Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Readings: I stab them with knives

So I flipped out hardcore last night. Let me back up--I handle endings in stages. First, I withdraw from the thing that is ending and retreat into a nice, numb state. Kind of like denial with a bit of reclusiveness added in for spice. Then I decide I hate everything about the thing that is ending and I wish it would just end already. Then, as I did last night, I freak the fuck out and decide that if the thing that is ending won't end, I'll take off to the Yucatan, or the great white North, or Bali, or Laredo--anywhere that bears no resemblance to here and the thing that is ending because I hate every little miniscule thing about the thing that is ending. And it's never true--I don't really hate anything about the thing that is ending.

But here's one thing I do hate about this particular thing (the MFA program) that is ending: giving the required thesis reading. It seems cruel and unusual at this time of the semester to schedule a bunch of readings and parties. Not only that, but I don't see the point. I don't have a book to schill. I don't feel like my thesis is a finished product that is ready to see even see the light of day, much less be distributed to others aurally. And really, what does an audience really get out of hearing an unfinished poem read aloud once, and poorly, at a thesis reading?

Some would argue that it's really about sharing one's work with one's colleagues and instructors in a celebratory atmosphere. But haven't I been sharing my work with each and every one of my colleagues and instructors every day for the last two years? And there's really nothing to be celebrated beyond receiving a stamp of tentative approval from a committee who already essentially gave me their stamp of approval when they let me into the program.

One of the reasons I hate reading is this: I hate speaking. I hate talking to individuals and I hate talking to groups. I hate talking on the telephone. I hate having any attention focused on me in the present. It's the same impulse that drives my hatred of changing hairstyles--that people are going to look at me and make note of something that is different about me, commenting and asking questions. This is why I write--becuase human beings, for better or worse, are social creatures. I do feel a need to communicate and to receive communications. Just not while I'm in the same physical and/or temporal space with another person. Writing (and reading) provides an alternative for expression without the messy, awkward interactions. So why on earth would I want to read my work, which I have written to be read elsewhere, quietly, away from me, in public?

So I say: a pox on the people who made the decision to make public readings a requirement for graduation. May they come down with a blistering case of rampaging butt boils.

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