviya Kushner.)
  • Research and write about natural disasters, mainly earthquakes. (An idea given to me during a workshop last Spring.)
  • Write about happiness. (So often I write about tragedy or sadness. What if I try the opposite, or throw out the binary all together and mix the two?) I actually have an essay that I wrote for David Lazar’s workshop this semester that I am looking forward to revising when I return from Atlanta.
  • Start with a dream. Let the dream write for you. Don’t worry about logic.
  • Write my own death, my own dying. (see Cixous post)
  • Let my writing unravel inside the body. (A prompt I was assigned to draft in the Marginalia: Otherness in Verse class that I took this last semester).

These are just a few of the projects that I have swirling around in my head as I begin my summer vacation, and I think in coupling them with some much needed rest, relaxation, and reading, I should find that inspiration, that long awaited gasp for air signaling an ohmygoodnesswhydidn’tithinkaboutthat moment. It’s there, I just have to unpack it.

Hall Chat: Reading & Writing in Atlanta

It’s been about three weeks since I finished the semester, and I haven’t written a single word. That’s right. I’m admitting it. I haven’t written. Nor I have read (well, …

Creative Writing - Nonfiction MFA Jenn Tatum, jtatumcotamagana@colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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