This week, following the U.S. President’s pro-white nationalist tantrum before the press in the wake of the Charlottesville terrorist attack (remarkably deemed as such by Attorney General Jeff Sessions), it seems that we are witnessing a regression of a whole different order of magnitude.
How are you, my fellow writer? This past spring, at my annual physical exam, I was given a questionnaire I was to fill and hand to the nurse before proceeding to the doctor’s office. I have been with the same practitioners since 2009, and this was the first time they asked about my emotional well-being.
Dear John McCain:
I think of your tap code late at night when I am lonely. You broken and spent in the Hanoi Hilton tapping out “Are you okay?” to the guy on the other side of the wall.
“My name is Ernie Brace,” the taps from the prison cell next to you kept declaring. “My name is Ernie Brace.” “My name is Ernie Brace.” Then sobs. Ernie Brace so overwhelmed by human contact he could only tap his name.
Last night around a campfire, I bonded with our Bedouin guide (عبت) over Arabian Sands. He said the book, which he re-reads often, captures Bedouin culture like a zoom lens (his words) and the changing culture of Arabia like a crystal ball (mine). Thesiger wasn’t the first explorer to cross the Empty Quarter, but he has become arguably the most famous. And he opened up this place for me. Last night I danced in a dishdasha, drank fresh milk from goats, and watched the sunset from towering dunes of powder-like sand.
Aristotle’s Poetics. Horace’s Ars Poetica. Freytag’s diagram. Syd Field’s paradigm. Frank Daniel’s sequence approach. For more than two millennia dramatic theorists have sought to trace, map and/or illustrate the shape and technical elements of a story told in dramatic form.
Dear MFAW people,
I’m guessing that, for the majority of you, your first desire to write was a way to express an emotion that you were having difficulty feeling or understanding.
I am a self-taught writer. There are many of us out there, though possibly not so many who are teaching creative writing in an MFA program. I wrote my first novel because I had to; it was a story that
Casey worked as a journalist in the Marines until, in the late l970’s, she attended a writing conference in California where one of the faculty told her she should, be writing poetry instead. Casey took this person and their work and when she returned to base, declared herself resident poet, meaning she would no longer report to duty.
I gave my name
rank an serial number,
said I was a poet. Beyond
that I refused to speak.
Rather than send her to the brig for going AWOL, Casey’s superior officers sent her to the psych ward. Part of her time in the psych ward is a subject of this book.
I didn’t know how obsessed I was with the world – with the actual word “world” – until I went through my second book of poems and saw that I used the word at least 30 times. Actually, another poet told me I used it 30 times but of course I went back and counted the words myself (because they were my words) to see if this was true. I’d never done anything like that – count how many times a word got used. I wonder if other poets do this?
I have an irrational fear of falling into a Japanese toilet—not an everyday worry, but one that poses itself as I pack for a weeklong research trip to a small town in Japan. I had knee surgery a few years ago and my squat technique is not what it used to be. My friend Reiko tells me it’s highly unlikely. I don’t tell her that I am the Queen of Unlikely. I tell her she’s right, and prepare for the worst.
MFAW faculty Keenan Norris: …my father, was less a reader than a storage chest of historical anecdote and information, come upon by means academic and experiential. He was also a runner, my father, a collegiate national record holder for twenty four hours at one point in time, so while my writings are much less the result of natural talent than dedicated labor, the running is in my blood.
Goddard MFAW faculty Rogelio Martinez: The play was now a straight arrow. I had talked the play right out of me.
Pay attention: how many times I have written in the margins of a student’s work: what is the purpose here? What is your reason for writing this? Where does this connect to the human spirit, to the human experience? To you? To your readers?
Goddard MFAW alumna Theresa Barker: As I write these words I am hurtling (hurtling!) through a tunnel below ground under the hills of Seattle, in a plastic and metal carriage in a chamber that a thousand thousand thousand inventions of humans have created. Such a thing is unthinkable if you really pay attention to it, as unthinkable as time travel, yet here I am.
Goddard MFAW alumna Kris Johannesson: “At Goddard, we have this saying. Trust the process.