Indira Ganesan gave the MFA lecture on Monday of the second week. It wasn’t so much a lecture as an interrupted reading. She began by saying she had found an unfinished manuscript of hers while she was moving. It was a novel, she said, that she began before coming to Boulder a few years ago and had not worked on it since. But finding the text had reignited her interest in it.
Without further introduction Indira began to read. From what I recall, it was the story of a young woman in the city. The woman was a writer and Indian. Probably much of it was autobiographical. I particularly remember the image of riding the Staton Island Ferry, with men “opening and closing their legs like butterfly wings”.
Indira interrupted herself several times. She skipped around the text, flipped several pages until she came to a passage that captured her attention, then she read more.
She apologized once and said what she was doing was “incredibly self-indulgent”. And that may be true, but it was also incredibly generous. She allowed us to see a writer engaging with her own text creatively and unguardedly. This is not something most of us every have the chance to witness, except with ourselves.
When it came time for audience questions, Akilah Oliver went to the mic and pointed out the difference between a poet who is concerned with the line and what Indira had said about being concerned with the “character”.
As a fiction writer I am concerned with the character and with the story. Language is my tool but what I am creating is a world. The emphasis on poetry (which sometimes calls itself “prose”) at Naropa and especially at the Summer Writing Program can be frustrating as a fiction writer.
Not that poetry isn’t wonderful; it is. And not that the particular types of poetry taught at Naropa Boulder aren’t valuable, interesting, and worthy pursuits. But the bias seems to discount what we do as fiction writers. Which is especially frustrating when the discussion wants to focus on revolutionary art, because I believe our best hope for meaningful change in the world lies with our fictions and our stories.