MSU Slam Team presents Buddy Wakefield

The RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU

Next Tuesday, April 8, the MSU Slam Team is sponsoring a performance by slam poet Buddy Wakefield.

MSU Slam Team Vice President Marianne Caddy said Wakefield has visited campus once before for a workshop.

“It was so meaningful to a lot of people that I wanted to make sure it happened again,” Caddy, 20, said. “He’s so uniquely himself and so true

The performance starts at 7:00 p.m. in Snyder Hall in the LookOut! Gallery. A $7 donation at the door is requested, but not necessary.

Caddy said she hopes that people will come to the reading to hear the messages in Wakefield’s poems – something she found helpful last year.

“Personally, last year, that performance was at a transitional point in my life, and the messages he sends through his poetry were something I needed to get through the things I was dealing with,” Caddy said.

For more…

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Dear Loyal Readers…

Thank you for taking the time to check back in over these last few months. I apologize for not posting as frequently as I should, and I only ask that you continue to be patient with me. This semester is nearly at an end, and then I will gladly fill you in on what’s been going on – from working with elementary school kids to publish a book, to learning how to work a printing press, to discovering the benefits and drawbacks of radio journalism, to learning how to tutor effectively, to figuring out how to park on campus, and a whole lot more. Of course, if any of you would like to hear a particular one of these stories (or a if you have any other requests) first, feel free to let me know. I haven’t forgotten you, and I hope that you haven’t forgotten me!

To fill the void, take a gander at two other RCAH-related WordPress.com blogs, “The Secret Lives of Things,” and “The RCAH Center for Poetry.”

Take care and enjoy,

Kelsey M. Block

Poetry Center director Anita Skeen and former RCAH professor Laura DeLind publish collaborative book

The RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU

By Kelsey Block

The Unauthorized Audubon, a collection of poetry and prints by Poetry Center Director Anita Skeen and Anthropology Professor Laura DeLind, was recently published by the MSU Press. The RCAH Center for Poetry hosted a reading on February 19 to celebrate the occasion, in which the creators read and signed their book.

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The project began after a class DeLind and Skeen co-taught had ended. The course focused on communication across media and how two different media can inform each other. The artists noted that poetry and visual art often deal with many of the same things – point of view, pattern, lines, mass and positive and negative space.

 The friends confessed that they both were sad to see the class end. To commemorate their work together, DeLind stuck a print she had created under the windshield wiper of Skeen’s car as a surprise. Skeen said she noticed…

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Local writer nominated for literary prize

The RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU

By Kelsey Block

A retired local art teacher was recently nominated for an international literary prize. Dorothy Brooks, longtime Poetry Center participant, has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her piece that appeared in Hippocampus Magazine.

dorothy-brooks

Brooks said she started writing in 1967 during a stay in Austria. She said she was studying music in Vienna when her husband fell ill and that writing helped her cope with the emotional pressure.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was just alone in the room we had rented and I just picked up a pen and it was automatic writing,” Brooks said. “The pen just started going so I just followed it. What else was there to do?”

Brooks’ work, “Laughing in Navajo: My Journey to the Rez,” chronicles her time on a Navajo Reservation in northwest New Mexico. Brooks moved out west in the 1980s to teach…

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An Afternoon with Diane Wakoski: Part 2 of 2

The RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU

By Kelsey Block

*Please note that the following quotation also appeared in “An Afternoon with Diane Wakoski: Part 1

“Poetry is for those moments when something moves you because of its beauty, pure beauty, for anything that engages you to look at it and experience its transformative power,” the 76-year-old poet said. “Beauty transforms you.”

But not all find Wakoski’s poetry to be a thing of beauty. Peter Schjeldahl wrote in a 1970s review that Wakoski’s “pervasive unpleasantness makes her popularity surprising. One can only conclude that a number of people are angry enough at life to enjoy the sentimental and desolating resentment with which she writes about it.” Schjeldahl’s somewhat mixed review also notes that Wakoski’s poems are “professionally supple and clear.”

Wakoski said she is not surprised that some people consider her work difficult.

“I do write about difficult things, but I am looking for a…

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An Afternoon with Diane Wakoski

The RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU

By Kelsey Block

The RCAH Center for Poetry is proud to announce that tomorrow night, Wednesday February 5, poet Diane Wakoski will be joining us to read from her new book, Bay of Angels, in the RCAH theater at 7 p.m.

“I’m bringing my career of poetry together with my fascination of movies and books. All of the sensuous material of my experience with the southern California landscape and the joy I’ve had in my lifetime of writing letters and the meaningful way I’ve been able to fold it into my poetry…”

Wakoski said she started writing poetry at the age of seven. She said she was sitting on her front porch step, looking out at the rosebush in the yard of her southern California home. One day, Wakoski said she noticed a rose on the rosebush, was struck by its beauty.

“I realized it was so beautiful and…

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Adulthood?

Technically, under the law, I am a full-fledged adult. I can drive, I can buy a lottery ticket, I can smoke cigarettes, I can vote. (And, for those of you who are wondering, in reality I’ve only ever done one of those things – three guesses which.)

Despite what the law says, I am far from being independent. In no way am I able to take care of myself. Sure, I can cook edible food and (usually) get dressed without assistance, but as far as the finance side of growing up goes, I have the independence of a six year old. (Coincidentally, my weekly paycheck may be about as big as a six year old’s allowance, but I’m not complaining – every little bit helps.)

Really though, I think my biggest problem with this whole idea of adulthood is the concept of money. I abide by the law, I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder in order to get work done, and I can make basic decisions on my own. I don’t have everything figured out to a T, but I think I’m learning quickly enough. Money, however, is a whole different story.

No, I’m not one of those typical college kids without self-control who doesn’t know when to stop spending. Really, I’m not a poor money-manager – aside from school related expenses, like books and tuition and the occasional snack foods, I rarely buy anything at all, and when I do, it’s on sale. But here’s what gets me: I don’t even buy those things myself. Those little things, those little, insignificant things that nobody thinks twice about buying because they’re a necessity – toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent – those are the things that really get me. Frequently, I still have to ask my parents for money to buy that box of pop tarts so I don’t have to skip eating entirely on those days when I don’t have a spare minute for lunch in between classes. I still have to ask my parents for money to give to the friends who give me the occasional ride home on the weekends. And two or three times a year, I’m at my absolute lowest when I meekly pass that tuition bill across the table to my parents. Every time, every single time, I want to snatch it back and say, “I’ve got this,” but the phrase always gets stuck in my throat when I think about what would actually happen to my dreams, to my future, if I did.

In one of my classes, we read a New York Times article entitled “What is it about the 20-something?” by Robin Henig. The article focuses on the concept of “emerging adulthood” which is pretty much this awkward in-between stage of life between the ages of 18 and 24 or so where young people end up caught in this weird area of being treated like an adult but not really being able to act like one. Basically, we’re too old to be coddled but not necessarily able to manage be turned loose completely. For myriad reasons, the finances aren’t there or the maturity levels aren’t there or the stars just aren’t lining up correctly, and all the not-quite-adults get confused about what they really are.

Which is where I think I’m at now. I was sitting at my desk this morning, frustrated and trying to balance my checkbook – a job I absolutely hate. I was so angry as I flipped through the pages of the register trying to decipher my pathetic handwriting, thinking, “Will I ever be able to do this on my own? Just once, can I please do this without my mom’s help?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love knowing that my mother is there to help me with my problems, checkbook related or no, but I couldn’t help feeling defeated by this silly little book. I can ask for help, but I don’t want to. I think it’s this whole, “are you really an adult?” complex thing.

Yes, yes, yes I know that everybody needs help every now and again and that it’s a learning process and blah, blah, blah. Great. Thanks. I still don’t like to ask.

I know that my parents are happy to help. They want me to get an education, they want me to have food in my cupboards, heck, they even want me to have a balanced checkbook. I know that they’re able to help, too. And they know I can’t really stop asking them for help. But I also know it won’t stop bothering me because no matter how I look at it, $20,000 a year for schooling is a whole lot of money.

Now, to make things worse, my parents are talking about buying me a car. For some (possibly idiotic) reason that probably had something to do with this whole, “I want to be an adult,” thing,  I decided I wanted to live off campus next year – far enough off campus that walking to class is not an option. When it comes down to it, getting a car is practically unavoidable. (Sure, I could take the bus, but my time is worth something, too. If I have to sit on the bus for an hour to get to and from school when I could be working or studying, that is an hour ill-spent.  Even if I did decide to take the bus in and around East Lansing, I would still be next to stranded whenever I want or need to come home. I could rely on friends with cars to haul me back and forth, but that’s already proven problematic. I could take the train, but the nearest train station is an hour away from my house.) Anyway, at this point, a car, impractical as it may be, is my only plausible option.

Imagine that: a teenager who doesn’t want a brand new (used) car. Take a look folks, that’s an anomaly you probably won’t see twice. Two years ago, if you would have asked me if I wanted a new car, I would have said yes just like any other kid. Heck, I did.

But here’s why: to try to keep things fair, my family’s got a system. At certain milestones, you’re allowed do the things your older sisters got to do when they were that age. No wearing makeup or going to dances until you’re in tenth grade. You can have a cell phone when you start driving. Your curfew is whenever you get home, but you darn well better be on time for chores the next morning. You can get a car when you graduate if you cover at least a third of the cost.

Throughout high school, I had saved up enough money that I was willing and able to chip in my share to buy a car. I received a paycheck for the work I did on the farm, and did some babysitting on the side. It wasn’t a ton, but it was enough.

Then, my family sat me down to look at the logic behind it and I reluctantly agreed it just didn’t make sense. (I was living on campus, my car would have been parked at least a twenty minute walk away from my dorm, and I didn’t have a job or any other need to commute anywhere other than home, and that I could manage with friends.) And I pouted, mostly because I didn’t think it was fair that my older sister got a car when she graduated from high school, but I soon got over it.

In fact, I got over it so much that now, when I hear my parents talk about getting me a car, I feel instantaneously ill. I don’t want a car. A car is expensive and, as my daddy told me, a poor investment: the longer you own it, the less it’s worth. Also, I hate driving. Really, I would much rather ride. I don’t like dealing with traffic congestion and people who pass on the right and one-way streets. Most importantly, I just can’t cover my share of the cost anymore, certainly not after two and a half years of college. To be blunt, I’m pretty much flat broke, and to ask for a car, on top of tuition, on top of books, on top of snack foods and gas money, seems to be way too much, to be totally and entirely stepping over the line. But there’s nothing I can do about it. (Heck, at this point, there’s no way around it: my parents have made it perfectly clear that I’m getting a car at some point, and that it might as well be now. Touché, Mom and Dad. My childish attempt to be an independent adult has backfired… Who could’ve seen that one coming?)

All of this came to me as I sat there at my desk miserably attempting to balance my mess of a checkbook. Honestly, I really began to wonder if I will ever reach the point where I consider myself to be a competent adult, when I will have enough money (and I said enough money, not a lot of money) to take care of my own bills, to buy my own snack foods and gasoline, and, most importantly to properly return the favor to my parents.

*Please note that despite the somewhat bitter and confused tone of this post, I’m fine, I promise. Thanks for your concern, though 🙂

Expectations

We all have them. Whether we expect to get a good grade or we expect to lose 10 pounds, we all have our own version of how we think things should turn out, both for ourselves and for others.

All of my life, I expected to earn good grades.  I expected to graduate from high school and get into a great college. I expected to throw myself into my studies, get internships, and be the most driven person the world has ever seen.

So, last year when I got to MSU, I was convinced I was finally on my way to the top. I applied for an office position here on campus because I needed the money and saw a great opportunity to get to know distinguished faculty members. For reasons lost to me now, I fully expected to get it. I didn’t. Conversely, during high school, I applied for a scholarship. For reasons that were very logical to me then, I did not expect to get it. I did.

What these two instances taught me is that, funnily enough, I’m not the only one who has expectations.  Employers expect potential employees to have certain qualities. Scholarship foundations expect students to submit a polished application. Parents expect kids to get good grades. Michigan State University expects students to pay their tuition bills. Professors expect students to complete the assignments on time. Heck, followers expect bloggers to publish posts on a fairly regular basis.

Those are all reasonable expectations. The expectations my family has for me are a sign of pride and love, a sign that they believe I can succeed and that they won’t accept anything less. The expectations my professors have are a sign that they think I’m competent enough to complete the task they assign. Your expectation as a reader is a sign of loyalty and a reassurance that I am publishing these posts for a reason, that these posts must mean something to someone somewhere.

However – come on, you had to know there was a catch somewhere – the problem with these expectations is that they often happen simultaneously. My parents don’t stop expecting me to try my best when I’m feeling overwhelmed. My professors don’t stop expecting me to turn in my homework when I’m sick. Expectations go hand-in-hand with pressure – a lot of pressure to fulfill (or, sometimes, prove wrong) those expectations.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am (for the most part) a people-pleaser. I don’t like to disappoint people, I don’t particularly like conflict and I’m not likely to purposely begin a feud of any kind, unless it’s something that I hold deeply ingrained opinions on. As a result, I feel a lot of pressure sometimes to make sure I not only succeed but surpass others’ expectations for me. Why? I honestly have no idea, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am always striving to do my absolute best. A personality trait, I might add, that makes me a little crazy at times. When a multitude of different people are all shouting their expectations at you, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

And because of that, I think it’s important to note that expectations are just that: something you expect. They aren’t things that are set in stone, things that are ordained from above that are guaranteed to happen. Expectations are just what we think will or should happen. For better or for worse, expectations, your own or those of others, can be wrong. It is seriously improbable for any one individual person to fulfill every single expectation they set for themselves and every single expectation that someone else set for them.

Because of this, you might as well relax at little bit. Don’t let others’ expectations define your life, and don’t take your own expectations as a fact set down by God. He knows what He’s up to, what the future will bring; you don’t. Just be content knowing you did your best, and all will turn out okay.

In closing, here’s a change in perspective that brings out the positive side of all this talk about expectations: they push us to do our best where we might not otherwise.

In Person with: Ann Pancake

The RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU

By Kelsey Block

“When I first start a piece, as a first draft, I usually start it because I have a voice in my head,” Ann Pancake, 50 said. “It’s like a rhythm; it’s so transcendent.”

The Romney, West Virginia native said she started writing as a child.

“My mom enforced naps I didn’t need, so I was already telling stories in my head,” she said.

Pancake said she does much of her writing in long-hand and that her favorite part about writing is the process.

“It’s almost like being on drugs, but in a clean way,” Pancake said. “I completely lose track of time.”

Pancake said that while writing short stories comes to her most naturally, she also enjoyed working on her novel, Strange as This Weather Has Been, which chronicles the effects of mountaintop removal on communities in West Virginia

“Finishing something so big was satisfying,” Pancake…

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Roommates

Last night was the first time my roommate has ever looked at Cows2College. I asked her to look at my blog because (as some of you may have seen) I put up a new tab for my journalism class and I wanted to make sure all of the links were working. As she scrolled around Cows2College’s pages, she asked if I had ever written about her before.

That stumped me. “You know,” I told her, “I don’t think I have. Perhaps I’ve mentioned you once or twice in passing, but never extensively.”

So, I guess I’m remedying that today, per her request.

When I was in high school, one of my biggest fears about coming to college was living in a room the size of a shoebox with a complete stranger. Suffice it to say, it freaked me out. I was entirely convinced that I was going to end up with somebody crazy, somebody I would not mesh well with – a party girl who didn’t care about school and stayed up all hours of the night.

A few weeks before move-in freshman year, I got an email from MSU saying I had been assigned a roommate. Excited yet terrified, I logged onto my MSU account and saw her name: Molly Signs-Rehmann.

Feeling absurd, I sent out an email to her introducing myself and telling her a little bit about me: that I grew up on a dairy farm, was an RCAH and journalism student, and that I took my grades very, very seriously.

We laugh about it now, but our first few weeks of getting to know each other were quite… interesting. She tells stories of how I practically killed her with my willingness to communicate – I don’t even remember how many times I told her I just wanted to get along with her, we didn’t even have to be friends (which is even funnier when you consider that today she’s my best friend).

I’m sorry to say that next year, we are parting ways in terms of housing. I’m getting an apartment with a friend I know from back home and she’s living in another friend’s house. I’ve already told her that I’ll be visiting her at least once a week, if not once a day. We need to have our Kelsey-and-Molly chats; I swear, they’re the only thing that keeps us sane.

So in honor of my wonderful roommate, who shares my love for literature, RCAH, quiet-time, cartoons/movies, and, most importantly, One Direction, I’ve decided to pass along a few tips for high school students thinking about college housing situations. Enjoy, and good luck 😉

  1. Communicate. Really, it’s that simple. In order to live with somebody, you are going to have to talk to them. You will not survive living in a dorm, apartment, house, etc. without setting a few ground rules. If there’s a problem, bring it up, because if you don’t, it will escalate.
  2. Be flexible. You don’t have to be a pushover, but always try to take your roommate’s feelings into consideration. If I’m not happy, Molly’s not happy, and vice versa. Because you’re living in such close quarters, somebody else’s bad mood is bound to affect you in some way, so just be sensitive to their feelings and try to help in any way you can. Don’t be an instigator on purpose – truly respect their requests and feelings. If they need quiet, don’t decide to call your boyfriend (or at the very least, take your conversation elsewhere). You do not want to create a hostile living environment – there’s enough other stuff going on in college to keep you busy, you don’t want roommate problems, too. Other times, you might be the accidental instigator, like when your alarm clock goes off multiple times at 6 a.m. (sorry, love!) or when you decide to disassemble the bunk bed when your roommate has a ton of stuff to do (that one was all on you, Molly 😛 ). Let your roommate know what you need, and if they’re a reasonable person, they’ll do their best to comply. If she likes the window open, instead of shutting it, try putting on a sweater or some fuzzy socks rather than cranking up the heat.
  3. Accept that you and your roommate might be just that – roommates. You might not become best friends. Believe me, I know how lucky I am to get along with Molly so well. We’re the exception, not the rule. We’re the only people I can think who stayed together in a dorm for two years in a row. Similarly, it might not be wise to bunk with the best friend you’ve had since 2nd grade. Living with people is hard, and if you truly appreciate your friendship, save yourself a little pain and think long and hard about whether you would really be a good pair. While it can be terrifying to move in with a stranger, it is also a great way to meet new people. (I actually owe almost all of my friendships to Molly – she brought people into our room last year, while I mostly sat at my desk and studied. Thanks again, hun 🙂 )
  4. Be courteous. This one goes along with numbers 1 and 2. It seems obvious, but I’ve seen other situations where roommates are blatantly rude to one another. Don’t leave your side of the room a mess. Sure, your room is bound to be a little untidy, but when you’re in such a small space, you need every inch. Therefore, every inch cannot be covered in laundry (clean or dirty).  Don’t leave food in the fridge after it’s gone bad. Take out the trash. Dust every now and again. Make these a part of the ground rules you set up at the beginning (if you’re lucky, you’ll be like Molly and I; we kind of automatically take turns doing chores).
  5. Know that there will be bad days. You will not like each other every day of the week, and that is okay. Get out of the room, go for a walk or see a movie. If she just tore the bed apart and you really don’t want to deal with the situation just yet, don’t. Go cool off. I promise it will be better later. You don’t want to say something that might permanently damage your relationship just because you’re angry.

Feel free to email me or comment below if you’ve got any more roommate questions – or if you just want to hear more stories.