Geeze. We are graduates (save for the thesis archiving process, scattered poem revisions, and bar visits yet to be had). Two years ago, at a rest stop in South Dakota, I ran into fellow road trippers beside gopher holes and buffalo herd. In friendly conversation it came up that I was on my way to an MFA program, very unprepared to teach, and even more unprepared for sustained attention to writing. Fake it 'Till You Make it, they said. So I tried. And lived to tell about it.
I realize now I've learned how "to be a poet" from more observation and absorption and mimicry than I care (until now) to admit. I suppose this is no great shock or revelation for writers, however, this approach felt, at the time, disingenuous. Sure, we're careful enough to understand the line between regurgitation and actual digestion of material to produce carefully-rendered "originality" for workshop and a thesis, but is it not lecherous to await another's rush of inspired material and hop on the coat tails? Turns out, What the Hell was I Thinking? I needed everyone's voice in workshop to empty my head of void. I had a lot of waking up to do. So now, two years later, still groggy and caffeine-deprived, I am very much (prepared to be) awake. (Yes, I used "waking" as a metaphor...dang.) Thank you, all you amazing writers in the program.
Other forms of mimicry in my sordid past: I remember SAT words on "The List" that were so foreign to me that I clung to them so as not to lose what was deemed "necessary" vocabulary for a future college student. I clung to them longer than this test, though, because they felt silent and underused enough to be useful. Assuage, Cogent, Phlegmatic... I can mimic the effect of these words (long vowels lull in "assuage", complimentary to the words' meaning...) in my writing, but I'm never sure about the rhythms and power of conversational, everyday speech.
Visiting poet Ed Roberson asked our workshop if (and why didn't) we use our "speaking voice" in our poems. We didn't have an answer of that. Some commented that the world of common interaction can often be disappointing on the self-fulfillment scale. That's why we need "phlegmatic" because it sounds gross and compliments a gross-poem despite its ungross meaning, but we might have to leave it out of our everyday speech. We must at least partially partition language, even when that feels disingenuous.
Updates: Recently learned that one of my thesis poems will be published in a future issue of DIAGRAM. T and I await our publication in the newest Phoebe, and our "Missoula Collective" class collaboration just appeared in 580 Split. Kelly looks forward to ensuring her place in Cat Fancy and Mad magazines, to add to her growing list of publication credits.
I've also secured a temporary (oxymoronic, no?) position for the summer in the English department here. I begin a sudden full time job next week, a day after nearly all graduation requirements are finalized. I briefly join the ranks of the fully employed until I embark to Chicago...