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Hello there. My name is Daniel Scott Parker, and this is my first blog post as the new MFA Poetry ambassador. I hope that you guys will find these posts helpful and interesting—both for prospective students and for folks already a part of the Columbia College community. I’m from Georgia originally, though for the last several years, home seems to be wherever my feet touch. Since moving to Chicago last July, the city has really opened its arms to me, both in and outside of school, so I want to extend that welcome to whoever is new here. But before this gets too Kum ba yah-y, let’s get down to business.

My friend Ryan says this is his Summer of Yes. I ask him if he remembers all the money I lent him at the bar last week. He tells me no. (To Ryan’s credit, I didn’t actually loan him any money.) What Ryan means is that this summer he’s keeping himself open and available to new events, new adventures, and new possibilities. Not in the same kind of only say yes in Amsterdam mantra you have when backpacking through Europe, but in a way that forces you to get involved and stay motivated, which keeps everything fresh.

Although, like Ryan, I’ve tried to get out to as many events as possible this summer–readings, gallery openings, performances–my own Summer of Yes has had a slightly different spin. I came to CCC wanting not only to write poems, but also to make books, to use my hands, to build and create. But once the semester starts rolling, it’s an easy and attractive pitfall to let writing take up all of your time. Although I’m still writing this summer, I’m spending more time trying my hand at screen printing, cut paper projects, and video editing—lateral art practices that brought me here as a poet in the first place.

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I’ve found that the more I’m able to get my hands into, the more my poetry benefits—how I think about the function of language, for example, or what it is the poem is trying to do—and that I find new and crucial ways of looking at art and the world. Part of what I’ve been doing this summer is coming on board to co-curate for The Swell, a new art cooperative and performance series founded by Tara Boswell and Patrick Samuel—two CCC Poetry MFAs. (See? Community!) Over the last few months, we’ve spent hours unifying our poetic visions with fiscal and practical realities, as well as designing, cutting, printing, and stitching pamphlets for our first set that took place in July. We had a terrific turn out for the first set, and I got to debut some of my new poem-films, one of which can be seen here. Getting involved in this kind of collaborative experience has allowed me to connect with other writers and artists and has reminded me that poetry is more than just the words on the page.

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I’m not saying everyone needs to go out and buy a deluxe screen printing starter kit (like I did one afternoon on a post-Happy Hour impulse), but I do encourage everyone to make and take the opportunities to go out to readings and performances around the city, even when it’s cold out. And believe me, it will get cold out. And although there’s a youth hostel right across the street from 33 E. Congress (the building where our classes are) that would make for the most comfortable commute in inclement conditions, we didn’t come here to sit around playing reggae music or have 12-hour ping pong marathons. There’s always Amsterdam for that.