Year One of Three: Reflections on Intensity
That CSU’s MFA in Creative Writing offers three years of study is one of the primary reasons I wanted to come here. Another reason was to be alone. As I applied to schools, I was in the midst of my fifth year of being a person in the world (that is, the world outside of classrooms, letter-grades, and homework, often characterized by morning commutes and many hours spent in office chairs rumored to be good for the lower back). I was living in Portland, Oregon at the time, surrounded by a huge community of poets, but feeling a lack of both the time and isolation I perceived necessary for my development as a writer. The prospect of moving to the middle of Colorado—far away from the many people I love and who are also immensely distracting—for three whole years sounded like an oasis of productivity and sunlight.
As it turns out, a fickle heart/brain is an inextricable aspect of my personality (I’ve heard this is common of Geminis and I am happy to have at least one reason to curse the stars). Many times over the past nine months, three years have felt more like forever than 1,095 days, Fort Collins more like another planet toward which such a thing as an ocean has never shot so much as a glance. Lo and behold, however, the first third of my foray into the framing of poetry as an academic discipline is now two weeks from being over and it’s done that thing so often talked about in poems—long days have transformed into a very quick year.
Forming new relationships with people while also performing close readings of each other’s poems is an odd undertaking. More than just speed-dating of the spirit, it is an opportunity to see the parts we normally conceal from surface-level interactions BEFORE learning things like birthdays, food preferences, and hobbies outside of being silent for hours on end. We develop respect for each other’s renderings of feeling in advance of sharing moments of actual difficulty, actual joy. And so, using poem-radar instead of logic, an unbalanced intimacy comes to be. That is to say, now I love even more people, yet we have become close while all fighting for the same thing: time.
Graduate school, like many other ways of moving through one’s twenties and thirties (and, I suspect, one’s entire life), is a lesson in intensity. It is a period from which to begin to learn how to negotiate the necessary completion of innumerable, diverse tasks while making an effort to eat food, maintain interpersonal relationships, and most importantly, write poems. We look to our faculty for examples of how to navigate this. As we watch each of them teach classes, serve on committees, attend to our insecurities, and nurture their own families, they are also writing books.
I do not have any more time than I did a year ago (in fact, I have one year less), but each moment (even the moments that involve filling out forms) of it is spent furthering my writing or someone else’s. And I am not really alone at all, but I’m not mad about that either. I am performing all of these tasks alongside a group of people doing exactly the same thing and supporting each other as they do. Right now we are all tired, but it is my estimation that if we allow this next two years to be as intense as the first, if we read hard and write hard and care hard, we might take a pocket of this with us the next time we venture “out” into the world. We might even be lucky enough to have learned how to create such a space for ourselves.