Out with a Bang

03 May 2019 on Blog, Poetry, Storystorm  

Two of Barnstorm’s poetry readers are graduating from the MFA program this spring; before they head out, Milo and Morgan took the time to share their thoughts on the evolution of their writing from the time they started at UNH, and to share some writing advice.

We are proud of them both—it’s sad to see them go, but we’re excited to see where they end up!

Morgan Plessner:

When I started organizing my manuscript, I made the decision to throw out almost all of the poems from my first semester at UNH. I looked back at them and actually cringed. They seemed childish, so uninformed, and trying too hard. I couldn’t bring myself to keep too many. These poems were extremely narrative, almost to a fault.

I love reading fiction and at the time I came into the program, I was reading way more fiction than I was poetry. I don’t think it’s bad in any sense to read avidly in a different genre, but I do think it’s important that you read equally, if not more, in your own genre concurrently. Because of this, narrative was definitely my mode the first six months in the program. I think there are many lessons to be learned from fiction, one of the most important being character development. While not every poet will write with characters, understanding the finer points can help the development of tone and voice in poems.

During my first full year in the program, I upped my poetry consumption, and tried to distance myself from what I was writing as much as possible after it was written. I, like many writers, can get attached to what I produce, whether it’s an image, a character, a scene, or a line. In some cases, while these instances may seem like personal triumphs and you can’t wait to show the world, thinking: look at that, will you?! isn’t that something? I think it’s necessary to distance yourself and think about it as a general reader. This is why workshops can be so helpfulyou are able to see various outside perspectives and work off of that feedback, remedying areas where confusion arose, or where things weren’t quite clicking. I’ve loosened the narrative mode and structure quite a bit, focusing instead on how narrative and character traits/archetypes can strengthen the ambient mood and tone in my work.

Leaving the program, I have a better grasp on my writing process and my own habits. I think now, more than ever, I have a sense of who I am as a writer.

Milo Licata:

When I started, I hated deadlines; now, sometimes I think they are a blessing in disguise. The creative process being what it is (a process), if you tell me I have all the time in the world to finish a piece, I just might take all the time in the world to do so. If you tell me I have to have a piece to turn in Monday, you'll have a piece by Monday. Probably.

In all honesty, I think the biggest change over the course of two years of education is that I started to feel like I knew what I was doing. I made choices before with my workline breaks, diction, abstractions and the like
but I didn't know consciously the effect they would have. Now I'm more aware of them, the energies they create and manipulate, and I can place these choices more deliberately. I knew what I was doing before, but now I know why I'm doing it.

A little bit of advice as I run up my word count: Get a buddy and swap your work with them. The best place to find inspiration for poetry is in other poetry; read wide and write a lot. Share your work; it's scary, but it's good for you. Write for you, and your voice will come through. Good luck!

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