Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I finished undergrad!

By Laura

On Sunday I graduated from the University of Rhode Island with my BA in English. Yay! So I wanted to write a post about how my undergrad career has led up to the decision to go to an MFA program.

My first couple years of college, I really had no idea what I would do when I graduated. I loved my major, loved working hard in my classes, but whenever I thought about the future... panic! It didn't help that I was bombarded from every angle with the English Major Question that I'm sure many of you are familiar with: "What are you going to do with that?" (Said with that certain disdainful tone, as though English were the most impractical thing ever to major in and I might as well get a degree in making daisy-chains, for all the good it would do me in the "real world.") I knew that writing was my favorite thing to do, along with reading everything I could get my hands on, but didn't know if it would be possible for me to pursue writing as a real career.

Then, in my junior year, I took a poetry workshop. Right from the first day of class, I was smitten. I had an amazing professor (Peter Covino), whose book was the first book of poetry I ever bought (and loved). I'd been writing poetry since high school (as a teenager I would scribble sestinas on the back of my math homework during class), but that poetry workshop really taught me to take poetry seriously as something I could do, to believe in the integrity of the work. I'll always be grateful to Peter for that. I took another poetry class with him the second semester that year, and he encouraged me to apply to MFA programs. Once I found out what an MFA program entailed, it pretty much sounded like the best thing ever and I decided that was what I had to do! I decided to go for the MFA because of all the opportunities it will open up -- meeting and working with more amazing mentors, being part of a close community of writers, teaching (hopefully!!), just immersing myself in the whole experience of starting out as a writer. I know the MFA itself doesn't guarantee me success as a writer, but I know it will be a great experience.

This past year, I continued to write poetry, taking two excellent poetry classes with Talvikki Ansel (another wonderful poet & professor at URI), in which I was further encouraged to move my work out of my comfort zone and try new things. I also discovered nonfiction by taking a workshop with Mary Cappello last fall. I loved exploring and practicing the strange and indefinable genre that is creative nonfiction. I was so happy that I was able, in my second semester senior year, to take Prof. Cappello's graduate seminar in experimental nonfiction while still an undergrad, which was an amazing learning experience and which moved my writing in more unexpected and daring directions.

I feel very fortunate to have had such a wonderful experience as an undergrad, and to have found so many incredible creative writing mentors already. I'm looking forward to grad school so much -- all the new things I will learn, the as-yet-unknown directions that my writing will move toward, the professors and students with whom I will get to work closely -- but I'll also never stop being grateful to those at my undergrad school who have helped me so much! Because of the excellent professors with whom I worked at URI, I've been inspired to devote myself to my writing, believe in it, take risks and stretch it in new directions. I know it's only the beginning and I've still got the MFA and (probably) PhD to go, but I hope that someday I can inspire and encourage students in the same way my professors have inspired and encouraged me!


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