Thesis Business

It’s that time of year, when second year writing MFAs have to get their shit together and complete their theses. Well, I have to say that mine is going well. The rough draft is due in a couple of weeks and I feel that I have a solid manuscript to turn in to my mentor. I have finally put the poems into a working order, which is actually really difficult (and I’ll explain in a bit), and have submitted it to my second reader/ other mentor for her opinion on it holistically before I officially turn in the rough draft. 

There are various ways to order a poetry manuscript: thematically, temporally, narratively, etc. I have chosen to go with a narrative construction because of the nature of the work. It’s not a collection of disparate poems, as many MFA theses are, but rather, it is trying to be a cohesive book. One that tells a story, which is that of a girl coming of age–in the physical sense and perceptually, intellectually, spiritually, romantically. All that. 

My process for creating the order went like this: put poems of a similar subject or theme into piles. So the piles looked like: Grandmother poems, lover poems, mom poems, dad poems, childhood poems, pubescent poems/awakening poems, adult poems. Within each pile I put them in chronological order. The largest piles were the grandmother and the lover poems, respectively. Then I began putting them together. Since there are so many lover poems, I didn’t want to only put them toward the second half since that would make sense chronologically because I thought it would backload the book and weigh it down. So, from the start, the childhood narrative (including that of the interactions with the grandmother) run parallel to the lover relationships. So there are kind of 3 arcs all happening at once in the book: the arc of the relationship with the grandmother, from my childhood and on past when my grandmother dies, the arc of my/the speaker’s life from childhood to adulthood, and the arc of the romantic relationships, from being younger and stupider and more willing to tolerate bad men, to now, with my sweet boyfriend. Phew–does that make sense? I hope so. We’ll see what my second reader says. Hopefully she can help me shuffle them around if it isn’t working. 

I didn’t think sections worked for this book–I also didn’t want to clump stuff together just because it dealt with the same issue–I thought the work would be more resonant if it built an arc so that things you learn early on reflect and refract in the later half of the book. 

I also have written a couple of new poems in the last few weeks, ones that I hope round the book out a bit. I still think there is one or two more to write, definitely one for the end. I also have several poems I need to go back and overhaul massively. I like the new stuff I’ve written though. It feels different to me. In a good way. Turned it in for workshop–so we’ll see what kind of feedback I get on it. I think that’s going to be my last major workshop of the year–wow–that’s crazy. 

Off to clean my room–looks like a tornado came through!


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