The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: This classic self-help recovery for creatives book has given me back my sealegs after beginning the MFA. Fighting imposter syndrome, feeling creatively blocked, wondering whether or not poetry is a worthwhile pursuit? This book’s week by week readings and activities get me out of my head. Right now I’m in week 6 (of 12, because this is a 12-week “recovery” program). Here’s a picture of a creativity altar Cameron asked me to make, my notebook containing daily freewrite morning pages (the rule is write three pages and don’t reread them!) along with an “Artist’s Prayer” I wrote and posted above my desk. All this sounds pretty woo-woo, but it’s better than crippling self-doubt. My high school art teacher in rural Wisconsin gave me this book at fifteen, but between then and now (ahem, many years later) I had to do Week 1 twice before finally getting up the nerve to stick to it. Highly recommend.
Sing, Unburied, Sing: I’m just at the beginning of this one, but Jesmyn Ward is fire. Salvage the Bones ravaged me (WHAT AN ENDING!) and so did Men We Reap. Keep ’em coming, Jesmyn! We love you!
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude: At the suggestion of a friend also struggling with the dumpster fire that is current events in America, rereading Ross Gay‘s beautiful collection reminds me that it’s okay. This poetry soothes, giving a true gift directly into the hands and heart of the reader. Feeling despondent and angry? Check it out.
H.D.’s Trilogy: The OG imagist, H.D.’s epic poem “The Walls Do Not Fall” is the topic of my next paper (due . . . very soon . . .) Here’s this tidbit from Section 4 about how we should all be more like oysters. This will get all you writers out there feeling good about yourself. Keep on making those pearls of great price. You have magic inside you. Just remind yourself,
I in my own way knowthat the whalecan not digest me:be firm in your own small, static, limitedorbit and the shark-jawsof outer circumstancewill spit you forth:be indigestible, hard, ungiving,so that, living within,you beget, self-out-of-self,selfless,that pearl-of-great-price.
Alexa Garvoille is a first-year MFA candidate at Virginia Tech. After nine years of teaching high school English and Creative Writing, she considers this degree her sabbatical.