So you’ve gotten into the M.F.A. program at Rutgers Newark. The question is what do you do now? Well fear not, over the next few months I’m going to share my own experiences and preparations as I prepare for my first year at Rutgers Newark’s M.F.A. The plan is that these posts will help with some of the concerns, questions, and other miscellany that surrounds graduate school.
So what should you fill your life with for the next three months till the program starts up? The best advice I can give is to read and write at a voracious level. Some of you might be thinking “But Chris, aren’t we going to be doing tons of reading and writing in the program?” This is true. Now is the time to read and write for pleasure without the academic pressure. This is the time to read and write what you want. It is also a good therapeutic option too. Applying to graduate school was brutal. By the time I finally knew where I was going to end up I was exhausted. Months of writing statements of purpose, obsessing over what poems to include, what revisions to be made, tracking down people to write letters of recommendation left me wanting to play my xbox and get drunk. The last thing on my mind was writing, even though it is something I love. If you have lapsed like me, getting back to it will help remind why you are taking the financial and mental burden of an M.F.A.
Have I taken my own advice?
There are three books I’m slowly working through. “Poems for the Millennium” a three volume set edited by Jerome Rothenberg should be on every poets’ desk. The first two volumes (each over 800 pages) chronicle all the major and minor movements in poetry from the 1900’s to 2000. If it was a poetic style or movement you will find a sample of it here. I will warn you though this collection focuses on those poets who were experimenting with form, content, and meaning. You will not find Robert Frost or Stephen Dunn. The third volume is just as informative and focuses on Romantic and Postromantic Poetry.
In regards to my writing I’ve been practicing writing in forms, both traditional and experimental. The soul purpose is to push my ability and write outside my comfort zone. There are also a couple of projects for chapbooks that I am working on. Revising is playing a bit role. I get the chance to look at new poems and older work, both have helped me to see break out of trends in my writing. I am also involved in the Poetry Postcard Project. Put simply, every week you send out a postcard with a poem you wrote to a person below you on the list, and the people above you do the same. If nothing else this a great writing exercise which forces you to write outside your comfort zone and in a new medium. It also is a great way to form a community of poets sharing a variety of poems and styles. Here is the link for the project. Poetry Postard.
You made it to the end, good job. I promise future posts will be more streamlined. Emails of concerns, questions, or hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.