I met with my advisor on Monday to discuss my semester plan. Each faculty member does things a little differently, and mine had me submit a self-evaluation in advance of our meeting. I was supposed to give a little background about myself, write about what I thought the strengths and weaknesses of my poetry were, discuss influential authors and teachers, and tell anything about myself that I was comfortable sharing.
I confess I let a little of the crazy out on the page and a half I turned in. We’re not going to have a lot of real-time interaction, and there are things about my current process—the cramped perfectionism in particular—that I really want to work on early in this program. I slid the paper under his door late Sunday afternoon and then spent the evening worrying that I had portrayed myself as even more high-strung than I actually am. Which is a lot.
It was, of course, fine. We met for about an hour and talked a little about the authors I had read and what I wanted to accomplish this semester. He said he liked my poetry (I think they pretty much have to say that, but it was still nice to hear), and went over the books he was going to suggest I read and the reasons behind his choices. As we talked, he would pause and think for a second or two, and then add or remove books from the list. When it came time to fill out the plan document, he would fall silent and stare off into the middle distance for a few moments before articulating each bullet point. It felt kind of like he was meditating over me.
I was reminded of a lecture I attended here about writer’s block, given by a graduating student who is also a psychotherapist. He talked about having his own block treated by bringing his laptop into his therapist’s office, where the therapist just watched him as he wrote for 30 minutes, and he talked about how helpful he found it.
I think something similar was happening in my meeting with my advisor. There is something about that quality of sustained attention that feeds the soul, and I suspect this is one of the intangible but real benefits of an MFA program. I could feel some clenched-up parts of my brain let go just a little, and I started to look forward, hopefully, to the work ahead.