Monday, August 10, 2009

On the path to a Master's Degree

I have returned home from an intensive two week residency at Ashland University. The residency is the gate through which I must enter to achieve an MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry. Ashland offers a cross genre study of Creative Non-fiction and Poetry, a degree which will advance my writing.

I want to write about Urban Native Americans, travels on and off the reservations, grappling with traditional Native religion and Christianity and connectedness to culture. All of these topics revolve around the larger issue of identity. The questions mankind has asked since the beginning of the human species, Who am I and what is my purpose in life? remains a motivation inherent to humanness. I ask this age old question in an increasingly complicated world that does not necessarily recognize the time required for such introspection. It's a pity that a collective lack of downtime is the meager reward for the payoff of constant and immediate technological connectivity, as if that were any valid substitute for the blood and guts of identity.

I say this because it has come to my attention that people have an increasingly shorter attention span. If immediate gratification is not met, the mind wanders. Worse yet, anger and frustration spread like dark ink on white fabric leaving the indelible mark of squandered time. Time that is better spent examining identity rather than electronic gadgets. Where, among this, is our connectedness, our unique reasons for walking on earth at this time? I think of whistling in the dark, if I can just stay busy enough, then there is no time left for those unanswered questions that I would rather not have answers to. This was one of many thoughts unearthed at the residency.

Where is the "I" in my poetry? I assumed since I was the one writing the poem, that question was a no-brainer, but not so. Not so at all. I wondered how or why or when I had put myself in the passenger seat of writing recording what I observe and then distancing myself from the process. How many other times have I distanced myself from whatever event unfolds in my day as if it were just part of the a unending newsfeed containing a few sentences interwoven with other people's newsfeeds. Our lives are a miasma of generalizations that naturally go along with distancing ourselves. It's an insidious form of disconnection on a deeper level.

I'm sure there's a poem in there.

If I lived on the rez, I wonder if I would stand in the same educational shoes? How could I? Certainly, I would have been a different person molded by daily life. I have spent the past six years questioning what does being a Yankton Sioux mean? So much so, I have traveled back and forth between the Yankton Rez and the home where I was raised, forging new territory which, at times, was gut-wrenching. As I talk with others about my lifework, I discover the thirst people have for taking part in the journey in some way, if only to read about it. I have cast my net in search of identity, deep and wide. Join me, won't you?

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