A First Semester Retrospective

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By the time this goes up I will have finished my first semester at Columbia College Chicago. I will be one semester closer to having my Masters in Fine Arts in poetry. This is a time to reflect.

It’s a hard thing to sum up roughly four months of your life into one blog post, and so this task is borderline impossible. But then any artifact both stands alone and represents but a sliver of the mind that created it, and so perhaps it’s no more futile than anything else, really. I do have these blog posts, my poems, etc. to look back on and that’s more than I have had in the past.

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What have I learned? Several things: first and probably most importantly I have learned a lot of things about education. I am going to be teaching Writing next semester, and I am very excited about this prospect. I would feel a lot more nervous if I didn’t have that background to fall back on; this training is much more than one receives at many other MFA programs where students begin teaching immediately and get a week-long crash course on the subject.

Regarding poetry, I have begun to develop the beginning of a real poetics. Studying with Lisa Fishman has opened my eyes to the power of the subconscious as opposed to the conscious in my work. The freewriting that I have turned into poems for my workshop course has been fresher and more rich than any of the idea-based poems I have done in the past. It’s hard to articulate this until you see it, but I have developed a far greater freshness with my language than I believe I had previously.

Third, I’m a step closer to being a colleague of people like Lisa instead of just a student. This dichotomy will always be in flux–when are we not students?–but at the same time I feel on more of a level footing with the poetry world. It’s easy to feel an outsider to such an insular community (which I believe poetry to be). The shift into becoming more of an insider within that community feels very promising, and I look forward to growth in that field.

That insider vs. outsider dichotomy, along with the poetic knowledge gained, represents a shift I don’t think I could have made in my art without the benefit of graduate school. That is the real crux of the experience so far. One always wonders about the wisdom of doing a degree vs. just writing in isolation; the value I’ve talked about above is a part of what makes the graduate experience worth it to me, in my eyes, to this point. I look forward to the continued development of that mindset.