GRADUATE SCHOOL ONE YEAR OUT: putting away my folders
Let me begin by saying this is not my first rodeo: I have another graduate degree. I recall taking a wonderful visiting artist out to lunch mid-way through that earlier degree. He clearly said to me that it took him a good two years to recover from graduate school. Two years!! It seemed like sheer lunacy to me at the time; what was he talking about, what did he mean “recover,” I was doing just fine. Of course, the naiveté of the uninitiated reveals itself in retrospect. I now joke that it took me about ten years to recover. Add a few more years, and it was time for me to go back to school.
It might come as no surprise, then, that I told the announcer before I read in a local reading series this March that I had just graduated, in January. By the end of the evening, however, after ebullient congratulations on my newly minted degree, I was alerted by a companion to the fact that actually no, it wasn’t this January I had graduated, it was last January, over a year ago now. Over a year! Perhaps I truly am time challenged. In part that slip-up must come from a reluctance to let go of the intensity and the transformative qualities of that experience; a desire to hold onto that precious time when a community holds your creativity warmly in its hands and you feel “real”. Velveteen Rabbit real. But in graduate school you become a real writer, a real artist, not because anyone tells you this or a magic fairy grants you your livelihood, but because you decide you are. Because you decide for the love of it, and you do the work of it.
Before going back to school for writing, I harbored a large filing cabinet full of unpublished material. Going back to school for me signified an opportunity to crack that seal, open those files, to stop “writing in silence,” and to get my work out into the world. And so, after graduating, I left my stacks of books and files just as they were – spread about my studio, tumbling in disarray, catching dust and yet still managing to look in media res, ready for instant use, implying a certain badge of realness. I abhorred the thought of putting the equivalent of a new filing cabinet’s worth of materials away in metal drawers: it seemed to mark time too harshly, and unfortunately so. Would the writing disappear again behind that metal hum of order? What if I went to school for naught?
Now more than a year out, I am putting away my stacks of papers and folders. I’m happy to say I’ve published a thing or two, here and there; I’ve taught a workshop and read in a few local venues. But more importantly, I’ve sent out hundreds of poems, and I’ve pulled together a manuscript and a chapbook of new poems and I’m sending them out too. I’ve created a small writer’s group and stayed connected to my grad school community; I’ve read new poets and written a few reviews. And of course, this is the work of it. This is the “real writer” I was hoping to become – no not yet with a published book in hand, no rocket ship of fame for me, not yet. But I’m ok with that. I can put the folders away because I’ve kept working. There is so much still to come, and now I know it.
Julie Poitras Santos, Class of Winter 2014
If anyone else in the community has a similar vignette they would like to share of their post-Residency life, please contact the Stonecoast MFA Alumni Page on Facebook or email me at trevor [dot] gulley [at] gmail.com. -Trevor