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Once again, I am writing about my grad school apps, specifically where I plan to apply. Pacific University has complicated things. It’s a low-residency MFA program in Oregon that offers, from what I’ve gleaned from their website, very little financial aid. This sounds like a straight up “no, this does not go on the list”, but Pam Houston and Bonnie Jo Campbell, professors at this program, make the decision murky. I’ve recently plowed through Pam Houston’s collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness, and Bonnie Jo Campbell’s new novel Once Upon A River. Presently, I’m in the middle of Campbell’s collection American Salvage. These ladies are fantastic writers. Houston is a Western writer, and Campbell is a Mid-Western writer who borrows the tone, wildness, loneliness of Western writing.

Here’s what I’m loving from “The Yard Man” in American Salvage:

“And his wife would go into the bed with her cool coppery hair and soft thighs and smooth arms, and there would be no children there to disturb them. He would slide over he and inside her and the sunlight would play on them through the curtains, dappling her body. On this hot afternoon, the red squirrels would sleep and not scratch inside the walls as his wife’s hair coiled on the pillow. Let snakes sun themselves upon rocks, let spiders suck juices from the bodies of flies they had captured in the night and drop the crumpled corpses the floor like the shells of tiny pistachios. Let dilapidated wooden sheds settle while weed roots nudged into cracks in their foundations. Let all of nature continue its parade while he made love with his wife, the great love of his life, whom he’s lost in high school and miraculously found again.”

Here’s what I loved about “What Shock Heard” from Cowboys Are My Weakness:

“I was crying then, but not hard, and you couldn’t tell through all the dirt and blood, and the rain and the noise the wind was making. I was crying, I think, but I wanted to laugh because he would have said there weren’t any words for what I didn’t tell him, and that was that I loved him and even more I loved that prairie that wouldn’t let you hide anything, even if you wanted to.

Then he reached across the space my words had made around me and put his long brown finger against my swollen lips. I closed my eyes tight as his hand wrapped up my jaw and I fell into his chest and whatever it was that drove him to me, and I held myself there unbreathing, like waiting from the sound of hooves on the sand, like waiting for a tornado.”

Yet, is it worth it? Is it worth the $50 app fee? I’m not sure. I’m not in a position to pay for my degree out of pocket. Maybe I’ll have to wait until my list is full and see if there’s any space or money left.

In other news:

I’m taking a leave of absence from NewPages while I get my grad school apps in order, but I do have four reviews up currently, Indiana Review, Weave, Willow Springs, and The Fiddlehead.

Related to the above, Indiana Review thanked me for my review of the newest issue on their blog.