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In Conclusion

I feel the need to wrap up this blog, given that I graduated in May with my MFA in poetry and fulfilled my purpose for being in Wilmington, NC.  I wrote three years ago that I hoped to catalog my progress turning into a writer.  And so, I turn to reflect on my successes and failures in that area.

Successes:

  1. I published four poems from my new manuscript.
  2. I won three poetry contests.
  3. I published a year’s worth of literary news round downs for a prominent literary magazine’s blog.
  4. I completed a poetry manuscript.
  5. I zeroed in on my research interests: namely, historical underpinnings of sexism in mental health fields/our current conception of what it means to be “crazy”.
  6. I served as an editor for a literary magazine I love and learned a great deal more about publishing and editing than I set out to, about which I am so super grateful.
  7. I attended national writing and publishing conferences.
  8. I read my creative work aloud at several venues, both here in the States and abroad.
  9. I received my Master’s in Literature from Bread Loaf at the time time I finished up my MFA from University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
  10. I landed a tenure-track position teaching English at a small college in Alabama.
  11. I received encouraging rejections for short stories I never thought I’d write.
  12. I learned from prominent authors in my field: A Van Jordan, Nikkey Finny, Aimee Nezukumathatil, Sarah Messer, Malena Morling, Michael White, Mark Cox, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Ruth Forman, Tracy K. Smith…and countless of my fellow emerging writers from the program.
  13. I finally took my own mental health seriously and started taking care of my mind as well as I had been taking care of my body.
  14. I figured out how to submit my work and to more fully engage as a literary citizen in the community of writers that now feels familiar and small.

Failures/what MFAers charmingly call “opportunities”:

  1. I lost my sense of regularity when it came to updating here or on Twitter.  I’m not sure where I stand anymore on the idea of “needing an online platform/presence” if I hope to publish.  I worry I’ve been too open, or not open enough in my posts.
  2. I’m working on building a more sustainable habit while at the same time opening myself up the the unpredictable nature of the muse.
  3. I still get too anxious and paralyzed and self-sabatoging when it comes, oh heck, to all areas of life, but especially to my writing.
  4. Consistency.  Consistency.
  5. Many more rejections than acceptances, but this is to be expected in my field.
  6. For a while, I forgot to believe in my own potential.  I swan dived from being bossy/sure of myself to being utterly insecure and unsure.  I’d like to find a more happy medium in myself.

I feel so grateful to have landed where I did, knowing full well the perilous nature of the job market for creative writing academics.  I am so entirely thankful my hard work paid off.  I wouldn’t be here with the help of my colleagues, family, and professors, so this win is as much theirs as it is mine.

As I prepare to look ahead, I’ll have to figure out how to balance being a good teacher for my students and being a productive writer.  It’s bittersweet to say my career ambitions trumped my romantic ones, and that I choose to move away–and that my now ex-boyfriend decided not to come with me.  I’m reminded of that Roxane Gay essay where she writes about sometimes wishing she’d chosen the man over the career.  That the career takes you to the middle of no where.  That the career can be lonely.

But to that, I’ve answered my own yearnings with a brand new puppy and a second cat.  Fluffy cuddles are almost as good as human ones.  Especially times three.  I’m already meeting new people who give me hope loneliness will not be too overbearing here.

And the middle of no where is actually quite pretty.  The landscape here is more rolling than I expected.  The foothills of the Appalachians.  Kudzu covers the national forest here, making green latticework over the shrubs and trees.  The air feels like a giant dog is panting right above you at all times.  The grass grows crazy fast.  Yards sprawl, neighbors are far apart but so kind.  They bring fresh baked goods and host “welcome to the neighborhood” parties.  The school prepares to offer you an office that overlooks the quad and comes with bookshelves waiting to be filled.  The house you rent is cheaper than your studio apartment in Wilmington, and allows you the luxury of having a guest room, a porch, a parlor, a dining room, a den, and two baths.  The backyard is replete with rose bushes, magnolia trees, fig trees, hydrangea bushes, and gardenia bushes.  The size of the bugs here makes the flying cockroaches in ILM seems cute.  Life is slower.  There are literally three restaurants.  If you don’t count the Hardee’s.  And I don’t.  The road to civilization (i.e., a college town with lots of strip malls and sprawl) is straight forward and scenic.  The airport is an hour and a half away.  There are a surprising number of people from Michigan living nearby.  I’ve already found places to camp and hike and bathe in the river.  Now if only the heat index would chill a little, I could enjoy having a huge front porch.

Overall, I feel optimistic I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Especially after the number of losses 2016 brought, I feel sad to be far from home, from family–but eager to continue to forge new, lasting relationships, while carrying the memory of those who’ve passed deep within my heart.

Thanks to all those who kept up with my ILM adventures!  I probably won’t post much here about life in AL, for a variety of reasons, but drop me a line at cshubert@judson.edu if you wish to catch up.

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Awakening

Oh boy, have I dropped the ball blogging here.  Chalk it up to having given myself zero time between finishing up Bread Loaf Oxford and my penultimate semester of my MFA. Last semester was CRAZY.

Time spins like a top lately.  I began 2016 cuddling sleepily on the couch with my boyfriend in my parent’s retirement condo in Florida.  My boyfriend drove 13 hours straight just to ring in the new year with me.  Fools in love.  This will be the second new year I’ve rung in with him by my side.  A year since he first told me he loved me.  Who knows where this year will take us.

2016 started with an abrupt loss.  A friend, colleague, and co-editor of Ecotone passed away very suddenly after a lifelong struggle with muscular dystrophy.  He was (was.  tense.  so hard to keep straight.) one of the most patient, kind-hearted, thoughtful, brilliant persons I’ve had the privilege of knowing.  He was one of the few to write me a letter while I was at Oxford.  I kick myself still that I never remembered to write him back, that I didn’t take more time to talk with him after our many classes together.

The news of his hospitalization spurred me into planning overdrive.  Whenever I feel helpless, I turn to planning like a security blanket.  I get bossy as I try to bully everyone around me into taking care of themselves.  I found strength in the community that formed in the waiting room of New Hanover Regional hospital.  There are those who show up.  And those who don’t, for various reasons.  I am grateful that the experience taught me to value and put more of my energy into those who show up.

I held it together until I left his room for the last time.  Unhooked from the machines, he looked so peaceful.  I realized during life he often had a seriousness to him, a depth of attention that seemed to pinch him forward.  In death, he was so relaxed.  His lips full.  His eyelids as puffy as a newborn baby’s.  He looked young.  So young.  Once in the hallway, once I no longer had anyone to boss around, no more meals to organize, no more texts or calls to make, I disintegrated.  A colleague held me and walked me back to our little MFA group, where several others gathered us up in a group hug.

One thing that astounds me about this place is the sense of community.  It is special here.  Some cattiness, immaturity, and competition do exist.  But in that space in the waiting room, with those who show up, I realized how much love, care, and deep respect binds us together, not just as writers, but as human beings.

The loss got me thinking a lot about the future. I’m currently applying to jobs all over the country, looking for a position that will pay them well and allow me to hone my writing, leadership, teaching, and planning skills.  Ideally a teaching position at a college or a private school, or even work at a non-profit for writing or editing.  I’m scared at the prospect of going anywhere.  I wonder when I will stop moving and start making a home.  I wonder who will deign to continue onward with me, who I have yet to meet.  But then again, I’m reminded that I’ve discovered those who show up for me no matter where I go.  The older I get, the easier these types of people are to recognize.  I’m fortunate to have a few interviews lined up.  Fingers crossed for something.

I also have been thinking a lot about my past year.  2015.  As I reflect on my resolutions (https://ilmwritinglife.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/2015-resolutions/) I’m pretty proud to report that I’ve made many of my goals.  I listed out how many books I read this year, and the number is well over 50!  More than the 30 I’d hoped for!

I’ve somewhat eaten healthier, though I have many lapses.  Oh well.  I recently went on a shopping spree where I bought bigger pants.  I’ve decided that there are too many things that taste better than skinny feels. Added bonus that my bf likes a little junk in the trunk.

I didn’t manage to publish a poem (whomp whomp), but I did get a poem nominated for the AWP Intro Award, as well as two very encouraging rejections from poetry magazines I admire.

I still suck at Twitter and blogging. I’m okay with this.

I pitched my paper on silence for publication, as well as three other academic essays, in academic journals/books. Still waiting for response.

I graduated from Bread Loaf! Summa Cum Laude and Vice President of my graduating class.

I wrote two fiction stories that I actually really liked (and so did Glimmer Train; they encouraged me to resubmit!)

I like to think I’ve been a better friend/family member, but I can always improve on this score.

I still suck at doing yoga daily, though for a six-month stretch I was doing really well.  I do teach it every Friday at 9 still! And I am more regular than I used to be (3-4 times a week).

I’ve made a budget and have (mostly) stuck to it!

I’m really enjoying teaching this semester.  My students are amazing.

I don’t think I wrote 50 new poems.  More like 10-20?  Room to improve as I finish up my thesis.

I have gotten better at editing old work–and at submitting it!  I’ve submitted my work to over 20 different journals so far and applied to over 50 jobs!

I passed my MFA exam with distinction!  I presented at an international conference!  I became nonfiction editor of a magazine I love!  I won two fellowships!  I gave away a ton of old clothes and knickknacks that don’t give me joy (thank you KonMari).  I started medication for anxiety and have made it a priority to relax more.  2016 has already thrown a lot of curves my way.  I had old heartbreaks resurface.  Nothing goes how I plan or imagine it will.  Sometimes it goes better.  Sometimes not.  I’m learning to be more open. Pliable.  Flexible.  Generous, to all, but especially to myself.

January was mean.  I’m hoping for a kinder, slower February.  I decided to start volunteering for a cat shelter.  I want a dog.  I have my thesis reading in a few weeks (OH MY GOD WHAT).  I am taking on more responsibilities at Ecotone.  I’m going back to church (nothing like a death to make you seek out your spirituality.  I wonder what my friend would think of that).  2016, the doors to my heart are wildly flung.  Come at me.

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Letting It Be

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about doubt.  I’ve spent much of my life wrestling with my doubts: self doubt and religious doubt taking the cake.  The resultant anxiety from trying to resolve uncertainty has left me exhausted.  And so the other day I had an epiphany.  What if instead of trying to resolve my doubts, analyze and understand them, control them and thwart them, disprove and disarm them, what if instead I just let them be?

There is no guarantee.  Your lover can promise to be faithful and forever, and want to mean it, but can still stray.  Your career path can swerve unexpectedly, either by promotion or impromptu resignation or sudden termination, or even just lack of change or growth, no matter how many degrees and qualifications you may have.  Your best friend can move away or even suddenly die.

I always envied those with faith.  In my family, there’s a saying, on my dja dja (Polish for grandpa) often said before he was cruelly ripped from my family before I was born by a car crash (19 year old late to work at a Wendy’s blew a red light).  Keep the faith.  I’ve never been one to sit comfortably with dogma or organized religion, but I find myself coming back to that concept, especially when struggling with my doubts.

I’ll never forget the time I was struggling to finish my Master’s of Education while teaching 50 hours a week at the third largest comprehensive high school in Philadelphia.  I daily struggled with culture shock, having come from a mostly white suburban neighborhood suddenly thrust into the most urban of landscapes, where my most of my students were not white and had endured horrors the likes of which I couldn’t even imagine.  I was so emotionally burnt out. I wanted to be good for my students, but was woefully, despite my stellar academic background, underprepared for the realities of teaching in such a high needs area.  I took every mistake personally.  Sleep was my only respite, so I routinely went to bed at 9PM, eager to shed the light of day and let everything go dark.  Horrifically, I recall at one point driving to work on the Roosevelt highway and thinking to myself how much I didn’t want to face the day…how it’d be so easy to turn my wheel into oncoming traffic.  The realization that I could have such a thought scared me even as it made me darkly laugh as I confided this to a roommate who was teaching with me and who had the exact same thought.

I had a professor in the Master’s program who was determined to push us to consider critical race theory and apply it to our pedagogy, so that we might be better for our students.  He pushed me to the breaking point publicly, unaware that I was already on edge and mentally berating myself for not being enough.  After he apologized, he told me to keep the faith.  I felt the disparate parts of my universe collide into sweet synchronicity.  I felt hope.  I felt familiar to myself again.

I don’t know why that memory came to mind now, except to say that I’ve been trying really hard to keep my faith.  In myself, and all I’ve learned and how I’ve grown as an educator and as a writer in the last five years, since that day I sobbed publicly at Penn after a hard day’s teaching. In my relationships, even when they disappoint or hurt me.  In my future and all that I couldn’t predict, no matter how hard I try to be prepared for anything.

Maybe doubt isn’t something I have to relinquish or let go of.  Maybe instead it’s simply something I can acknowledge and then put away. Let be.  And turn my attentions instead to what I’m grateful for.

I’m grateful for my parents.  My brother, who right now is working himself to death trying to become a better doctor.  My boyfriend.  My friends.  My cat.  My apartment.  Enough money to feed and clothe myself.  A past that has led me to where I am now.  Yoga.  Books (currently enjoying A Little Life after reading all these rave reviews on social media). Quiet mornings writing out on the back patio before the rest of the world stirs.  A moment watching a golden orb weaver flex ever so slightly on a string, then still.

spider

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Keeping Busy

I was talking last night with some girl friends about how difficult it is sometimes to talk to ourselves as nicely as we talk to each other.  Several of my friends are suffering from writers’ block,  a lapse in confidence, or a sense of personal failing.  And yet oftentimes we don’t talk about this.  We suffer in silence.  Embarrassed, perhaps?  Trying to be brave?  It was such a relief, however, to come clean with each other about our respective doubts and struggles.  So easy to lift one another up.  Until finally, I found myself speaking passionately about how I believed being kind to oneself could be considered a revolutionary, feminist act, since we live in a society still hell bent on tearing women down.

I’ve been journaling each morning.  I’ve been buying my inner artist child gifts.  I had someone tell me to find a picture of myself when I was goofy and adorable and five years old.  To put that picture up in my bathroom mirror.  And each morning, to tell that picture nice things, things I wanted her to know.  In short, I’ve been trying to in some ways reverse the conceptualization of my battered sense of self.

On a separate note, I’ve been reading an advanced reader copy of Kate Bollick’s Spinster.  In it, she recounts, in a way both historical and personal, how marriage has been the central focus of every woman’s life.  That more so than men, the question of who she will marry, or if she will marry, becomes the fulcrum on which her life spins. Bollick then examines the lives of several women writers who chose to live their lives eschewing the importance of that question: Edna St. Vincent Millay, for example.   The book is fascinating as it strives to imagine another way of existing for women.  I’ve been guilty myself of mooning too much in my writing about my romantic relationships.  I have been but a product of the rom com, Disneyfied society in which I was raised.  I can only imagine what space will open up if I shift my focus.

I’ve been busy with the start of the semester, but I can honestly say I feel as happy as I did when I first moved here.  I feel purposeful.  I’m enjoying the editorial work on the school’s literary journal.  My students are eager and brave and genuinely interested in improving their writing skills (and they follow instructions!  a thing to celebrate indeed).  To my surprise, I put a bunch of poems in a single word document, expecting to find half a draft, and instead, I found 68 pages of poems.  Poems that need editing and rewriting and perhaps cutting.  But a full length draft nonetheless.  I’m slowly trying to get back in shape and find more balance by running less, and biking, swimming, strengthening and stretching more.  I’m finally sleeping better and have more energy.

I’ve also begun applying for jobs for next year–a terrifying, mundane, time consuming process.  My dream would be to land a lecturer or professor position teaching writing at either a community college or a small liberal arts college.  With my background teaching online and a variety of learners, from ESL to urban to international, I’m hopeful that I will find a good fit, though I recognize the process will take a long time–almost a full year (which is why I’m starting to look now).

I’ve fallen behind on submitting my work.  I can’t remember the last time I did that.  And so, that is a goal for this fall.

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English Rain

rain

Yesterday it rained all day.  I was glad I packed my rain boots and rain jacket.  I woke up and was going to go on my walk, and decided just to do yoga in my room instead.  The sound of the constant tap tapping and the cool damp air made a nap impossible to resist.  I ended up day dreaming about the cabin Jason and I stayed at in Hot Springs, NC, just outside of Asheville back in October.  That cabin in Hot Springs was very likely the spot I fell in love with him.  We spent many an afternoon on the covered porch there reading in companionable quiet listening to the rain weave its way around the roof-like leaves.  I don’t think there’s a more lulling, comforting sound–at least when you’re properly covered and able to view it from a window, or covered porch, or poncho.

The week went by very quickly.  I had a paper due Tuesday, so Monday and Tuesday passed by in a tea inspired drive to produce 12 pages and re-read the novels at hand.  Tuesday we also had a reception for scholarship recipients (yours truly among them).  I found out the scholarship I received was named for a beloved Bread Loaf faculty member who during the academic year was a chair at Johns Hopkins who tragically drowned trying to save a child in a swimming hole in Ripton, VT (a swimming hole I’ve visited).  I’m very grateful to the generosity I’ve received at the behest of so many wonderful, pioneering educators who believed in helping those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to study do so.

Wednesday I passed in a stupor of essay crisis hangover (Season 2 of Call the Midwife and candy and dining out).  Thursday I hurried through a Toni Morrison novel in time for class.  Yesterday I outlined everything I need to accomplish in the next few weeks while also taking care of some housekeeping planning for the fall.  I also took a break and went and saw Inside Out, an adorable, clever Pixar film with a wonderful message to children that it’s okay and sometimes will save your life to be sad, to feel your emotions authentically, and to reveal in the ways sadness can connect you to your family and friends through compassion and empathy.  I may or may not have teared up with Bing Bong sacrificed himself.

This weekend I opted out of the graduate conference Bread Loaf is putting on (very expertly from what I can tell) in favor of trying to loosen the fist of anxiety that is gripping my heart over the thought of producing two 20 paged papers in the next two weeks.  Focus focus focus.  Tomorrow I have a blog to produce for Ploughshares, and Monday I’m meeting with my professors to firm up plans for my final projects.

To all those who have sent me letters: thank you!  To those who haven’t but want to: note that you need an air mail sticker from the post office and that even with that expediting sticker, the letter will take 5-7 days to arrive, and my last day here is August 8!  After that, Mom and Dad and Jason arrive for an adventure in the north of England.

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Half-Way Through Bread Loaf Oxford Already

As I sit at my large desk with the windows thrown wide open to the sun, a peel of bell chimes echoes down through the quad.  I love the sound of the bells in Oxford–even if they can seem sort of endless on the weekends.  I enjoy taking my morning walk through Christ Church meadow and timing my progress by the tinny plink reverberating down the spires and into the grasses.  The walk usually takes me about 40-45 minutes start to finish.  I like to rise early here–something that’s easily done because the sun rises at 5:00AM.  I usually make myself a cup of lemon ginger tea sweetened with honey and sip it while I journal at my desk. I then dash off to the meadow to walk past the cows (yes, cows) down to Isis, which is what the river Thames is called in Oxford, then up the river Cherwell.  The path is gravelly and makes a pleasant crunching sound under my sneakers (“trainers” here).  The air is always cool at this time of morning (usually around 7/7:30), which I appreciate in the summertime.  The path and streets leading up to it are also mercifully clear of the usual throng of tourist groups that gawk and walk five abreast and stop suddenly, making it impossible to go three blocks in less than 20 minutes.  I could never live here or anywhere that has so many people on the streets.  It frustrates me to no end, which is why my morning walks are my favorite part of my day.  I get back just in time for breakfast (invariably including some delicious flakey French style pastry, British style bacon, and yogurt), and then follow up with some yoga in my room before getting ready for my day of reading, writing, and/or binge watching Call the Midwife as a mental break.

I spent the first part of the week in the Bodelian library researching women sonneteers.  I was stunned to note that there are in fact way more women publishing in the eighteenth century than I realized.  Stupid anthologies.  They include one or two token women poets from the periods before the 20th century, adding to the myth that women didn’t write anything of consequence until recently, when in fact, that is just not true.  The issue is simply that no one though to preserve their writings–or talk much about them in secondary classrooms.  I fell in love with Charlotte Smith’s sonnet sequences in particular, though there were many other such women writing in her time.  I was sobered to note that there were only three books of criticism dedicated to the subject of women’s sonnets in the Bodelian.  And all of them written by women scholars.

I also speed read a number of novels for my American Novel course, as well as reread some Walter Benjamin essays that I plan to use for my papers.  We had another high table dinner Tuesday, as well as some lectures I ended up not attending because of some migraines.

Wednesday, I met with the senior class president (I guess I’m supposedly some sort of Vice President?) to plan out graduation and senior activities, putting my planning skills to good use.

Thursday, we took a school wide field trip to Bath, about two hours southwest of Oxford.  Since I’ve visited Bath as a tourist once before, I opted out of touring the Roman Baths and the church and instead decided to, as they say, “take the waters” and bathe in heated mineral water in a newly refurbished spa called Thermae, which is just around the corner from the Roman Baths.  They had aromatherapy steam rooms (my favorite was the Lotus Flower one; the menthol eucalyptus one smelled like a sick ward) as well as couches to lounge on and herbal tea.  I ended up buying ridiculously expensive aromatherapy shower and bath oil that a therapist there swore would knock me out at night and help me relax.  Feeling slightly like a sucker, I tried it out, and wouldn’t you know, I have been sleeping better, though it could be because I switched back to showering at night before bed, which in itself is relaxing.  After soaking in the pools, I treated myself to a three course pre-theatre menu next to the Royal Theater, where we all had tickets to see She Stoops to Conquer, a surprisingly funny (if dated and sexist) play about mistaken identities and courtship in Restoration England.  I had the most amazing meal I’ve had in Britain to date, and all for only 19 pounds: mackerel on mixed greens, a vegetarian mix over mashed eggplant, and a chocolate brownie and praline for dessert.  I dined alone, which I actually really enjoyed after the relentlessly social meals I’ve had all week.

Friday I mapped out my final paper topics with my professor in an independent tutorial and took a long walk in the University Parks, which has many beautiful flowers in bloom and lovely shady trees dotting the path alongside a tiny little lake where adorable little ducks dive for weeds.  Last night I went out to dinner with some friends and we laughed and talked.  Today I need to buckle down after I post this and get going on my final papers so I can actually graduate!

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 850 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 14 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

Amazing blog that makes me wish I could go back to my time teaching high school, too…

Granted, and...

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

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Silence as poetry, poetry on silence

I get asked a lot why I’m attempting to write a book on silence, met with blank stares and puzzled brows, skeptical tones.

The short answer for me is that I hear silence as a form of communication that can be more powerful than a fumbled word.  In poetry, we are striving to set down what is ineffable or unknowable about the universe.  Call it God, call it transcendence, call it what you will.  Poets attempt to nail the moon down fast, as Wallace Stevens writes in a poem “This Solitude of Cataracts,” though we know such a task is impossible.  We write to communicate, though we know words are not enough, though they may tangentially graze some meaning that their black and white markers may inspire to bloom up in its reader.  

In literature and rhetoric studies, silence has for too long been connoted as passivity, absence, obedience, or erasure—when in reality, silence can, under the right circumstance, also be a place of strength, creativity, and communication with some of life’s most difficulty ineffable subject matters.   This is especially true in poetry, where white space reigns over line breaks and produces a meaning all its own as it enacts pauses on the page.   Silence has come to figure prominently in many pedagogical essays on craft that poets themselves write about their creative process. In an essay “Arts of the Possible,” for example, poet Adrienne Rich expands on the notion that silence does not always connote passivity or denial of a subaltern—in fact, quite contrarily, such “invisible holes in reality” that poetry makes its way—certainly for women and other marginalized subjects and for disempowered and colonized peoples generally—but ultimately for all who practice any art at its deeper levels.” She states that silence “is not always or necessarily a denial or extinguishing of some reality” (Rich, Arts 324). Rich elevates the unsaid and the unknown, stating “the matrix of a poet’s work consists not only what is there to be absorbed and worked-on, but also of what is missing, desaparecido, rendered unspeakable, and thus, unthinkable” (Rich, Arts 324). She insists on “the necessity to go on speaking of it [subjugation of women]…speaking where silence has been advised and enforced,” (Rich, Arts 67), but she also acknowledges, like many feminist rhetoricians, the many different kinds of silence that exist. “Every real poem is the breaking of an existing silence,” Rich remarks, “and the first question we might ask any poem is, What kind of voice is breaking silence, and what kind of silence is being broken” (150). Depending upon the context, silence can be empowering or censoring, depending on who is allowed to speak and who chooses to listen. There is both danger and opportunity inherent in spaces of silence. In order to know what those dangers and opportunities are, we must, as Rich does, first ask ourselves about the context of the silence we are entering. Such questions can then lead us to better understand how we value silence as culture and what that value, or lack thereof, says about whether we value productive communication and understanding in poetry.

As Tracy K. Smith writes in her poem, “The Soul,” silence is a “door / punched through with light.” It is an entryway. Her use of the word punched connotes a sense of the danger and opportunity. “Punched” is a word with violent connotations, whereas door and light give a sense of illuminated possibility. Curiously, silence is put forth not just as a rhetorical stance, but as a place. Silence is, I therefore argue, an ecotone: a place of transition between two ecosystems, rife with both danger and opportunity. Ultimately, through the course of my project, with both creative and academic components, I seek to answer the critical question: how does writing about silence as place help us better understand the dangers and opportunities inherent in all types of communication, but especially those at work in poetry?

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This video helps visualize the power I see/hear in white space on the page, in pauses in conversations, in the moment in classrooms where we all, student and teacher alike, let the power of what has just been unearthed from our selves mist up into the air, then settle down like snowflakes as we absorb it back, somehow familiar and new all at once.

 http://vimeo.com/42871373

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All of the last post to say…

…basically what Mary Oliver said in “Wild Geese”:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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