I was at another goodbye party tonight. The thing about grad school is that once it’s over, people scatter. They’re supposed to scatter. But it still sucks, the slow dissolution of the community.
I’m still here and intend to be for the near term, and while there are others who intend to do the same (thank god), watching people go brings to mind the whole death by a thousand paper cuts thing (the mortal wounds being dealt to the community, in this case). The special hell of those who stay behind is that the community regenerates without you: new cohorts come in and form similar communities and have parallel experiences. But the once-familiar community events are increasingly populated by unfamiliar faces and one day you just don’t belong anymore.
I’ve heard more than one person mention the pleasure of being with like people. Not just like-minded people, but like people, ie writers. Certain fortunate work experiences can create a kind of community strong enough to rise above the petty pragmatism of the everyday, but I agree that one aspect of grad school that is also an argument in favor of traditional residential programs is this community. There is a pleasure in getting to know someone through their writing – and in knowing that they understand the grand slog of writing from direct personal experience.
But I’m not so maudlin this evening as I may appear. I am in fact kinda tired. And so, appropriately enough, I’m going to settle in for the evening with a book I started yesterday, Beyond the Writers’ Workshop. I anticipate having more to say about this book soon. Carol Bly, it seems, was a kind of nutter genius.
…only now in Googling her have I discovered that the “lioness of letters” died in 2007. From the Star-Tribune: She was formidable — a tall, three-masted ship of a woman who could, in person or on the page, slice cleanly through pettiness, cruelty, shoddiness, dissembling or wrongdoing. Anyone engaging her in a casual “hello” could expect to be conscripted into action.
Bly, I must note, had no kind words for the “workshopping of manuscripts,” but I think she would not deny the value of the community I have described in vague terms above.