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?