Like a Poet in a Candy Shop

As I make the transition away from Portland Review and toward my thesis work for the MFA program, I’m thinking about how I got to Portland and why I’m grateful to be here. It’s wild to think that I’m here today due to some strange combination of hearsay about Portland, the whims of a particular FedEx employee, and the kindness of my faculty in not tossing my application to the wayside.

I have pictured the thesis portion of the MFA as a poète maudit cliché: I drink too much absinthe, lament to my unaffectionate cat, bury my desk in crumpled-up papers, and catch tuberculosis from the prostitute that refuses to love me back. Luckily in Portland it’s nearly impossible to become a recluse if one really loves poetry and the people who create it. There are often so many readings and book releases going on at once that I find myself needing to choose (on a weeknight, no less) what literary event to attend. And it’s not a snobby scene either. Since moving here for the MFA, I’ve met a multitude of poets who have been so welcoming to me as a newcomer. They’ve been kind, quick to share a brilliant little insight, and seem just as desirous to connect over poetry as I am. Not every city has such a rich and dedicated literary scene, so I count my blessings to have been accepted to Portland State University.

In deciding on a program, I complied a handwritten, highlighter-coded spreadsheet of many MFA programs ranked by their Poets & Writers score, their faculty’s work, their location, and the coolness-level of their library via Google Image searches (still a little salty at you, Trinity College of Dublin). In the end, I’m so glad to have ended up here. We may not have a library with sliding ladders, but we make up for it heaps in vibrant community. And there is a sliding latter at Literary Arts, though I’ve always felt it would be a little rude to climb around on it during the quality readings held there.

The next step was waiting for the rejection letters to come tumbling in. Having applied to ten of the top (or up-and-coming) MFA programs in the world, there were a lot of rejections. To cope with the stress (at my friend Sunny’s suggestion), I had a little toast and a celebration for each rejection letter. I had a Guinness for Trinity College, a red eye for the University of Michigan, and went with a white Russian for Iowa. The final letter was from PSU, which had barely gotten my application on time. I told him I would dedicate something to him, so this blog post goes out to the FedEx worker that made the truck wait an extra minute so that my application could get on—I had driven an hour out of my home in the Big Sur wilderness to get to that FedEx, moments before it closed on the day of the postmark deadline for the application. Thanks, FedEx guy.

And Portland Review, one of the longer-standing literary magazines in town (since 1956!), is an important part of this community I’ve grown to love. With one foot in PSU and the other in the larger Portland literary world, it has a unique place among other outstanding local publications. I will miss you Portland Review. You are really set to dazzle this year, with an upcoming poetry/image issue in Winter 2014, a stop off at this year’s relatively-local AWP, and (I’ll keep it secret) even more exciting plans for your Spring and Summer issues. Here’s to many wonderful years to come, Portland Review!