Monday, June 11, 2012

Sleepless Nights and Endless Days, or MFA Residency at Converse College

Trying to summarize a Converse College MFA in creative writing residency is a little like trying to summarize your own wedding: you know that there were people there, food and alcohol were enjoyed, you had deep conversations with one or two people, some sitting was involved and someone spoke words of wisdom, there was music, and you made bonds for life. There was cake.

Just as weddings can be a blur, this past summer residency is almost impossible to adequately describe. I'll give you the highlights. The poetry group had three new poets, all of whom brought new styles and insights. Fried green beans and "Redneck Burgers" at the NuWay were late night snacks more nights than is probably heart healthy, and several of us closed the bar down on $5 pitcher night. Nightly "recaps" with Rhonda and morning walks with Cheryl were therapeutic, enlightening, and, on one occasion, spooky. All I'll tell you is it involved a copper downspout and a fight between a bird and a squirrel. Marlin Barton's lecture "Reaching the Lyric Register in Fiction" informed us about writing vertically to slow down time and add depth to your story or poem, John Lane made us think about our "intellectual ancestors," those thinkers we are most likely to draw upon from our subconsciousness, and Rick Mulkey reminded the poets about "sonic distance" and "sonic intensity," the idea that how one writes a poem can be as important as what is being written.

We heard the Shane Pruitt band rock at the NuWay. The first incarnation of the Converse MFA band was born at the graduation ceremony, and we performed spontaneous renditions of Skid Row's "I Remember You" and John Cougar Mellencamp's "Pink Houses," among other songs. Life bonds were made with new friends and strengthened with old. There was thick chocolate cake embellished with chocolate shavings.

If the comparison of a wedding to a residency in creative writing still seems a bit far-fetched, consider this:
each semester, Converse MFA students vow that writing will be a major part of their daily lives. For ten days twice a year, the pen and the keyboard are permanently attached to our fingers; our brains are bound to the word.

This past residency was my last. In January, I have to complete a four day graduating residency, a lecture, and a reading from my creative thesis. While I look forward to the degree and the possibilities that come along with it, I can't help but wish that residencies would never end. Converse MFA students, faculty, and staff, I will remember you always.


  1. Sorry I missed the finale.

    1. Had a great time with you! Hope you're doing well.