“The End,” or Three Voices Is Bonkers
It wasn’t so long ago—about two years and some change—that I sat down in a room full of people I didn’t know. I knew exactly no one in that classroom. It was the MFA orientation, and I’ll be honest, I was intimidated. I had no idea why I was in that room—except maybe a quiet, italicized question of a thought, poetry?—and as I looked around the room I was pretty sure I had made a mistake.
It didn’t take long for my opinion to change. Radically. The more I got to know my cohort, the more I began to think that I had, in fact, made the right decision. I’m now in my third and final year of the MFA program, which is bonkers. B-O-N-K-E-R-S, bonkers. These three years, once they have passed, will easily have been the fastest three of my life. It’s true, every year seems shorter than the preceding year, but this is bonkers. Literally bonkers. I’ll be twenty-nine when I finish the program, and compared to the three years before I started the program, twenty-three to twenty-six, this is bonkers.
For a definition of bonkers, the OED has this to offer, “1. Mad, ‘crackers’. (The usual current sense.)” and another that it takes from Eric Partridge’s A Dictionary of Forces’ Slang 1939-45, “Bonkers, light in the head; slightly drunk. (Navy.) Perhaps from bonk, a blow or punch on the bonce or head.” And to be honest, the MFA has felt something like a blow on the bonce. This program has been challenging, and I am going to need to sit down after this. The world, I am told, is supposed to spin. But that’s not why I bring up bonkers. I bring up bonkers because of its curious etymology: “Origin unknown.”
Origin unknown: I had no idea why I came here—poems? The thing about an origin unknown is that it is something of an absence. There’s something there, but we can’t see what, Stevens’ brune figure, and the origin unknown has permitted me free reign with my interests in the MFA program. As with the origin unknown, so goes the bounding line. As I became familiar with my cohort and the English department at large, and them with me, I began to envision a faint circumscription of something. One of the first glimpses was probably at a Three Voices reading my first year. If you don’t know, Three Voices is a reading series here at CSU (usually held at Astoria, in Old Town) put together by the Organization of Graduate Student Writers. It serves as a kind of introduction of a few of the new writers to the rest of us who also care about writing. It helps us to define and redefine our community. It lets in those of us who are newer to the program, and it lets those of us who have been here a short while longer see the new community. I always look forward to Three Voices, WHICH IS THIS THURSDAY EVERYONE. Please come and listen. It’s at 7:30, and I understand the readers will be Cedar Brant, Denise Jarrott, and Stewart Moore. I’ve had the opportunity to meet each of these writers, and my sense is that this won’t be a Three Voices to miss. It’s going to be bonkers (mad, ‘crackers’).
But the real point I’m trying to make is that if we are to remain vital, if our writing is to be so, then it is vital that we act as a community. I have had the opportunity to get to know a few writers and their many works for two years and I have, in turn, had them as an audience for two years. I can’t think of a better audience to have had. I can’t think of any writers I’d rather read. But this vision of community doesn’t dissipate at the end of the program. At least I hope it doesn’t. I get the feeling it won’t. As with the origin unknown, so goes the bounding line.