Knowing Where You’re Headed

Snow covered road and evergreen trees

“The most beautiful part of your body / is where it’s headed.” – Ocean Vuong, “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong

One of my goals for this year was to apply to graduate schools. I’ve long considered going to back to school for a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I thought it would help me improve my craft, give me time to write, put me in touch with others in the writing community, among other things. There were a few obstacles in my way, but I was working on them. I took college classes to improve my undergraduate GPA. I produced a body of work for my portfolio. I narrowed down my program choices, then narrowed them further.

Finally, last December, DH and I sat down and review the numbers.

A budget is that magical place where dreams either hit the pavement running, or just hit the pavement. Because even at a low-residency program where I keep my day job, we were looking at a cost of $60,000. That is just not feasible, given our current financial situation.

It’s a disappointing reality to have to choose between things like “having a kid” and “buying our first house” in the next five years and furthering your education in pursuit of a dream. But ultimately, education can be postponed, whereas other goals have stricter timelines.

But these kinds of moments can have a clarifying impact, as well. It cuts away the coal to reveal the diamond truth beneath: My dream is not to get an MFA. My dream, in its clearest expression, is to have a career publishing my work. The only thing that requires is hard work, some luck, and a lot of writing. I can manage that on my own.

Where Instagram & Poetry Meet

ee cummings poetry quote

I recently joined Instagram. I joined for no special reason, though I can see the circumstances leading it up to it clearer with some distance. Firstly, it was on the tail of my sister starting her small business in fiber arts and aromatherapy. I’ve also been involved in community outreach at work, which has incorporated social media. And a number of the student employees that I work with are active on a variety of social media platforms.

quote from persephone rebornSo I joined with little ambition. I’m not a very good photographer. I don’t like sharing photos of myself, friends, or family with the world. But I did find something I like doing…

I started using my (limited) graphic design skills to highlight some of my poetry. When I ran out of my own poetry, I found other people’s poetry to use–like Ocean Vuong, and William Carlos Williams.

I’ve tried to publish twice a day, Monday through Friday. It’s a fairly demanding schedule, but it’s been forcing me to broaden my poetry horizons. That benefit alone makes this side project worthwhile to me.

If you’re feeling in the mood for some lovely words set to lovely pictures, check out my Instagram feed and leave a like.

Ocean Vuong: “Night Sky with Exit Wounds”

night sky with exit wounds by ocean vuong

Let’s talk about Ocean Vuong.

I first learned of Mr. Vuong at a poetry reading held at the University of Maryland–the Writer’s Here & Now series, specifically. Mr. Vuong was the featured poet and took the stage as an underwhelming presence. Quiet of voice, small of stature, yet Mr. Vuong’s poetry dealt me such a blow that when I left the event, I was breathless. I felt as though my chest had been cracked open by his powerful, lyrical poetry.

Mr. Vuong invites you into his world and you go, expecting an easy ride. But even here, on the “Threshold”, he is beside you, saying in his soft, soft voice:

In the body, where everything has a price,
I was a beggar. On my knees,

I watched, through the keyhole, not
The man showering, but the rain

falling through him…

In his latest work, “Night Sky with Exit Wounds”, Mr. Vuong wrestles with heavy issues. His familial history: “An American soldier fucked a Vietnamese farmgirl. Thus my mother exists. / Thus I exist. Thus no bombs = no family = no me. / Yikes.” (“Notebook Fragments”).  Language barriers: “She doesn’t know what comes after. / So we begin again: / a b c     a b c     a b c” (“The Gift”).  Sexuality: “To love another / man–is to leave / no one behind / to forgive me.” (“Into the Breach”).

"even my name knelt down, asking to be spared" - ocean vuong

I don’t want to spoil the whole work for you, though I would happily share every single poem if I could. I’ll end by mentioning one of my favorites, one of the most moving and heart-wrenching,”Seventh Circle of Earth”, about Texan couple Michael Humphrey and Clayton Capshaw, who were murdered in their homes. The poem appears as numbers leading to footnotes, which contain the meat of the poem.

But Mr. Vuong’s experimental formatting is never better than right here: Tilt your head to the side, and suddenly you’re looking at a constellation, an American tragedy of two lovers placed in the sky. A better fit for our modern times, perhaps, than some distant Greek myth.

I highly recommend that you check out Mr. Vuong’s work. I, for one, can’t wait to see what he does next.