A saying borrowed from Tommy Conley. After two very long years, I have finally obtained an MFA from Bennington College.
My lecture on the 21st century American sonnet went well, thanks to all who offered advice and pointed me in the right direction (M.J. Iuppa, Lorrie Divers, Donna Marbach, John Roche, Jules Nyquist and many, many others to whom I am forever grateful). Henri Cole and April Bernard asked some tough questions but, surprisingly enough, Spencer Reece (a delightful new faculty member at the Writing Seminars) did not ask one--a huge relief since he was well-acquainted with sonneteer James Merrill. I wish Mr. Reece well in the writing of his own sonnets.
Some of the highlights of this last residency include a marvelous lecture by Louise Beach on the personas created by poet Fernando Pessoa. At the end of her lecture, Louise employed three of her own personas to reinforce her point: a farmer played by poet/instructor/editor Ed Ochester, a very naughty girl played to perfection by Celeste Guzman Mendoza, and a moody high schooler played by me. Talk about a memorable lecture!
Classmate Kendra Tanacea gave an insightful lecture on the poetry of Ruth Stone. Bennington Writing Seminars Director Liam Rector had a strong reaction to Ms. Stone's poetry, especially in her treatment of men. Kendra handled the matter with grace and tact and, a few days later, tote bags sporting a photo of Ms. Stone with the slogan "Real men read Ruth Stone" appeared around campus.
The "brass balls" originated by Leslie McGrath became "brass breasts" in honor of Ms. Stone. Celeste Guzman Mendoza presented the first Ruth Stone award to Cheryl Tucker (June 2007). Don't worry, gentlemen. The brass breasts may be easily reconverted to brass balls, if necessary.
Other graduating poets' lectures included Jules Nyquist on the sestina, Elisabeth Farrell on the trickster in the poetry of Charles Simic, and Celeste Guzman Mendoza on the art of the literary interview. Our fiction and non-fiction classmates did us proud as well.
Sadly, Susan Howard Case could not graduate with us. We all missed her very much and as many of us as are able will try to be there to see her and several other former classmates being awarded their hoods and diplomas in June.
As if to make the point that leaving Bennington is not easy, a mouse chewed through the air filter and began to nest in the air flow line of my car, keeping my friend Lorrie Divers and me in VT one extra day. So much the better; we got to visit the Blue Benn one more time.
Thanks to David Dodd for his sage suggestions for my graduate reading.
Thanks to all the poets, writers, friends, family, dogs, cats and other beings for their support during this quest. That is what this experience was for me, a quest, though I'm still not certain just what I am searching for. I suspect I'll be on the cusp of finding it a minute or so before I die.