Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thoughts on the Writing Life

Sometimes I feel really alone about my need and love for poetry. I have friends who are writers. And I teach so much good stuff. But still, you know what I mean? If I didn't have access to the computer on a daily basis I would barely get my daily poetry fix. I know I constantly pull this "I'm an only child"ranting and looking back over my recent blogs, it wouldn't take a psychologist to analyze my aesthetic loneliness. Is this just post-MFA? I hate to think I have to be in a workshop to feel as if I am a writer.

Much of the reason I pursued an MFA was to be part of a support system of writers. I loved every single assignment and class. I'm not saying I didn't learn anything, but being around writers who were consistently producing work and talking about it...well it was just what I needed and need.

On the back cover of APR's Jan/Feb issue is an excerpt from a speech Stanley Kunitz gave in 1994. I have read it over and over and will post some of the excerpt.

Poetry, I have insisted, is ultimately mythology, the telling of the stories of the soul. This would seem to be an introverted, even solipsistic, enterprise, if it were not that these stories recount the soul's passage, through the valley of this life-that is to say, its adventure in time, in history.

If we want to know what it felt like to be alive at any given moment in the long odyssey of the race, it is to poetry we must turn. The moment is dear to us, precisely because it is so fugitive, and it is somewhat of a paradox that poets should spend a lifetime hunting for the magic that will make the moment stay. Art is that chalice into which we pour the wine of transcendence. What is imagination but a reflection of our yearning to belong to eternity as well as to time?

Poets are always ready to talk about the difficulty of their art. I want to say something about its rewards and joys. The poem comes in form of a blessing-"like rapture breaking on the mind," as I tried to phrase in my youth. Through the years I have found this gift of poetry to be life-sustaining, life-enhancing, and absolutely unpredictable. Does one live, therefore, for the sake of poetry? No, the reverse is true: poetry is for the sake of the life.


Emily said...

Hi there. I'm a lowly undergrad who recently started researching MFA programs. The NEOMFA program really caught my eye but, assumedly because its a new program, there isn't much information out there. Would you mind terribly if I quiz you a little about the program? What you liked, what you didn't? I'd be much obliged.

Jennifer Sullivan said...

Hi Emily.

For me, the thing I appreciate most about the NEOMFA is that it gives students a chance to work at four different universities. So, not only do you experience a variety of settings, you also have the opportunity to work with a variety of writers/professors. Each professor has such a different aesthetic. That allows writers to develop their own writing. I can honestly say that the graduates of the program aren't branded with the same style.

It works both ways though. It can be a bit of a strain to travel to these different universities, but car pooling can be quite the adventure.

What didn't I like? Because there are four schools, and each student selects a gateway school, there were times I felt like one school had more of a close knit group of writers who were....well, you know, closer to each other. I felt like an outsider at times, but I did get over it eventually. That's the story of my life.

Overall, it was an incredible experience and I could talk about it all day. If you have more questions, email me at jen007sullivan@hotmail.com