Today a beautiful rain-washed morning, the orange day lilies trumpeting their love of life against the very gorgeous and expensive cedar privacy fence put up by my neighbors to the south.
This is a benchmark day for me because the writer, editor and blogger Maureen Doallas has posted the first of a four-part interview with me.
Three weeks or so ago Maureen sent me some thirty questions requiring or at least eliciting in my mind, long and detailed answers and much rumination and speculation. What a treat and a privilege to be thought worthy enough as a poet and interesting enough as a person to be interviewed: Thank you, Maureen!
A bit of backstory re academic career: during the course of a move the strongbox containing the signature page for my M.F.A., signed at the oral exams by my committee, was stolen out of my car. My depression and the rigors of a life on the land had begun to claim me and I was slow to extricate the copy from the Department files and had no idea that the department would “purge” my file after several years.
Meanwhile, my mentors claimed they could not remember my oral exams. I contacted my “outside the English department” committee member, Patsy Boyer, who did remember them; I reference her in today’s piece on Writing Without Paper as well.
Before I had an opportunity to ask for a written note from Dr. Boyer, she died in Madrid of traveler’s thrombosis.
Much of Maureen’s interview with me addresses a writer’s need for community and support. The events described above led to a wholesale loss of community and support, and another series of exchanges, events et cetera that eventually generated an unbreachable rift.
Perhaps I should say that it is a rift I no longer choose to attempt to breach. For me the bottom line has been that a published poet who comes into any MFA program to take the degree is not just any graduate student. Her files should not be purged. Above all else, she should be treated as the peer of her professors and mentors and that means she should be believed, and have been believed, that she completed the oral exam.
My word is good enough for me. It is true that there are ways to extricate the degree, such as suing the University under the ADA. I have refrained from but not ruled out that step.
In the meantime, I was happy to discuss the oral exam itself in the interview as a crowning moment of my graduate work, as it should be. I wanted my interview with Maureen to be positive and forward-looking.
Please do add Maureen’s fabulous blog to your regular blog tour! Your life will be greatly enriched. If you’d like to get a copy of my small press book Reunion, please contact Christopher Howell, founder and editor of Lynx House Press.