Thursday, January 12, 2012

And Then And Then And Then And Then (etc.)

Only the girls at the bank will understand the title. Still, I suppose on one level it rather speaks for itself, doesn't it? I must apologize at the forefront of this. Last residency I devoted this blog almost completely to my academic gleanings, if you will, both to synthesize the material presented from the instructors and my thoughts, and help me get my homework done. This time around I am not doing that for purely one reason: well, I'm a little lazy. Either that, or I'm actually engaging in a social life. I think I prefer the latter description. My friend keeps saying that poets are angsty (yes, I know that's not a word, and so does she. At least, Microsoft office claims it isn't, so that must be true, no?) and saying I'm simply broadening my social horizons works to lessen that.

Okay, okay, enough of that.

Yesterday was largely free. After a great talk from Joe Millar about the poet in the Republic [meaning Plato's Republic. The talk was focusing on how, as writers, we are composing a shadow of a shadow of a thing. If you have not read Plato or Derrida, you'll have to go and discover the rest for yourself, because I'm not providing it for you! ;) Anyway, the question boils down to 'why do we do this?' and the answer boils down to 'because we can help give those things meaning'. That's the simplified answer. It sounds much better and more thorough, and possibly rather different in my notebook] we all tromped down to workshop, which was EXcellent, then had some lunch, which was decent, and then we were free until 7:30. I used the time to get some residency reviews squared away. Then, as my facebookian pals will know, I skedaddled out to the beach to watch the sun go down.

I think that was one of the greatest moments I've had at the residency. Which doesn't sound right in the context it was encased in. Let me try that again. It was one of the most fantastic, private, thought-provoking, peaceful moments I've had at the residency. I think that's better. I headed down about 20 after four and wandered out to where the waves were coming in. They warned us about sneaker waves, so I didn't get too close to the water line. (The sneaker wave thing sounds weird. You'll have to imagine the hilarity you find here, after Ben Percy read us a composition about them. Apparently, one of them stole someone's credit card and racked up several purchases at a Walmart in...Nebraska I think it was, and one of them filled Ben Percy's mouth with lighter fluid and sparked a match which is why he sounds like he does. Among others. You'd have to meet Ben Percy to understand that one, too...) (You probably all hate parentheses after reading this dang mess. I admire your fortitude. I'm obviously not a prose writer...). (And now, the rest of the story.) There was a man and a woman feeding a flock of seagulls a little ways away, tossing pieces of bread in the air and watching how all the seagulls leapt up off the ground and took flight to go get them. Those two were there for a long time. I was walking up and down the water line most of the time, waiting for some sunset color so I could take some pictures and after a while I saw them hugging and sharing a kiss surrounded by a bright white flock of gulls.

A little purple and orange started to appear out over the waves, off to the right and away from the sun and the hill reaching out into the water, so I took some pictures of the waves breaking. I turned around and the sunlight had given the windows of the buildings behind me a gold caste. I took some pictures of that, too. There was one beautiful picture where the light reflecting off the sand sort of looked like gold footprints, and it reminded me of the picture that used to hang in Rosa's Pizza back in the day--the poem 'Footprints in the Sand' overlaid on a photo of the beach.

I took pictures until it was just orange clouds and the light was going. The couple who had been feeding the seagulls were gone and the wind was getting colder. My hands were bright red and it was hard to hold the cameras. I turned around to head back and suddenly realized I hadn't taken a moment to just stand there and appreciate the scene for what it was. So, I turned around and stared at it a while--the waves bursting onto the sand, the wind, the sounds and swoops of the gulls, the brilliant, blazing color where the sun was setting. And not for the first time I wondered why I had ever wanted to be a writer at all, when there are scenes like this that can never be captured? It's the immensity that I want to put on the page and I can never ever do it. It has taken several years to come to terms with the fact that there are some things I have to realize cannot be matched. God is the most incredible artist. I'm not sure if he made me a poet to frustrate me, or to enhance my ability to appreciate this beautiful world. I suppose either would be valid.

After that, I couldn't stop looking at it. I started backing away so I could keep watching the sunset and the seagulls weaving over the sand looking for something a tourist dropped that they could eat. I actually backed up until I almost tripped over a fallen log. Wouldn't that have been a lovely way to end the experience. I started to turn around and watch where I was going, and someone way down at another one of the hotels, I think, started singing 'Word of God Speak'. Well, I couldn't leave then. I just stood there a while longer while my face froze and kept watching the light fade. After that was a Casting Crowns song, I don't remember, but I think it was 'I am Yours'. I walked back singing that.

Of course, by the time I got back my hands were really cold. I didn't know just how cold until I went to grab a cup of coffee to warm them up and couldn't grab the cup. I had to try a few times because my fingers wouldn't bend. Whoops! Finally managed that, got the coffee in the cup, rode up the elevator, got outside my room, and tried to fish my key out of it's envelope. That took a while, too. Once I managed to get the door open, I could drop the key on the counter and wrap my fingers around the mug like Pappy used to do. It was ok after that. Still, it was worth it to see all that. And I discovered I'd only spent about half an hour out there!

I was going to say I ate some dinner after that, but, come to think of it, I didn't eat dinner last night. I spent an hour and a half talking to a couple of people in the lobby and then my friends and I headed for the faculty reading. After that Chris wanted some food, so we went to a bar because it was all that was still open. She had a salmon burger and we stole her potato chips. It was fun!

Today contained a fantastic craft talk by Tayari Jones on the subject of raising the stakes in your fiction. Or your poetry, if necessary. She's a great speaker, the talk was great, and she threw in a little humor, which is nice at 9 in the morning when you got to bed late again...  Chris bought me coffee which made me less grouchy. She's a sweetheart. I gotta think of something nice to do for her before we leave.

Last workshops were today, as well. We finished in pretty good time and we did manage to finish all the poems. I heard some other groups had some time to get some writing done. We did not, but hey! We all got some good discussion and great feedback in my humble opinion.

Lunch was fajitas, and after lunch there was a student reading, which 8 of us showed up to. A few of us came for moral support, or at least to give the readers an audience. But it was so non-intimidating that each of us read something, which was fun.

A few of the faculty taught classes today, so I went to Sandra Alcosser's. She gave us tips on revision, and different ways to approach the poem with different intentions in order to make it work. It was a great class, but I had to take out shortly before she finished to make my advising appointment.

Although I got one of the advisors I put down as a preference, I must admit I was unsure of the choice. She seemed like she gave great feedback which I like, but I didn't know how she'd be for a more structural focus. As it turns out, she had read my study plan thoroughly, noted my goals and compared them against my choice of books, struck some from the list, suggested others, and generally proved to me she had very carefully considered what I was hoping to do. I think I have most of the study plan hammered out, I checked a couple of details and expectations, and an hour later we were done, lol. I was surprised (and pleased) by the length and depth of the meeting. Last semester was terrific, but it definitely took less time. My advisor said she was rather excited to have someone interested in form and structure, which surprised me but I was pretty happy about that :) It will, I think, be a pretty challenging semester, but I think we'll get through all right.

We went out for dinner at, I kid you not, 'The Pig and Pancake'. We went the other night for one of the ladies' birthday and it wasn't too bad. A little of a greasy spoon kind of place but the food and the coffee are pretty good. Then the faculty reading. Kwame Dawes was amazing--as always--and John McNally was hilarious. The other author doesn't quite write in my style, so it wasn't my favorite readings thus far. Then we got some books signed and came back to the hotel where we scoured Chris and Cynthia's room for the ring I lost earlier when we were working on our study plans. We spent a while searching, and eventually found it under the couch along with some crumbs, probably a random assortment of change, and a package of Pizza Hut parmesan cheese. I realize these rooms are big and all, but don'cha think you'd take a gander under the furniture occasionally if you worked somewhere as fancy as this?

I've been at this a little long. I'm going to go shore up my study plan and see if I can get a couple more reviews under my belt before I snooze. Miss everyone!

~Hannah Mae

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