Last night I gave a reading at Southern Illinois University. It was a strange event with lots of sleeping undergrads, and one in particular (who I got to sit next to while the other reader read) who was taking notes under the heading "Poetry Reading - 4/17" - though neither I nor the other reader read poetry - I imagine to write up a report for the professor who made him come because he's not doing all that well, but who didn't come his/herself - more on that later. It was really funny to read over his shoulder (I even took a clandestine photo while my friend was reading). "Ambulance drivers." "Old man in apartment" "Hot." "Bugs." "No dead body." "Fish." I can only imagine his list while I was reading: "Fuck." "Dentist." "Hurricane." "She said Fuck again." I'd love to be a fly on the wall when this kid's prof reads his report on "What I Saw At the Poetry Reading on 4/17." Tee hee.
I was rather disappointed, though, with the amount of support that the actual MFA program showed for us, who had driven several hundred miles (my trip was a "three hour tour" that turned into a five-hour odyssey, but that's another store altogether) to read on a Friday night - yeah it was Friday for us too! I mean, there were about five students from the program and, to my knowledge ZERO faculty or staff from the Crab Orchard Review (a great lit journal, with a really crappy web presence , if you can call that "a presence" at all).
We grouse a lot, in our program, about the lack of "school spirit" (for lack of a better term) that we can sometimes display. And I guess it's to be expected because, after all, it is graduate school, and we're, most or at least some of us, grown ups with lives outside of school. But, it seems to me that one of the things that one goes to school for, particularly graduate school, is to become a part of a culture, in my case, a literary culture. If we don't do that, then there is a bit of a short-change, it seems to me. I've learned more, truly, from being amongst writers, than I have from sitting in classes with them. We talk about writing, we talk about the books we're reading and why we're reading them, we encourage each other and hold each other accountable for production and excellence. So, all that said, I thought it was kind of sad that there weren't more people (especially that one faculty member who wasn't even aware that there was a reading going on at all!) that came out to support this shared endeavor.
Yada yada yada.