A Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

Tonight I went to a reading called 4×4 ?, featuring four graduate students, one each from CU, DU, CSU, and Naropa. The readers were:

  • CSU: Matt Goering
  • DU: Paul Grandbois
  • CU: Jennifer Greene
  • Naropa: Zulema Inai

I’ve been pleasantly overwhelmed with how much I’m learning here at Naropa. That’s the thing about learning. I knew when I applied that I would learn something, but since I haven’t learned it yet I have no idea what that something is.

I imagine a treasure box. I know there is treasure inside, but until the chest is open I can’t really appreciate what the treasure is. Now that I am here and the treasure chest is opening I am filled with joy and gratitude.

When my teacher/mentor James Baker Hall talked to me about going to Naropa he said I was lucky that someone was going to teach me the basic tools of writing: characterization, POV, sequencing, etc. He was right. The teaching I am recieving here is a gift. I am grateful.

But there was a part of me that wondered is this all really helping me become a better writer?

Tonight when I heard Zulema Inai read my esteem for Naropa’s education was confirmed.

Brilliant! Awesome! Amazing!

Uhm, I really liked her stuff. She read three pieces. The first was about the latin custom of greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek. Very beautiful piece which reminded me of my partner and her family. She conjured images so vividly, while keeping the piece broad and general.

The second piece is the one that floored me. I wanted to cheer. I’m not sure if I can describe it adequately. There were thousands of dead chickens and people working to clear them out. Why? To earn enough money to ransom their loved one who had been smuggled across the Mexican-US border and was being held captive in a hotel room with tens of other prisoners. It was gruesome and touching, the kind of thing that makes you want to turn away, then makes you very glad you stayed with it.

The third piece was very mysterious, Kafka-esque. All three pieces were different and powerful in their own ways. I am glad to be going to this school. If she has been here three semesters and is writing like thatthen I know I’m in the right place.

I also got some encouraging email today from Jason Pettus. Jason is a writer, blogger, and Chicago art promoter. I’ve been reading his web writings for several years. A few years ago I emailed him a collection of short stories I’d written to get his opinion. He was supportive and encouraged me to do something with them. I emailed him and let him know I used those stories to get into Naropa.

In his email back he says:

congrats on the manuscript getting your foot in the door at grad school! That’s something a lot of other writers never accomplish, so that unto itself is pretty impressive.

Thanks Jason. It’s a nice reminder that I have taken a few steps since I wrote my first short story seven or so years ago. And even more steps from seventeen years ago when I dropped out of high school to be a poet.

It’s not that I’m walking a path with a specific goal, but it’s nice to be reminded that I am moving.

Movin on up

To the east side.

Finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin’
Just to get up that hill.

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