Week in Review

Rickshaw, a photo I took in Great Barrington, MA

Rickshaw, a photo I took in Great Barrington, MA

There’s a fine line between excitement and anxiety – adrenalin can either make us soar, or gnaw at our innards. Now that I have week one under my belt, I’m feeling more like embracing the challenges rather than wanting to take a road trip and never come back. Thanks to all of you who’ve encouraged me. It means a lot.

I’d say the hardest part of this new venture is the commute. For the week of conferences and meetings I took MARTA, our transit system in Atlanta, but the trip took over an hour… .  I’ve decided to be one of the lazy polluters and drive into town, which takes only 30 minutes, and even less in the early morning before rush hour. I intend to record the poems we’re studying so I can listen to them during the ride. At least I drive a subcompact. Let’s hope the Hummers out there don’t squash me. Such brutes.

My English Composition class is full of polite, eager young men and women. On the second day I had them do a free-write in which they introduced themselves to the class as a sandwich. I wrote right along with them, which was fun. They’re each going to keep a blog for the class, and we also will have discussion forums. Lots of writing for all of us.

My literature course is  20th-Century American Poetry with Dr. Leon Stokesbury, a highly-regarded scholar and poet who knows his stuff. We’re reading Robert Frost first, a poet whose work almost all Americans have read starting in grade school. The beauty of Frost’s poems is their multiple layers – he truly was a genius. The professor told us that “Frost loved to play the role of the genius poet, the taciturn New England codger.” He said, “undergraduates loved it when Frost would contradict their professors. Frost told the students that when he wrote about mowing hay, that’s all the poem was about, it was right there on the surface.” But anyone who has read Mowing or any of his other great poems knows Frost’s claim isn’t true.

It’s obvious I’m going to learn a lot about writing in the poetry workshop. The professor, David Bottoms, has written several volumes of poetry, and is the founding editor of Five Points, a longstanding literature and art magazine. He guides us into a careful, critical reading of the poems, and maintains a respectful but honest tone. And he’s not afraid of giving praise where it’s due. I submitted a brand-new prose poem, and as soon as the copies circled the table I wanted to snatch them back. It’s my very first poetry workshop in a formal setting. I wanted to say, ‘wait, it’s just a joke! I have much better poems than that one, really!’ Too late. I’ll let you know how it goes after they’ve given me their feedback.

The other hard part of going ‘back to school’ is my age. Usually I don’t think about the number of years I’ve spent on the planet, and if I do, I’m extremely grateful for almost all of them, but when I see that some of my classmates were born the year I graduated college, I start to wonder what the hell I’m doing there. Is there something ridiculous about a middle-aged woman wanting to ‘be a poet?’ Isn’t poetry supposed to begin with the passion and longing of youth? Doesn’t narcissism prod the earliest of poems, and if so, what does that say about me? I just keep going back to the thought that I want to spend the rest of my life doing what I love. Like Polly in the film “I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing,” I do it for the kicks.

15 thoughts on “Week in Review

  1. Karina@Motherhood and the Creative Life says:

    Going back to school is super exciting, and at any age, I would think, especially when you are going to be studying something you are passionate about, which seems to be your case. Though I’m not a poet, I did find that one of the writing workshops that best helped my own writing was a poetry workshop. Your own writing class sounds really interesting, and has me missing being in school. 😀 Good luck with your new endeavor!

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  2. Michelle Johnson says:

    Great pic. I’m so proud of you for going back to school and working at your passion. I’m sure you’ll fair well. Keep up the good work and you’ll see it pay off in the end. Your classes sound great. Have a great weekend.

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  3. dale says:

    I remember my first day in massage school, the teacher asking us to introduce ourselves and say why we were there. At my turn, I looked around at all those 18 year olds, and said, “I’m here because I’ve wanted to do this for… well, longer than most of you have been alive.”

    They were extraordinarily kind to me, after an initial few days of wariness. I hope & expect your fellow-students will be as well!

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  4. carolee says:

    thanks for keeping us in the loop about your progress. i love hearing about it. what an adventure! i bet in some ways you intimidate them as much as they intimidate you. you have lots of life and poetry experience. i think 30s, 40s, 50s & beyond is the perfect age to study something like poetry.

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  5. jo says:

    It sounds wonderful. I understand the jitters, but they’re already fading. As for age, most of the poets I know were late-bloomers, myself included. So what? As CS said to me, we bring more to the table.

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  6. christine says:

    Jo, you’re still a spring chicken, a mere babe. But I do agree with what CS said. Those are good words to remember.

    Dale, so far they treat me just like one of the group. It’s mostly a thing in my head, you know? Maybe one day they’ll go ‘back to school’ too.

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  7. Dave says:

    What Carolee said. If anything, there’s something a little ridiculous about pursuing education when one is still too wet behind the ears to know anything about anything. Thanks for the report. I hadn’t made the connection that David Bottoms was also the editor of Five Points.

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  8. Julie says:

    It sounds exciting! I’m so happy for you, Christine. As for your last questions…NO! There’s nothing ridiculous about you. You have much to add. When I was in grad school, I loved the older people in our class. I didn’t think of them as weird. One woman in particular amazed me. Actually, I was a bit intimidated by her knowledge, and she inspired me to try harder.

    My favorite poems were not written by young people. Your peers will love you. How could they not?

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  9. Deb says:

    I’m so happy to hear your report, and glad more will follow.

    I went back to school as an elder. I understand the anxiety & expect it will dissipate — for as you very well know — you will adjust, you’ll start to feel at home (despite & because of what extra you bring!), you’ll wonder at some youthfulness yet find kindred souls …

    You’ll be surprised, because that is the heart you have — one of wonder.

    I’m excited and skittery, all at the same time, excited and envious of the marvelous adventure (yeah, there is drudgery — your commute as an example of “what has to give.”) Hugs, and more hugs.

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  10. suburbanlife says:

    Oh, Christine – am green with envy for your gutsy decision to go back to school. Also am thrilled for the opportunity this allows you. Revel in the possibilites!
    As far as being a Mature Student – don’t let it affect you in the slightest. Students learn from each others efforts – your longer life on this pale means you have riches to impart to the younger ones, and they in turn, provide you an inside look at how this generation has become different due to their specific culture. Wow! now that is a great place to find oneself. Enjoy, enjoy!!! G

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  11. Holly D says:

    Christine! I hope your sememster is going well so far. Sounds like you’re off to a good start with your students. My semester is going quite well. I hav e5 classes, and it will be crazy when I start my grading (this week), but I seem to have some quality students.
    As far as your own experiences in school, as cliche as it may sound, I really believe just being yourself is all you need. YOu have so much more world experience, and this will be a huge asset to you as you go through this process! ENJOY!

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