Making the decision to move cross-country and start an MFA program in the midst of a pandemic called me to consider my relationship with uncertainty. For four years in Chicago, I cultivated a career as a performing artist with my twin sister, Maris (; a week before the city locked down, we played our last public show. While I stand in awe at the immense privilege and opportunity to join a community of writers, I also find myself grieving the loss of live musical performance.

The energy-exchange between audience and performer, gathered together in one space, in one moment in time, is a rarefied experience. As I engage my poetic practice in a new landscape and context, in dialogue with a dynamic group of writers, I feel increasingly charged with introducing the embodied experience of playing music to my work on the page.

The connection I feel with my violin fulfills a primary relationship in my life, and links me with ancestors, and string instruments, on both sides of my family; songlines traverse time, place, and bodies across my Irish and Seminole heritage. I’m interested in the role, both historic and current, of music and musicmaking in the context of cultural and linguistic dispossession—how rhythm and melody offer a space for expression, communication, communion, and even salvage.

I am so grateful for the space and time of this program, for this community’s generous listening and speaking. We are, all of us, taking these days one stride at a time. As I further explore how to presence my musical life on the page, and how to grapple with inheritances and voices of the past, I consider how the formal life of a poem, its body, will continue to shift and transform over time. With words as my material, I exchange energy, form—I continue a conversation.

Bryce M O’Tierney (she/her/hers) is a first-year MFA candidate in poetry at Colorado State University.