Yep, I'm done for. This morning, not only did I sleep in, despite my alarm going off and apparently being dismissed, (which I did not wake up for), but I got two text messages. One was from one of my friends about travel arrangements. The other was from one of my fellow MFAers, letting me know there was a problem with my novel. I spent 45 minutes fretting about how I was going to explain the problem with my novel, until I realized not only do I not have a novel, the text message about said novel never existed, and I had, in fact, dreamed the second text message AND the 45 minutes of fretting about it. ...I got up and went for coffee...
Coffee and blueberry muffin in hand (coffee from the bistro, muffin from Maggie's [priorities, y'know]), I headed off to Leslie Miller's craft talk about Agency in the poem. I really like Leslie's attention to the scientific in her poetry, and it translated into her talk. She explained how a story is appreciated by a reader. Literally how. She said that a story or a poem is almost like a computer program, and the language we use must be constructed in such a way that the program will run in the reader's mind without a 'glitch', if you will. In order to do this, we must make effective use of 'stealth words'--pronouns and other connective language--. Leslie quoted a study that said content vocabulary makes up 90% of our language, but connective language, words of relationship and/or power dynamic, is employed 55% of the time in speech and writing. She showed us examples where the 'agency', the delivery/point of view/perspective, moved throughout the poem and made it both complex and interesting. I felt like the talk was useful both for poetry and prose. In our workshop after, we agreed that we didn't like the idea of theory to explain something so complex and that, yes, it did seem mostly like it could be reduced to being called just point of view. But I feel that there's a difference of point of view and perspective. The story being told from a certain perspective, or a wandering perspective, gives a better chance for the direction and focus of the story to change, because we're standing behind the narrator's eye, looking at the subject through their eye as they see it (and by 'as they see it', I don't just mean we see it through their opinion, but we actually get to see it as it physically enters the narrator's 'vision', at the moment it does so). This was the idea that I came away with, anyway.
Today was also the last workshops of the residency :( We ran a little late, and a few of us stayed a little later than that, but the poems were good, the feedback and suggestions were great. I feel really blessed to have been in such an engaged, intelligent, and compassionate group. Not that nobody got their pieces taken apart, we all had at least one piece that got shredded, but it was a gentle shredding :) At least it was from where I was sitting. Now I just can't believe I will only have one more round of workshops here. Where in the heck does the time go? A year and a half ago I was sobbing over the impossibility of submitting my application, and thinking of how long two years would be.
After lunch, there was a talk about historical novels by Charles Johnson. While I thought it was going to be a how-to or advice, it wound up being more of a summary of his personal experience while writing his novels Middle Passage and Dreamer. It was a very engaging talk though. I enjoyed it. He seems to be a very gracious man. And, as I had just so happened to have Middle Passage on my bookshelf left over from an American Novel class at UM, I asked him to sign it. I discovered that (while it's only 20 years old) the book I bought from the Book Exchange in Zoo Town is a first edition, published from an imprint that no longer exists. Guess I'll hang on to the book, especially now that it's been autographed.
I had my meeting with Peter today to get the nuts and bolts of the study plan squared away. The way it sounds, I more or less have free reign over my study plan. He said I didn't even have to send any poems to him until the essay is done if I didn't want to. (I'm going to, but I still found it interesting). It was a fun meeting, though. He's only half serious all of the time, so a fair part of the meeting was spent observing and commenting on the activity going on the university center, like the conference services people who were hauling around these long metal poles, and turning around suddenly without looking so that they almost clocked a sum total of about 14 people who were innocently sitting or walking by. Thankfully, our meeting took place without incident.
I attended the graduate readings as well. One of the girls was the aforementioned MFAer who, it turns out, did not actually send me a text message. The presentation was absolutely incredible. I don't recall having been that engaged in any of the grad presentations I've attended for this program so far.
The faculty reading tonight was shorter than usual, but it was really fun. There were three teriffic writers, Mags, Peter, and Mary Helen Stefaniak. After we listened to the reading, my friend hung back to go pick up a book, so the other two of us headed back to the room. When she got back, I found out she'd bought Mary Helen's book for me, because she just really thinks I will like it. I swear, she is one of THE sweetest people I know.
I've been trying all night to revamp my study plan, but it's 12:30 again, it's not done, it's 1:30 at home, and judging by my inability to rise this morning, I'm thinking I won't be finishing tonight. Still, I'm a little closer. Maybe in the morning tomorrow or something, hey?
Ok, that's it for tonight from the Grove. Hope this finds you all healthy, wealthy, and wise! Or at least well-rested and cheerful.