There’s been a change in my bio. The sentence that used to read “Saeed Jones is currently a MFA student at Rutgers University – Newark,” now reads “Saeed Jones is a graduate of the Rutgers University – Newark MFA program.”
I’m a graduate.
Frankly, I think it’s a bit too soon for me to know what “being a graduate” means exactly, but I know what I want it to mean. Being able to participate in a poetry workshop every week (and I honestly enjoyed the workshops in all their variety; Rigoberto Gonzalez, Rachel Hadas, and Cynthia Cruz each brought something new to the table) was a bit of a luxury. Whenever I was struggling with a poem, I knew that eventually I could show it to a group of people I had come to trust and get some ideas. This in no way ensured the success of the poem, but it didn’t give me some options about where the poem could go next. Classmates would help me understand that lines that I thought were dead ends were, in fact, just alleyways.
For me, that’s what workshops have always been about: options & alternatives. Do the best you can with a draft of poem, share it, listen – really listen – to the feedback, and then go home and assess your options.
The challenge now is that I won’t be able to so easily access the feedback of my peers. Sure, I have poetry pen pals and will stay in touch with friends I made in the program, but I need to (and honestly, want to) be more independent. When I see a dead end in my poem, I’m going to have to turn it into an alleyway on my own. It may take longer, but it will happen – because it has to.
And so, when I say “every goodbye ain’t gone” I mean that, if I am serious about being a poet, being a “graduate” is not an end, but a means. The MFA is more of a comma than a period.
Still, though, “graduate” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?