Summer Grooves

It’s hard to believe that my year as ambassador is coming to a close. It’s been a terrifically exciting, prolific, and rewarding year, and serving as ambassador has only made it that much more enriching. Not only did I get to correspond with heaps of wonderful prospective and admitted students, but I got to have dinner (and take a bathroom selfie) at President Kim’s home, participate at Manifest, and help host both Open House and Orientation.

So here’s a quick run through the year’s highlight reel, most of which I blogged about in greater depth, that you can read in the MFA Poetry archive:

“We Become Each Other’s Unmakers” collaborative art exhibition: For over five months, I had the chance to collaborate and make (and re/unmake) art with students from the Interdisciplinary Arts program. Not only was this a tremendous bonus to my experience as a poetry MFAer, but it allowed me to access parts of both Columbia College and the community that would have otherwise been impossibilities, whether by taking an Image, Time, & Motion film class, having my video art shown in the South Loop, or developing strong relationships with ongoing collaborators

CAA: This year CAA was back in Chicago. I was invited by the college to be on a team of bloggers for the conference, so having the extra incentive to get my fill didn’t hurt. Although the panels and exhibitions were well worth every scribbling and selfied second, the highlight was a reconnection with a great friend, Chris Robinson, Director of the University of Georgia’s Study Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy. Had it not been for my experience in that program, I would have never even pursued an MFA.

AWP in Seattle / chapbook release: My first AWP experience was in Boston, 2013, and was easily the highlight of my first year in grad school. This year, not only was I fortunate enough to receive the generous Rosenblum Award to help fund the trip, but I also had a new chapbook coming out just in time to release it at AWP. Although I missed my flight (all’s well that ends well at an airport Chili’s bar), I got squeezed into one a couple hours later, just in time to be able to read that night in Bellingham with Josh Young and Chas Hoppe. The following night I read for an event sponsored by Apostrophe, Ghost Proposal, and The Lettered Streets Press. The readings were fun, but the real take-home from AWP—besides the suitcase full of poetry spoglia—is the bonding experience that takes place with your cohort. That is invaluable.

Midwest Reading Tour: In February, Abigail Zimmer, Tyler Cain Lacy, and I all had chapbooks published, so we decided to split across the snow cratered Midwest, paying no mind to the polar vortices, to give a reading tour. We hit Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, and closed the tour back here in Chicago. For part of the tour we paired up with some local musicians to help draw in a bigger crowd. The trip was exhilarating and memorable, something that I know Abi, Tyler, and I all cherish as an MFA highlight.

The Swell’s one-year anniversary: Just earlier this month, we celebrated The Swell’s one year mark with its Set 7 at East Room in Logan Square. The night featured a collaborative film / music exhibition from Nick Twemlow and Eric Unger, a movement performance piece by Penelope Hearne, and poetry by both Nick and David Trinidad. We also held a book fair in cooperation with Switchback Books to celebrate our previous contributors and to debut our new screen printed canvas tote bags. Although the entire Set was brilliant, it was especially rewarding to reconvene with David and most of my cohort, as we won’t be starting class together again this upcoming fall. It made me realize how brief the entire experience actually is. So what that means is, STAY BUSY. If you don’t feel crazy by the end of it, then you’re probably missing out on something huge.

Thanks to everyone for reading, and I hope that I’ve given you some insight into the program, as well as quelled possible anxieties or concerns you might have about finding the right program, grad life, time management, or teaching.

If you want to keep up with what I’m doing, you can follow me here.

Otherwise, you should know that you’re being left in good hands, as Justin Grogan will be taking over as ambassador. I first met Justin when he came to visit Columbia for open house a couple years back, and it’s been a true pleasure and honor getting to know him over the last year. Justin will give you a full introduction in his first post, but here are some basics: Justin will be beginning his second year in the MFA Poetry program at Columbia College, where he also teaches Writing & Rhetoric and is an editor for Columbia Poetry Review. He lives in Lincoln Square, where he co-curates The Dollhouse Reading Series.

Justin with Cohort

Justin with Cohort

You’re going to love him, like we all do.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be down at the beach.