LRR

May 12, 2014

So you want to apply to a MFA Program?

By jerome daly in LRR

Typewriter_-_Underwood_typewriter_-_Kroton_001So you want to apply to a MFA program?

 

Having just graduated from the University of Connecticut and heading to the University of New Hampshire’s MFA Program in Creative Writing this fall, I would like to share my experience in the process of applying to MFA programs. Even though my focus is poetry, I hope that my information will help those applying in the genres of fiction or creative nonfiction as well. It is a process that takes time, but if you start working on this during the summer months, it will benefit you greatly when the applications become due. I applied to eleven programs and was humbled to be selected into seven programs. Two of these were fully funded, three offered partial funding, and the other two had no funding available. Most of my applications were completed during winter break, and I started with a list of around twenty possible schools before I narrowed it down to the final eleven. My advice to you is not only from my personal experience, but also from the creative writing professors that I was fortunate enough to have worked with at UConn.

 

The most important part of your application is your writing sample. Most schools look for anywhere between ten and twenty-five poems or pages of your manuscript. Each school’s website will provide the exact amount. To prepare for this I suggest that this summer you spend a lot of time not only writing, but also reading. You should not only focus on your particular genre, but also delve into others. Last summer, two novels that were instrumental in my poetry writing were Don DeLillo’s Underworld, and Andre Dubus III’s memoir Townie. Yes, reading other genres is important. Also, since the main part of your application that will be looked at is your writing sample, get feedback from professors that you have worked with. It is not only the quality of your work, but also how it is presented, to include the ordering of your pages.

 

Do seek feedback from your professors on your writing, sit down and have a discussion about your strengths and weaknesses. Your creative writing professors are your greatest assets. They may point you towards schools that you didn’t think about, or may tell you that you need to take a year off from school before you begin the process. Either way, do not be discouraged. The professors have your best interest in mind. Ask them about books you should read, or authors you should focus on. Also, some may know of colleagues who work at specific programs, and can match up your style of writing with certain programs.

 

Ask yourself the question, “Where do I want to write?” Do you enjoy the energy of the city? Or, do you find the desert or mountains a place for inspiration? Remember, your main reason for going on to a MFA program is to write. Apply to places that you would feel comfortable to spend a bulk of your time writing. Also, do not get into debt while attending a MFA program. Many programs offer full funding either with a full tuition scholarship, or a GA/TA position.

 

Poets & Writers http://www.pw.org website was very helpful to me in my process. They list all MFA programs, both full-residency and low-residency. When you click on a particular school, they provide helpful information that will not only provide a link to the MFA program, but also pertinent information about the program. They list how when the program was established, program size, application fees and deadlines, and also core faculty. Look into the core faculty member’s work and writing style, are they people you may want to work with? A supplement that I found very useful beyond the website was purchasing The Poets & Writers Guide to MFA Programs. This book provides an Index of both full-residency and low-residency programs, and breaks them down into categories of popularity, selectivity, and funding.

Two other areas that you can also start working on are your CV and personal statement. How involved are you with the creative writing program? Have you interned for the program or been an editor at the literary magazine? Have you done readings or are you involved in other extra curricular activities pertaining to creative writing? These are excellent skills that you can use to build your CV. If you have not been involved, come up with a plan to do so during the next year. This brings you more into the community within the creative writing program, but also can catapult your writing to another level. With your personal statement, work with a professor who knows you and your writing. Plan on completing five or six drafts. In your personal statement it is important to mention not only areas that you feel strongly about in regards to your writing, but also areas that you would like to improve upon. Really be creative with this. Really be honest with this. Also, make sure that you have also established relationships with at least three professors who know your writing. They will be the people you will rely on for letters of recommendation.

 

My last piece of advice is to talk with the graduate admissions department of the programs you will be applying to. Get to know the people who work there. They can assist you if you are looking for a possible waiver in grad school application fees, and also provide you or help assist with getting current MFA student’s phone numbers. You should call enrolled students to ask about their experience at that particular program. They can also explain what they went through in applying to MFA programs as well.

 

It can seem like a daunting task, but it can be done. The main thing is to start now, and use all the resources that are available to you. Also, you should be organized in this process. Remember application due dates, and make sure that your personal statement is being addressed to the proper school. Start with a list of about twenty schools and try and narrow it down to around eight to ten. Keep reading. Keep Writing. Enjoy the summer and good luck!

May 9, 2014

In Defense of Technology

By Thomas Passarelli in LRR

First things first! A big thank you to Rob Walker of Yahoo! Tech, whose blog post first clued me in to the work of Sophia le Fraga and Trisha Low: two artists who, in a recent live performance, translated Beckett’s Waiting for Godot into an iMessage conversation on the spot.

Image credit: Gauss PDF

I get the distinct impression that several readers just winced.  I can’t really blame you: the conversation of the piece is laden with the sort of linguistic shortcuts and hyper-casual sentence structure so thoroughly associated with the “texting generation” and which some literary minds love to deride, but I’d argue that the work’s no-holds-barred embrace of the internet’s lingua franca is what grants it some measure of artistic merit.

However you prefer to interpret Waiting for Godot (and lord knows you have plenty of readings to choose from), it’s undeniable that the play revolves around the concept of human contact, consisting, as it does, solely of two men locked in a meandering conversation. Like it or not, the dawn of the internet has shifted the brunt of human interaction away from the physical world: friends can remain in constant contact through their mobile devices, carrying out, at times, several different conversations with several different people all at once, and anyone can reach out and speak with strangers at any point on the globe within a matter of minutes. Fraga and Low serve to remind us of this brave new reality through their translation of Waiting for Godot into the hyper-modern medium of text messages.

The physical performance of the piece itself is the very image of the present era: two silent figures seated side-by-side, never once making eye contact as they furiously tap at their respective devices. How often have you seen that image play out on the bus, or in a slowly-filling classroom? I know that I sometimes marvel at the steady stream of people wandering down the street with their eyes glued to a phone: the image never fails to make me feel like some time-travelling transplant from an earlier era, struck dumb by the bizarre and futuristic society of the present day. Fraga and Low point out, however, that for all our peculiar modernity, we’re still the same ridiculous species we’ve always been: Waiting for Godot is made no less inscrutable by being read on the screen rather than seen on the stage.

 

May 9, 2014

Art Talks To Me But Art Is Dead.

By Nyanka Joseph in LRR

Art Talks To Me
But ART is dead.
Regurgitating Color
Clawing at neurons in hippocampus
chomped and chewed by cornea
swallowed by retina
Art talks to me
but art is dead,
but we cuddle at the base of my skul,l
we tango and trundle,
graceful and chaotic,
it sticks it’s tongue in my mouth. . . .
and I accept
because it is new
needed
NECESSARY.
We communicate
art and I
US
Art You I.

 

For the most part I believe that art is seriously under appreciated in todays society by the general population. A large part of this might have to do with the availability and flooding of art in the media. There’s something to the age old cliche that if you have something you take it for granted. Art is no exception. We see so much and have so much variety that sometimes we do not stop to appreciate the meaning and work that is put into so much of the art in the world today.

Anyway Here Are Several Artists and Art Pieces to make you feel and hopefully think.

Archan Nair

 

 

 

Dream Theory By Archan Nair

I”m currently in love with this piece by an artist named Archan Nair and I am hoping to receive it as a birthday gift *crosses fingers. It reminds me of what my mind would look like, an explosion of color, quirky, soft but simultaneously hard. In addition the look of rapture on her face makes it much more attractive. The gender isn’t too specific but the grace in this painting just makes me want to sit and stare at it all day.

Here are some more photos by artist Archan Nair:

 

http://society6.com/product/Rainscape-Rhythm_Print#1=45

Rainscape by Archan Nair

 

Daft Punk by Archan Nair

Daft Punk by Archan Nair

 

Meaningful Moments Exist in Silently by Archan Nair

Meaningful Moments Exist in Silently by Archan Nair

 

Gerrel Saunders aka Gaks

My most favorite artist right now is a man by the name of Gerrel Saunders. He is most famous for his skull girl series, one of which I actually own (see below).

 

Skull Girl 2 by Gerrel Saunders

Skull Girl 2 by Gerrel Saunders

Do I even need to explain why I own this piece? It’s clearly awesome. It’s very rare to see something as macabre as a skull made to look not only graceful, elegant and sexy, but stylish as well. Is our Skull Girl wearing Ray Bans?? Perhaps but that makes it even better.

Here are some other pieces by Gerrel Saunder, some of which are gifs!

Before the Storm by Gerrel Saunders

Before the Storm by Gerrel Saunders

 

24k2 by Gerrel Saunders

24k2 by Gerrel Saunders

 

24k3 by Gerrel Saunders

24k3 by Gerrel Saunders

 

Carnivour Creates 

The art work of Carnivour Creates is another whose art I admire. Their art often depict African American culture with a somewhat of a hipster twist. It usually contains patterns and bright colors while simultaneously giving off sinister vibes in most cases. Here are several pieces by them.

Adrienne by Carnivour Creates

Adrienne by Carnivour Creates

She Says Hi by Carnivour Creates

She Says Hi by Carnivour Creates

sheMYK by Carnivour Creates

sheMYK by Carnivour Creates

The Rose Bearer by Carnivour Creates

The Rose Bearer by Carnivour Creates

 

Street Art 

To stray a little from the previous couple of artists I will instead demonstrate some work from street art. I think that street artists are important to everyday people because they take public spaces and make political and social statements that force people to think and re-evaluate things that they consider to be normal.

Street Art By Ludo from France

Street Art By Ludo from France

This one says “Enjoy the violence” and is a rose but instead of leaves it contains brass knuckles. I think it speaks for itself and is a important commentary on how violence is often intertwined with or packaged in a positive light.

 

 

Street Culptures by Isaac Cordal from the U.K

Street Culptures by Isaac Cordal from the U.K

 

Street Art by Sam from Spain

Street Art by Sam from Spain

 

I hope this post helped open your yes to more obscure art and artists. Hope it encourages you to take a break from the normal and the non-intriguing. Hopefully you saw something you liked and maybe even something you hated. A negative response is better than no response.

 

May 9, 2014

Can good writing be taught?

By Allie Hughes in Creative Writing Program, LRR, Poetry

The week before I graduated high school I received a letter in the mail from my fifth grade self. My librarian had had us write them in our final days of elementary school and she saved them in her attic for seven years before sending a friendly reminder of the innocents we used to be. Of course the letter was a chaotic clustering where I had scrawled things like,  “DO YOU HAVE A BOYFRIEND YET?” (no) or “EAT CHEESE FOREVER” (um…okay?). I laughed at how simple life had been and how different my perspective on life had become post-puberty. However one of the last things I had written to myself struck me dumb: almost sideways in the margins I had written “PS. ARE YOU A REAL WRITER YET?” The fact that this aspiration had stayed consistent for such a long period of time in my life seemed like a sign from a higher authority. Never mind that in the twelfth grade my version of a higher authority was Justin Bieber, but it still seemed important.

At this point in my writing career I still had it in my head that I was destined to be the next J.K. Rowling even though I could only stay focused long enough to write half of a short story. I thought I was the epitome of angsty artistic energy and that I would dazzle the UConn creative writing department with my raw talent and untapped potential. Then I met Bruce. He not only read us poetry that left the class silent (no one was ever sure if we were collectively confused or deep in thought) but also forced us to challenge ourselves. It was the first class where I was encouraged to not follow the prompt: Bruce doesn’t care about the assignments as long as we’re writing things that are interesting.

My first creative writing class taught me much more than how to edit my work, it taught me how to think critically. It taught me to read poetry as more than just assigned reading; it demystified poetry and made it into something I almost need to do. I learned how to take my writing and myself seriously, but did I learn how to write? Is writing a skill that is taught or is it simply honed?

In The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo he writes, “I often make these remarks to a beginning poetry writing class. You’ll never be a poet until you realize that everything I say today and this quarter is wrong. It may be right for me, but it is wrong for you. Every moment, I am, without wanting or trying to, telling you to write like me. But I hope you learn to write like you. In a sense, I hope I don’t teach you how to write but how to teach yourself how to write. At all times keep your crap detector on. If I say something that helps, good. If what I say is of no help, let it go. Don’t start arguments. They are futile and take us away from our purpose. As Yeats noted, your important arguments are with yourself. If you don’t agree with me, don’t listen. Think about something else.”

It is this sentiment I think that captures my experiences with creative writing and the importance of these classes. “Good writing” is often judged by a grade or whether or not something has been published, but I think it is even simpler than that. Isn’t good writing the kind that you write not with a goal of being published, but in order to figure out what the hell is going on in your head? My most successful writing has been the kind that has burst out of my fingertips, it has taught me things about myself, about my thoughts and the way I perceive things. I want to write because I want to see all of the ways I can bend language, I want to see if I can finally shove the square peg into the round hole. Writing shouldn’t be about becoming the next J.K. Rowling, it should be because you have to, over and over again, everyday.

 

Am I wrong? What do you think?

 

Richard Hugo's amazing book.

Richard Hugo’s amazing book.

I was able to find half of my fifth grade letter from an old instagram post.

I was able to find half of my fifth grade letter from an old instagram post.

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