The end of my second semester in the Lesley University MFA is upon me and again I'm greeting it with mixed feelings.
On one hand I'm super-excited for the day to finally arrive where I can breathe a sigh of relief and again focus on the countless tasks at hand when it comes to teaching. I have a mountain of correcting to plow through prior to progress reports (the rest I can leave for winter break), and many many things to plan for and make copies of prior to both Alice in Wonderland rehearsals beginning, and preparation for the wedding kicking into high gear.
I suppose I am where I want to be in terms of planning and wedding preparation. We're mostly set when it comes to the wedding, with a few meetings left to do, and a handful of things left to pay for and figure out. And I pretty much have a solid idea of what I need to do when it comes to Romeo and Juliet and teaching the basics of grammar, spelling and countless mini-lessons in between to ensure some raised scores on the MCAS exams. But when it comes to creative writing, I'm running on empty.
I am so focused on everything literal, and my mind is full of The Odyssey, Death of a Salesman and grammatical sentence structure that when I read (and re-read) Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" all I could think to do was examine it from a literary criticism perspective. I'm beginning to suck the life out of some poetry because I'm scrutinizing it too much. And for a while, I considered this to be a horrible thing. I was, in essence, ruining the creative experience, and poetry in general for myself. I was over-analyzing it and taking all the juice out of it.
Then I had a revelation. Doesn't this backwards structure actually help me in the long-run? Haven't all great poets at one time or another in their lives really analyzed others' works and their own? Haven't they scrutinized? And isn't this vital scrutinizing what we, as poets, do in the revision process anyway?
Basically, I owe the program, and myself, an apology. I assumed that like Emily Dickinson, I should be able to write poetry and it should inherently be good, without having to read anyone else's work. In order to write a poem, shouldn't I be able to recognize the parallels in it, enhance the alliteration, and recognize when metaphors are too easily identifiable, or some element has become stale or overused?
Yes, I should. And the program has really opened my eyes to this, without explicitly telling me. In a way, the program has allowed me to recognize and learn these vital aspects of writing without making me read chapters on "why we revise" or "how to learn to recognize the faults in your own poems." In way, the program has come full circle by forcing me, through metaphor (by making me analyze my own work and the work of others), to learn what works and what doesn't work.
I look forward to my time away from the program, but when I return, I'll be able to write some poems that are critically better pieced-together, and are more coherent and smooth, while simultaneously using more interesting imagery and provocative and fresh concepts.