by Michael Lee
I’m incredibly excited and grateful to announce that this fall I’ll be on the road east again to Cornell University to get my MFA in creative writing with a focus in poetry. I’ve been holding on to this one for a while, partially because so much has been tossed into the unknown with COVID-19 that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go. And also because as my work is so personal and my professional life is increasingly public, I like to keep more and more to myself. (I’ll continue to do so until I unceremoniously disappear into the woods to become a subsistence farmer writing under a pseudonym.)
I wanted to share this because what my creative process requires has changed so much, I think it’s worth noting. Twelve years ago, I simply needed to get sober. Then I needed to read obsessively and feverishly. Then I just needed to be heard. Open mics and slams became my life blood and my community. Then I felt the need to be alone, to trave, and to connect more deeply with nature. Finally, I turned partially from writing and focused heavily on youth and community work. I will always be glad I did that, but after some years I felt my writing slipping away more each day until I thought I wasn’t going to get it back.
At that point, I was lucky enough to receive an Emerging Writer Award from Key West Literary Seminar, where I had the good fortune of working with Rowan Ricardo Phillips. His workshop changed my life and trajectory—I wrote more in the two months following that workshop than I had the previous two years! Many of the poems ended up in my first book and are among my all-time favorites. I learned I needed dedicated time to workshop, to study, to dialogue, and to critique—to focus my energy on craft. I made a decision to put my writing first for the first time in several years.
We are always changing: how we see and relate to the world, ourselves, our pasts, and, thus, our processes will also change. We must be open to these shifts. I’m making a big decision to fully invest in my dreams, and I’m hoping everyone is able to make one decision—small or large—each day, bringing you closer to your own. I can’t wait to see what writing comes out of this and share it with all of you.