Iowa City (2007)

My goals with this post are a) to discuss the bearable nature of Iowa City during 2007 and b) post something substantial.

When we moved here in the August of 2005, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed: I expected things would go my way and that I would ultimately end up doing that which I wanted to do before coming to Iowa City. I assumed working would be temporary and that, because I had access to the Workshop populace, I would make it in on my next application.

Well, as you readers of this blog know, that did not happen, but it's hard to argue with what has happened during my time here. I have been thinking of late how Iowa City has been my wasteland, where I've essentially accomplished nothing I set out to accomplish. But this is not true! "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans"?

Yeah, that sounds right to me now. While life is still in the same direction I want it to go in, I think I've accomplished more of what Johannes wanted me to during my time "off": I've been writing and (hopefully) improving as I've gone along. Whether or not I've fulfilled Johannes' expectations, I have no idea, but I still have another year before making plans to leave Iowa City and two years before we actually get out of here. Hopefully that's enough time.

In writing, in taking stock, and in being patient, I've met the fantastic champion that is Jordan Stempleman. Joseph Bradshaw's introduction of him last night at TalkArt could not have been more true: rather than shouting "Fuck y'all!" down the well, Jordan is one to shout "Hello!" But I think what's beautiful about Jordan is that he's expecting to hear back from the well not his voice, but the voice of the well.

Earlier this year, Jordan shouted into a well. And he shouted again. And he left a note "from one poet to another", and finally, he heard the voice of the well say hello back. But meeting Jordan has not been the only positive of this year as a 'poet' in Iowa City, it's what he's brought with him. He's introduced me to so many wonderful folks, including Bradshaw, Michelle Taransky, Kevin Holden, and a host of other students who attend the Workshop. For the 18 months prior to meeting Jordan, I felt too intimidated to attend anything either at Dey House or anything run by Workshop-affiliated people. I was so nervous when Jordan introduced me to Dean Young and Jim Galvin that I nearly started crying. Of course, after being introduced, I was able to relax and take things in stride. These aren't some poetry Gods who dangle the knife over my poetic fate: they are simply trying to pick what is right for their place at the time, and for me to have placed them so highly in my mind was childish and naive.

Now though, I'm not quite so afraid. When asked to attend the translation workshop run by the MFA in Translation through the Comparative Literature department, I took it as an opportunity to talk with international writers and do course work without having to deal with pesky grades. Through that, I've come to thinking about international literature and how it affects writing in my little corner of Iowa City. My poetry has changed and my thoughts on poetics have developed into something more substantial. I guess I'm saying I think more about what I'm doing instead of just doing it as I had been in the past.

So what I believed to be a wasted time in my life is turning out to be something much more positive. Even if I did not plan to be doing what I'm doing, one could certainly argue that it is what needed to happen. But am I happy all the time? Of course not- I still hate getting up and going to work and I still growl in my mind when I feel someone talking down to the "dude down at Media Services". I'm not perfect, obviously, but I think that I have come to understand better what I can do with what I've got.

2007 isn't over, of course, but it's time to start looking towards 2008. During the next 18 months, I will be choosing schools to apply to for an MFA (with a few English Master's programs as well). I will have applied and even heard back by May 2008. I might even know where I'm moving to by then. Granted, this could go horribly and I could end up working again, but I think I'm prepared to handle it now in a way that I was not prepared even earlier this year with the English Ph.D. application. I'm not making any promises, but I think I'll be able to handle the pressure better now. Hopefully there will be no tossing and turning like I have been over the last few years while waiting to hear back.

And while I hope it works out for me next time, if it doesn't, that's ok too. Well, maybe not ok right away, but I know that it will be ok eventually.


Johannes said...

You've fulfilled my expectations.

Amish Trivedi said...

"I'm the master of low expectations."


Common Sense said...

keep em low then brother, cause tou're writing good stuff

Common Sense said...


"tou're" is my early morning or after-whiskey speak.