Friday, February 25, 2011

How do you get out of a post grad slump? A dose of Webb and Koertge twice before bedtime.

Last night, nearly nine months after graduating with my MFA in Poetry, I returned to my alma mater, Cal State Long Beach, and attended my first poetry reading since graduating. It was a long time to go with no poetry in my life, but I knew if I wanted to get inspired, this was the reading to attend: the HIP Poetics hosted reading featuring two Southern California greats Ron Koertge and Charles Harper Webb. Each time I see them read, I am reminded why they have successful careers, dozens of books between them, and a slue of admirers nation-wide – they are creatively brilliant and have imaginations that dwarf my own to the size of a microscopic bacteria.

The vision of Webb and Koertge show us that creativity is found in so many crevices of life, even “The Three Stooges,” “Superman,” and classic fairy tales of trolls and billy-goats Gruff. Humor and enjoyment can be extracted from anything and turned into a poem that reaches beyond surface laughter. Webb and Koertge’s poems transport us into another realm of depth, sarcasm, religion, and mysticism where dark truths can be unexpectedly found in the act of moving, Vikings, and Lois Lane’s Diary and all the while, I chuckle along.

During the reading, Webb addressed a question he had been asked earlier in the evening: What makes writing fun? His answer wasn’t an idea I had forgotten entirely, he had taught it to me when I first began seriously writing, but it had seemed to have sunken down into the moldy corners of my brain. To paraphrase, he said the fun is in discovering something new, something that you weren’t expecting- a combination of words, language, and sounds that surprise you.

For a writer trying to re-find her mojo, her muse, her Duende, no words could mean more and as I write this, I find myself rediscovering the pure enjoyment of getting thoughts and words down onto paper, however ineloquent they may be. How could I have forgotten the feeling of something I preach to my composition students everyday- writing is fun. Discovering a recipe of words and syllabics that make my tongue work, the waft of language in the air that makes the ear yearn to hear more is as gratifying as finding the mythic comfortable strapless bra (all of the ladies reading this are agreeing with me right now; it’s a myth).

So if writing is so great, how do we get ourselves into this post grad slump?

After the reading, I got to chatting with a fellow Long Beach MFA grad, Eric Morago, (who recently published his debut collection What We Ache For- Go Buy It!), and he told me that I should get back onto the proverbial writing horse, bring back Formaldehyde, attend a reading at least once a month, something. I told him I doubted anyone would care about the rantings of a frustrated writer, but he encouraged me that I am not alone, that there are numbers of us out there trying to balance everyday life with the act of writing outside of mandated workshop deadlines. So in the midst of paying back student loans and maintaining the multiple jobs it takes to do so, I ask you, how do you get out of a post-grad slump? Advice encouraged.


  1. I'd say you (or rather Webb) already touched on what my advice would be to those who've fallen off the wagon with their writing...

    Try to remember what it was about writing that you fell in love with. If need be pick up your favorite poet's book and reread it from start to finish. Make a trip to see your favorite poet read. Spend hours watching Youtube clips. Go out, get inspired, and remember how that spark felt back when you regularly immersed yourself in kerosene.

    And DON'T talk yourself out of sitting down and writing. Yes, there are bills to pay. Yes, there are lesson plans to write. Yes, there's dinner with the husband or the lunches you have to prepare for the kids. Yes, there's this or there's that. But there's time that is still yours to spend as you want it. The question you have to ask yourself is, are YOU a WRITER or just someone who thinks about being one. The real writers know how to make time, and how to not focus on what is keeping them FROM writing, but rather what is keeping them still writing.

    I realize I may come off sounding all "tough love," but I believe writing--like anything else--requires tremendous discipline. They don't teach discipline in grad programs--they teach deadlines. You've got to dig deep into your own heart for it in the real world. But, I believe it is there in everyone of us to have...

    The question remains, as it always will: Do you want it enough?

  2. I think it simply comes down to how bad you want "it." And also determining what your "it" is.