I don’t know what regular grad school is like. Probably normal grad students don’t get to talk to some of their favorite authors about theoretical torrid passion between crabs while watching said crabs scuttle under the water or hang out with them over gelato while wearing pajamas during their grad programs.
The experience was weird and frankly kind of hard to write about. Not because it was bad– it was amazing– but because it all seemed to happen at once.
Theodora Goss, queen of fairy tale poetry (among other things), complimented my poetry. (And told me I looked like a goddess. But everyone was drinking by that point and it was like 100 degrees. She may have been hallucinating due to heatstroke.) Jim Kelly spent over an hour talking to me about writing while we shoveled gelato into our faces. Nancy Holder (who wrote a great deal of the Buffy novels as well as the novelization of the new Ghostbusters movie) danced in the middle of a circle of us to the Ghostbusters theme song while we all “danced” (it was flailing, really) and pointed at her and screamed “WHO YOU GONNA CALL” along with the song. David Anthony Durham kissed the top of my head. I got to spend a week with Jeanne Marie Beaumont, talking about poetry, including MINE, and she’s now my mentor for the semester. I got to tell Martin Espada that he sounds like Christopher Lee when he reads aloud.
I made friends. I had a really intense (and embarrassingly public) panic attack. I read incredible poetry. I WROTE (possibly really good, I don’t know yet) poetry. I was brave. I talked a lot. (Too much, probably, but those of you who know me are pretty aware that when I’m anxious, I either get completely quiet or babble nonstop. I picked babbling because that seemed more productive for making friends. I think it worked. Maybe next residency I won’t have to do either of those things. Maybe I won’t be anxious. Or at least, not super anxious.) I talked to some of my favorite writers in the world. I discovered new favorite writers. I walked a lot. (Also too much. My knee is mighty angry with me right now.) I slept on a really uncomfortable bed and got a lot of bug bites. I watched my first Stonecoast friend graduate. I cried when Martin (I can’t figure out how to put the accent over the “i” on here, but you should be pronouncing that as “Mar-teen” in your heads, okay?) Espada spoke at said graduation because what he said was so profound and so resonant. I got my first choice for semester mentor and actually wept with glee and gratitude. I discovered how much I don’t know about the poetic aspect of my craft and am stupidly excited to learn those things. I’m excited to be in school for the first time since I was home schooled as a child. I sang karaoke (very badly) with strangers who became my friends. I ate really gross food. I ate really good food. I hung out with heroes of mine and was not disappointed.
I’m a little afraid of the future; I’m guessing most people are. Our country (and our world) is in a bad way, and it’s scary. But I’m also so, so incredibly excited. I know it’s going to be hard, but I think it’ll be hard in the good way. I am profoundly grateful for this experience and this opportunity, and I feel like I’m tumbling over myself wildly, like when a wave knocks you over and drags you under, but in a really, really good way. I feel like I’m being moved toward who I want to be, I guess. Like I’m beginning to become.
And it’s awesome.