You were the cure for what ails me but you did me no good

On her blog yesterday Betsy Lerner, agent extraordinaire and author of The Forest for the Trees (a link to her blog is in my sidebar) posed the question, “What did you write in college?” My first thought was “poetry,” but after a second  I thought perhaps the word “vomit” might be more accurate.  The drama, agony and angst of my 17th to 21st years was duly recorded by my IBM Selectric typewriter, late, late at night, in sparse, tormented poems tapped out through many tears and snowstorms in Buffalo, New York. They were not so much creative expressions of thoughts, ideas and feelings as a purging of what ailed me. There are a couple that I can bear to look at today.

While I serial dated college boys, I fell in love with one of my English professors who didn’t get tenure and moved on, despite my letter of recommendation for him. I met my cervix in a Women’s Studies class and wrote an ode to vaginas. I read Shakespeare and gave a nod to faeries and donkeys. I waded through a mire of 17th century poetry, not understanding or caring for it a bit. I fell in love with a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater. I drowned in Science fiction. My love poems were all about the heartbreak of splitting up or what an asshole he was after all. I vomited more poems and got a great letter of recommendation for graduate school from Robert Creeley, who read my work but with whom I never took a class.

The other day a classmate from the English department friend-requested me on Facebook. He found his college notebooks in the attic with some of my poetry in it. He told me after reading them that he thought they still held up. Imagine that.  After college I went to graduate school for a MFA in Creative Writing. After 2 semesters I left the program and didn’t write another poem for 10 years. Now I write fiction. I’m much happier.

What did you read and write in college?


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9 responses to “You were the cure for what ails me but you did me no good

  1. We are often harder on ourselves than we need be. I read your stuff because a certain cuz of mine was so very proud of you he swiped a few and read them to us on a house visit. I thought there was a great deal of passion and a sensuality in your words. It was almost as though you were going through the rite of passage. I was overwhelmed and saw then the bud that is now a full grown rose. It was a revelation.

  2. Better a creaky type writer than black eye liner. The poets in my writing classes as an undergrad almost killed me with emo-induced stress.

  3. lol.”mental masturbation”.hahahaha.. yeah sometimes it really is like that..thats why college years are so crazy and wild.. so much sexual tension. 😀

  4. College writing can be sooooooo weirdly laden with emotion. The “best” paper I ever wrote was for an Humanities seminar in critical theory. The reading list was so eroticly charged, it fueled my writing. That class felt like an exercise in mental masturbation. I have that paper somewhere…but I don’t think I’ll look.

  5. hahaha.. yup.. us young people live for the pain and drama.. 🙂

  6. i think the drama, angst and suffering were what made me happy back then! i did stick with that for a long time, too. oh to be young again.

  7. wooowwww.. you really went through a lot huh!! its always best to stick to what makes you happy.. 🙂