Jun 9, 2006

What I learned at school..... Queens MFA

Many people have asked what and how you learn to be a better writer, a poet, in a structured school porogram. The answer is easy, you learn to be a better writer by writing and by reading.

At Queens University of Charlotte, I was part of a low residency program that required us to be on campus for 7 days once every semester. During the seven days students attend six lectures that we prepare response papers for, the topics related to poetry, fiction and non-fiction.

Students also participate in intese workshop sessions were worked is critiqued by fellow students and faculty. The rest of the semester all the workshop interaction is done via e-mail, once a month you sumbitt work to your group, you provide critiques for all and then the professor provides critiques based on what everyone has submitted.

Specific to my craft and my level of experstise and experience with writing and poetry in general, I learned that to get better, you have to write and write and write.

I learned that to improve your craft you first and foremost have to be a better reader of your own work. You have to add a critical element and focus to your reading, something I was greatly lacking before.

I also learned that some poems need time and space.... sometimes you have to put drafts in a drawer or on a shelf and let them sit, and sit until the time is right. This took me a long time to agree with, but it is so true.

I also learned to trust my voice as a poet. I best know the intent and priority of my work, I best can hear if the voice is working, present, awake. In the workshop sessions you get (sometimes) very differing feedback and it can be overwhelming, this is where the trust and confidence comes in, and it builds over time.

I learned to not be scared of not knowing. The first residency I was overwhelmed, I thought I had signed up for a program way beyond my skill level and experience, I was scared, but I knew that I loved to write, I knew that in my head there are a second pair of eye balls that see poetry in Pad Thai noodles, that see poetry in the visit of an iguana to my brother's backyard in Santiago, that see poetry in the pitch dark night of Lake Oconee. And I desperately wanted to improve the eyesight and skills of those eyes. That second pair of eyes that was cast in my head since the 7th grade.

I learned what accomplishing a dream taste and feels like. I am a better writer, a better reader of poetry, prose, non-fiction, and deep in my heart, I know I am a better person.

Sharing my work, exposing all that I love via the raw experience of workshop can at times be scary, way too up close and personal, but any anxiety and discomfort I felt along the way was worth all the learning that I experienced over the past 2 years.

Thank God and all the angels for this incredible opportunity.