Getting to the crux

While Memphis’s art scene still needs to grow, we artists are blessed with the option to work away from home. From pottery to painting to poetry, Art Factory provides artists of many different mediums with affordable studios.

Having a dog and a cat makes writing at home a nightmare. My Siamese cat whines at all hours and my dog’s greatest joy is to antagonize the cat as much as possible to get her siren raring again. I love silence. I work best in silence.

So, when I learned about the studios, I went in with a fellow MFA-er and rented one from March 2011-March 2012. We split the space, 2 writing desks, and we generally never find ourselves there at the same time, so it’s been a blessing.

The best part of having a writer’s studio is that I know that it’s there, that there is a happy oasis not far from where I live where I can be experience delicious, uninterrupted stillness.

The worst part of having a writer’s studio is feeling terribly ashamed when I don’t get my money’s worth out of it every month, like seeing those gym dues deducted from your checking account every month when you can’t even remember the last time you went. I had lofty plans of spending all of July 2011 in my studio diligently hammering out the thesis I have due in less than 3 months. Fell to the wayside completely. I think I maybe went once in the entire month.

Today, though, I’m trying to turn a new leaf. I brought several folders along. One, a collection of the core poems I’m thinking I’ll be using in my thesis. A good 20 pages. Another, a collection of poems I intend to revise to add to that core group, plus workshop comments for each of those poems. The last one holds a collection of all of the drafts of poems I’ve written in the last 3 years plus comments from my workshop group .

My workspace is currently color-coded (manilla-core group; red-going to be in the core group; yellow-other drafts of poems) and looking rather organized.

Currently, I can organize those 20 potential core poems into 2 categories:

magic realism- many of them follow a “dark farm” theme, while others are odd fantastic narratives. All have some sort of loss.

relationship/family poems- many of these focus around some sort of inverted familial relationship–lack of connection, pain, invasion, etc.

What I’m attracted to in the magic realism poems is the sense of story, how relationships build and get destroyed through moments of violence (be it, emotional or physical).

The family poems have the same sort of violence and brutality which really links them to the other poems, but some of them lack the same intensity I get from the magic realism poems.

It’s definitely a weird mix. I find myself reflecting back on these and remembering the moments that triggered many of them. Some of these will definitely stick until the end, others will probably be taken out to accommodate poems that better fit whatever vision comes out of all of these.

What was your process in drafting your thesis and organizing it? What did it look like visually? How did you pull everything together?

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