Columbia College Poetry Dispatch: Poetry and CNF

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So, it turns out I go to a lot of readings. That, going to class, and going to office hours pretty much encompass the majority of my direct interactions with Columbia College Chicago. There is, of course, the city of Chicago (and I’m saving a food post, believe me) and all the wonderful students in the program, but a lot of what I do as a poet is go to readings.

The most recent reading I went to was from Claudia Rankine, author of Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. The interesting component of this reading was that the department that invited Ms. Rankine to come was actually Creative Nonfiction. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, if you’re not familiar with it, is an “American Lyric” that borders between memoir, visual essay, and poem. From a CNF perspective, it’s gold.

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However, Rankine has an MFA in poetry, and the event ended up pretty much being a poetry reading. It’s interesting how the creative nonfiction and poetry programs interact. Because we take Composition and Praxis together if we want to be teachers, we tend to know each other well enough that social functions end up including people from both Poetry and Creative Nonfiction (and sometimes fiction, but the departments are separated due to some mysterious history dating back to before any of the poetry professors were here and I have yet to find out the deal with that). This gives a nice critical mass such that you can usually get a good group going for at least one social event on most weekends. The shared interests with slightly different experiences also helps. This year and in years recently past, some CNFers and Poetry people go out for drinks after the 6:30-9:30pm Wednesday workshops. It’s good.

I think that cross section is something a lot of people experience in the program, and not just socially. Columbia is such a fertile ground for artistic expression that I think a lot of people dabble in and are influenced by a lot of art that is outside their chosen field. Sometimes this means doing crazy videos like the wonderful Steve Roggenbuck (originally) of the poetry program. For others it might mean really dabbling in other modes of writing. It’s all good: the point is to keep going forward, not necessarily stay the course.