Autobiographical essay for IAIA Creative Writing MFA Application

by heytherewildflower

lubroth2I have written seriously for 10 years, but I have written ecstatically since learning to read with the help of HookedOnPhonics. During my elementary school years in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I was surrounded by artists and overwhelming landscapes. I wrote poetry to amuse myself and to contribute something beautiful to my environment (in the tradition of the state). I was also fixated on a reserve of antipodal memories of Tateyama, Japan. The tensions inherent to juxtaposing the aesthetic traditions of New Mexico and Japan drove my early development and made me into a lifelong expressive monster. In middle school, in Shanghai, China, I wrote poetry to establish my identity, and to record my loneliness, insecurity, and immature notions of love and sex. In high school, in San Jose, Costa Rica, I wrote poetry to experiment with my voice and communicate ideas. At Colorado College, I wrote poetry because I wanted an audience.

After graduating and moving to Seattle, I attempted to infiltrate Seattle’s writing community. One year of failed integration forced me to reassess my purpose and trajectory as a writer: if I needed to write, I decided to do it for myself (and with myself only.) I wanted to prove to myself I could write without external influences, acknowledgement, positive reinforcement or resources. I needed to learn to differentiate my love for writing from my love for being a figure in a writing community. I learned my lesson and am ready to become a small part of a community of my choosing (that also chooses me.)

While living in Seattle, I’ve produced a few short collections of poetry, but none are complete. Initially, I did not want to publish poems divorced from their collections (and context). In retrospect, however, fear of rejection and failure stymied my publishing ambitions. The social and political catastrophes of 2016 have since galvanized my commitment to contributing art to the public dialectic. My work typically develops out of historical study or research. I spent one year writing poems about Balanchine ballets and Balanchine ballerinas. I spent the past three years writing poems about endangered and extinct tiger species, jaguars, and sabertooth cats. I plan to continue work on this collection (titled jaguaro jaguaro and, alternately, You Tiger Many Times, #YTMT) while completing my MFA.

At Colorado College, I majored in English and Poetry, and minored in Philosophy. At the end of four years, I completed and presented a poetry collection of 46 poems titled, “Lethologica”. My college years catalyzed deep interest in poetic study but lack of enjoyment in academia: I love reading, but I do not love the competitive environment created by the study of literature with a capital L. To me, this environment is joyless. I want to attend the IAIA MFA program to become a stronger writer and to be exposed to work created by individuals who experience the world differently than I do. After studying and consuming stories created by white people for most of my life (despite not actually living in the Western Hemisphere) I want to learn about histories, traditions, and lived experiences not propagated by the power and resources vested in whiteness. I want to invest my time and money in institutions that uplift these stories and their creators.

Building creative communities and uplifting individual voices within these communities is central to my value system and identity. In high school, I founded my school’s literary and art magazine, student taught a “Literary Magazine” adjunct, and planned many events which showcased and supported the artists at my school. At college, I edited my school’s literary magazine for three years. I planned many college readings and events. In the span of three years, use of social media grew average poetry reading attendance from audiences of 20 to audiences of 100. Additionally, I established a music and poetry night at a local restaurant. The event employs local musicians and a student bartender weekly. Healthy art communities are my happy place. I can map each of my best friendships and proudest accomplishments to literary magazines and their communities.

Two years ago, I founded a multi-media erotic art magazine called Mouth&Mouth Magazine. Mouth&Mouth features original works of art, photography, poetry, fiction, video, and essays. Mouth&Mouth seeks to create a visceral experience that furthers the counterpoint to mainstream sexuality, as it exists today. The magazine presents a counterpoint to this ideal that is both celebratory and sensuous. I was inspired to start the magazine out of concern for the sexual psychological health of assault victims. I wanted it to be a safe, experimental resource or platform. For the magazine’s launch, I produced a promotional installation featuring collaborative work by respected sculptor, Robert Macdonald, and a 40 minute video piece by Rebecca Reilly. The interactive piece was displayed at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival in 2014. At present, the magazine is on hold due to lack of funding and lack of quality fiction submissions.

I welcome direct criticism of my work with excitement. Writing in the void with myself as sole critic has been alternately fun, challenging, tedious, and terrifying, but after five years, I need external feedback! I participated in too many workshop classes during undergrad (because I loved them) and picked up a habit of writing to please my peers. The workshop cowed me from unabashedly pushing the boundaries of language and screwing with tropes of gender presentation (primary interests at the time). Feminism in some (painfully flawed) form has become normalized in “progressive” societies, but it was barely normal then. I was labeled a “feminist poet” but didn’t self-identify as a “feminist poet”. I wrote about my experiences, obviously perceived through the lens of a cis-gendered, middle-class, white woman. My experiences were not “radical” by any means. At the time, frank expressions crafted by a femme lens were uncool and unfathomable to many of undergraduate peers. Additionally, the unapologetic materials were alien to the male professors my peers revered. I believe I am mature enough now and confident enough in the direction of my mind that workshop sessions will be beneficial rather than limiting.

My writing takes a lot of risks. Sometimes my experiments work, and sometimes my experiments are awful. My writing can be melodramatic, grandiose, and wordy. I can edit out the wordiness, but eliminating grandiose tendencies requires rehabilitation and a maintained regimen of exercise. Sometimes melodrama works to my advantage if I can control it. My strengths are my obsessive/paranoid tendencies and my knack for formal poetry and sonnet writing. I love playing with forms, breaking them, or doing surprising things with them. Formal writing reins in my wordiness.

I don’t foresee any trouble with completing 25 hours per week of study. I work full time, so I will be unable to contact my professor during the hours between 9-5 unless correspondence is prescheduled.