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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

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From Jessica Smith:

In a very encouraging email, my DGS (for the uninitiated, that's "Director of Graduate Studies") told me to "keep my eyes on the prize." This is the right thing to say to an Alabaman who grew up with the Gospel hymn resonating in her mind like a battle cry of freedom. Yes! Keep my eyes on the prize! I can do that!

But unfortunately, after turning this little phrase over in my head for awhile, I began to note the flaw in its logic. Exactly what prize am I working for? Many of the smartest graduate students I have known have gone on to teach composition at schools in the middle of nowhere. When they're lucky, perhaps they get a creative writing course or they get to live in a place somewhat convenient to them. When they're very lucky the position is tenure-track. Some have hefty teaching loads and are wrangled into sitting on every committee the department mandates.

And what if you're really, really very lucky, and get a tenure-track job at an ivy league school, and even get tenure there? (Unheard-of! But I am referring to someone specific, actually.) What if taking tenure there means teaching snotty rich kids while your academic S.O. languishes or moves far away? It seems like even if you get The Ideal Situation there are still so many real-life factors to take into account. Link.

and

The Drama:
This is not the right school for me. Link.

The prize

The prize is the work. The work is the prize.
Link.

Moral lessons

I think I would be getting along better in school if I had some humility. I don't like being treated like a "student." I don't like doing work that I consider to be beneath my talents. If I could fake humility, I would at least be able to get on better terms with some of my teachers. If I had real humility, maybe it wouldn't bother me so much that I am required to whore out my intellect to 5-page book reports. Link.

Awaiting the Verdict: A Romance in One Act

JESSICA
Maybe if you would be a little more interesting I would try harder.

SCHOOL
Maybe if you try harder I will seem more interesting. Link.

The End of an Affair: A Comedy

SCHOOL
We genuinely wish you success in your critical and creative work. But that work cannot be continued in our department.

JESSICA
shrugs Eh.

I feel liberated, glad someone else made the decision for me, ready to get a job that pays money, happy that (ironically) I can finally get to do the intellectual work that I came here to do-- guilt-free and unencumbered. There are books to be written, both critical and poetic, and they're entirely under my control now. I think some people will be upset or disappointed but come on, we all knew this wasn't working.

**Addendum I actually did go to a wedding tonight, so I guess it's a comedy. At the wedding, I saw a wonderful neon sign that will make a great title for my next chapbook. And, of course, there was lots of free booze and cake-- a happy ending. Link.

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