In Fort Collins, the mountains usually mean west. As I walk to campus, I walk north, west, then north again. True north is usually Eddy Hall – home of the English department. I suppose I will not yet stop having the thought as I walk to campus, I am in graduate school, I made it, I am here. My time in the MFA program has also featured a rumination on this milestone in my life. It comes with scrutinizing questions: do I live up to the standard I set for myself? Do I belong here? In class the other day, our professor told us that his expectation for his classroom is that we read the material and show up, ready to learn. He encouraged curiosity and play. The standard is attention to the material, to detail, and to our position in relation to the texts we read. If this is the expectation that I hold myself to as a student, every class is an opportunity to delve deeper, not alone, but together. Not for myself alone do I read, and not for myself alone do I write. I find echoes between the literature courses and the craft courses: the material is in right front of me, and I will sift through it for pings – little pops of air indicating that something is alive and kicking under there. I kick back.
Along with the scrutinizing questions have come generative questions that propel me forward:
How do my poems occur? Do my poems gesture toward opacity or clarity? Are my poems interested in communicating? How do I contend with that which is boundaryless? What happens between moments of the mundane and moments of truth and beauty? Where and what are my responsibilities to my reader? What kind of poet do I want to be? To whom am I in service?
These questions are to my north; to the west, a series of mountains.
Sara Hughes is a first year MFA candidate in poetry.