2018-04-03 A Critique of the Critical Essay

I’ve done a lot of forced writing in the last week. By forced I mean writing that I wouldn’t normally do.

Poetry comes easy.. and when it happens I always enjoy it. I rarely pick a topic and say to myself, I’m gonna write about that this time.

Journaling usually comes easy. I just start by having some thoughts (and of course I have an endless supply) and start steaming. There are times I sit down to write about my life and times and come up empty, but it’s rare.

The point of assigning critical essays as a part of the MFA curriculum serves a couple different purposes. The main reason they give is that any practice writing is sharpening a persons skills. That’s true! It’s part of what I think I’m getting out of journaling every day.

Of course there’s almost zero feedback on journaling so there is no measure if it’s actually making me better.

A secondary purpose for critical essays, especially for me (but it applies to everyone), is that it shows what I’ve learned in my studies. If I successfully analyze a poem or provide a very insightful comparison, that means I’m learning. Hey, that’s the point of school. My uphill battle coming into this is that I’ve got a lot to learn. I have the challenge of reading, comprehension, and then the task of applying that to the other poetry and poets assigned. It’s a lot.

Most people in the program probably got their undergraduate degree in fine arts, English, ir something along that same line. They came in with so much more knowledge than I did. I’m that comp-sci nerd that hasn’t had any literature classes. The last class I had that’s somewhat related was English Comp 2 like 20 years ago.

When I originally submitted my application, I was worried they would not accept me for that reason. Well, that and the fact that I don’t have a clearly defined reason for wanting to be in the program or life goal that is associated. I don’t really want to be a teacher or anything like that. On the surface it appears that I’m doing it just because. I’m not, but it’s tough to articulate.

In truth, I wonder if they accepted my application because enrollment is down. I wish I knew how they did decide. I often worry that I’m just a fraud. When I wrote out my goals for the semester I actually included that. One of my goals was to defraud myself. Externally? Internally? 🤷‍♀️ Both would be nice.

Anyway, this week I struggled with my critical essays. In part I think this is because I set a high bar early in the semester and I want to, like the high jumper, inch that up each time and continue to clear it.

The other reason is that I’ve not been particularly “inspired” to write these essays this month. I continue to enjoy Creeley and now Glück and even Langan, but I just want to read and enjoy. They have inspired me to write poetry but I haven’t really wanted to put more of a critical eye into any of it or connect the dots with my theoretical texts.

That’s another reason the essays is good.. it forces us to write despite obstacles and challenges. If we can do that, then hell, we can write anytime about anything. That’s real talent!

I reached out to my mentor for some suggestions and he came back with a few very specific topics, which was helpful. I still struggled to write those though. I felt very much like I was just restating the obvious and not being critical in any way. I hope it’s still ok.

I’m submitting to him today and he’s going to provide feedback by the 7th. I guess I’ll know the answer after that.

After that, I’ll probably go into hybernation again with the essays. I suppose as long as I continue reading and perhaps taking notes about possible topics, then when packet 4 is looming I’ll be in good shape to write for that.

Time to do Tuesday,

~Miss SugarCookie

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