Tag Archives: MA in Creative Writing

Artistic community and collaboration: Joy Sullivan, Artist-in-Residence at the Wexner

Miami MA alum Joy Sullivan is the 2015 Artist-in-Residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH. She shares her experience:

In 2012, I attended Miami University’s MA program in Creative Writing and spent two years growing into the identity of “poet.” This year, at age twenty-nine, I inhabited the role of artist-in-residence for the Wexner Center Pages Program and found poetry to be just as expansive as I always hoped it would be in the world outside of a graduate program.

The Wexner Center Pages Program is a multidisciplinary program that fosters creativity, arts-integration and writing projects inside the classroom. Foremost, it is a unique collaboration between the Wexner Center, local high schools, and teaching-artists. As the 2015 artist-in-residence for Pages, I had the pleasure of visiting high schools and helping students cultivate interest, craft responses, and engage in vibrant conversation surrounding art.

One of the highlights of my experience was working with Pages students on collaborative poetry. This exercise was originally inspired by an activity done in one of my graduate workshops at Miami. I asked students to view a similar object and then together build a poem, line by line. I often asked students to generate questions in this process. Then, we listened to the conversation that was being built as we circled the room offering our responses. I loved watching the sense of ownership and authorship bloom as students took time to ask, listen, answer, and then ask better. The investment students felt in this communal experience became palpable.

Through these activities, I’ve witnessed a change come over each classroom’s attitude towards the experience of poetry. It became meaningful, exciting, and relevant to their shared experience. Asia, a student from Westerville North, said, “This feels just like an awesome mash-up between Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. We’re good at this.” Another student undid me with herunspecified-7 gorgeous line, “I have no simplicity.” Time and time again, through Pages, I watched words win. This experience showed me how deeply essential arts-integration, creative writing, and personal expression remain in education and in the lives of our young people. Simply put, my work this year has been transformative, hearty, life-giving.

I believe in the spirit of Pages and how much I feel revitalized by my experience. How I know it will shape and propel me towards seeking points of entry in my future endeavors that are risky, beautiful, unexpected. Arts-integration is good work. Moreover, it is necessary. For all of us.

 

You can visit pages at http://www.wexarts.org or find their blog here.

How Joseph-Beth’s and Jonathan Franzen Made Books Personal Again

On Tuesday, January 26, 2009, a friend and I drove over an hour round trip in the Columbus snow, spinning out twice, to buy Franz Ferdinand’s third album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, at a record store on its release date.

I am positive such an odyssey will never happen again.K04116 Fall am tues

Amazon and iTunes were long established and have grown since. To defrost an automobile rather than double-click a “place order” button seems preposterous now, as does my four-star review of the album for my undergraduate student newspaper. (A new wave throwback album in 2009? Please. Three stars, at most.)

However, the spirit of that trip, of wanting to make the release of art something to be celebrated, shared, an event, is what compelled me and Justin Chandler, fellow MA in fiction here at Miami U., to a bookstore to buy work from a different “Franz”—Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity.

When I asked our current workshop instructor, Dr. Joseph Bates, author of Tomorrowland and The Nighttime Novelist, if he could refer us to any hip bookstores in the Cincinnati area, he recommended Joseph-Beth Booksellers. The establishment is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Past Miami students have interned with the bookstore; conversely, Joseph-Beth employees have been guest speakers for Dr. Bates’s classes. Justin and I saw no reason why we shouldn’t further the Miami/Joseph-Beth relationship.

Remembering my snow-filled album excursion, I suggested we wait until the weekend (and check the weather). We departed on a sunny Sunday afternoon, not a week after Franzen’s novel had been released. During the hour-long car ride, we learned we were both first-generation college students. We waxed past Franzen novels as well as his themes of familial conflict and multinational connection. The discussion proved a solid refresher for the similarly themed Purity.

Joseph-Beth’s reminded me of a Barnes & Noble sans the sterility. Instead of a Starbucks, there was Brontë Bistro. The genres were numerous but weren’t laid out in a boring big box. Rather, some were upstairs, others in an alcove to the side of the entrance, a design which made textual perusal more an adventure.

Not that we had to look far. Franzen’s work was front and center for his release week. We searched through the stacks of Purity and found two autographed (!) copies, both priced the same as non-autographed ones.

After our purchase, we read. Then we discussed what we read, something which I haven’t done outside of a lit seminar in a long time. The camaraderie, the conversation, the change of scenery—all refreshing.

In Franzen’s commencement address to the class of 2011 at Kenyon College, he dissuades technophilia, positing “[w]hen you stay in your room and rage or sneer or shrug your shoulders, as I did for many years, the world and its problems are impossibly daunting. But when you go out and put yourself in real relation to real people, or even just real animals, there’s a very real danger that you might love some of them. And who knows what might happen to you then?” Whereas the acquisition of books, whether from a bookstore or library, plus the discussion of them in book clubs, was once a way to leave the room, devices such as the Kindle have made human interaction a seemingly unnecessary prerequisite to getting this week’s best seller. One can argue literature’s lesson is to teach us empathy; what happens, though, when we have no one with which to practice that lesson?

Christopher Maggio
Miami University MA student

Miami Alumni Return for National Poetry Day

Sitting in the audience of the Alumni Poets Reading this past Thursday evening, I had the honor of listening to two very different poets read their original works. Listening to a poet read their own work is a wonderful way to begin to understand their writing – the movement is particular, and the exquisiteness of images, metaphors, and chosen words is communicated best by their creator.

The first alum to read w10-8 Hardyas Lesley Hardy, reading from her first book of poetry, Dreaming of Zeus. Hardy completed her undergraduate studies at Miami and went on to live in Tokyo for several years where she taught English and consulted for senior management in a large Japanese communications group company and in a Swiss luxury brand operating in Tokyo. Her past with
writing has been extensive and vast in range. She has written scripts, historical fiction, and short stories, some set in a university town in Ohio during various decades of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Dreaming of Zeus was published by Isobar Press, a Japanese press that specializes in English writing.

The first poems Hardy read were set in present day Ohio, but as her mythological title implies, the poems progressed into poems of Greek myth. She recites a poem that tells the story of Persephone, and another about her in a different light. Hardy’s choice of words was emphasized by her raspy voice; the combination is what made her poetry come to life. Hardy is a petite woman, but when she recited her poems her presence took up the entire room and captivated her audience.

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copyright Tasha Golden

The second poet was Tasha Golden, another alum who did her graduate work at Miami. She is more commonly recognized as the front woman and songwriter for the critically acclaimed band Ellery. Their songs have been heard in several movies and TV shows such as No Strings Attached and The Lying Game. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Louisville where she researches the impact of the arts on stigmatized issues and leads creative writing workshops for incarcerated female teens – this alum does it all and more.

Golden read from her new and first book of poetry, Once You Had Hands which explores violence and sexuality in both intimate relationships and religion. Her poetry was whimsical in nature, but dealt with such harsh subject matter that the juxtaposition of the two opposites made for a great reading. Golden also had a very distinct voice; when talking before reciting her poems she was spunky and extroverted, bright-eyed and engaging the crowd. But when reading, she became quiet spoke in a tone filled with deep emotion. The most impactful moment was when Golden read a poem about dealing with her feelings towards God and then left a pause of stillness before going into another emotional poem. By pausing and going into another poem without stopping to speak or explain, her poetry spoke for itself and was so much louder and clearer than anything Golden could have said instead.

Maggie Ark
Professional Writing ’16