Today we had a "mentoring" meeting at my university -- my good friend Mary Ann and I put on an event for MFAers who were curious about creating their critical introduction to their creative thesis. And it got me to thinking about the process of writing my own critical intro! Remember, that was two years ago now! It's amazing how time flies. It was an incredibly challenging experience for me, but it helped me figure out who I was as a writer and who I wanted to be. I think it was the most educational part of my experience as an MFA student. My committee was awesomely helpful. But I was thinking today, how did I even get started???
Anyway, it all started in a workshop one evening at a workshop session. I think we were at that weird coffee shop/sushi bar/car wash place near the university. The group was discussing my poem, and one of the students, Isaac, said something super profound and life changing -- “all you ever write about is sex.” :-P
And what's worse, the professor agreed with him. Boy did I feel embarrassed or what? Mostly because it was true, but it hit a nerve. Is that how people are reading my work????
That got me thinking, thinking, thinking. I blogged about it. I complained about it. And then, after it bugging me for a good long while, I decided to embrace it. Yes. I write about sex y que?
And actually, this ended up leading me to some interesting and theoretical ideas. I had to ask myself why I wrote about sex, and I realized there was so much more at stake in my writing than just sexiness – it was about gender, feminism, culture, identity, sensuality.
This led me on a search. If I was going to be sexy in my writing, I better be sexy-smart. I thought about other writers who wrote about similar topics, and examined how critics viewed/responded to their work. At first, my idols were Plath and Sexton, but then I knew that I was doing something different, too, and this lead me to more questions.
I had taken a feminist theory course as an undergrad, and so that was a good place for me to start. I revisited my Foucault, my Butler, and my Anzaldua. I thought about other poets that I liked, such as Alicia Ostriker, Julia Alvarez, Molly Peacock, Annie Finch and had to find the common thread between all of this. And little by little, I started figuring out WHY I wrote about what I wrote about, and even WHY I wrote the way I did (that whole content/form dichotomy).
Once I figured it all out, with a few hiccups, that awkward portion of my thesis came together. My mentor recently reminded me that it went through a number of drafts and maybe wasn't quite as seamless as I remember it (he's probably right), but regardless, I got through it with relatively few tears, and a huge amount of knowledge to work with, looking forward to my post-MFA writing life (which, of course, has been amazingly rewarding).
So it wasn't so bad. I understand why all of the newbies are all anxiety about it -- situating yourself in discourse is TOUGH work. You have to know yourself. You have to know the literary landscape. You have to negociate that landscape, own up to your place. It takes a little pride, a little leaping, and maybe a little b.s too. But it's all good. I survived and I'm a much more thoughtful, reflective, and purposeful writer for it.
Anyway, stay tuned for updates about my upcoming visit to UTB and South Padre Island next week! The following week I'll be in Fort Worth at TCU. Things are heating up again for Poet Katie, and of course, I wouldn't want to have it any other way.