Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Soon they will be gathering again, from all over the country. Their notebooks and ideas and works-in-progress tucked dreamily under arms and in backpacks. They will take trains and buses and planes to the lushly green setting, move their things into white clapboard houses and spend nearly two weeks filling up on words.

I graduated from Bennington's writing seminars three summers ago. I can't believe it! For awhile there, the experience was still fresh--the feeling of Tishman Hall packed to the rafters on a humid day; half of us drowsing, favorite teachers' legs draped through the railings overlooking the speaker, a feeling of purposeful gathering as we took notes. Or the trek from dorm to the Carriage Barn for readings, some of which were spellbinding, others so longwinded you wished you'd taken a seat in back so you could sneak out. The carousing, the intense workshops. The purposeful stride of our bear-like leader Liam Rector, who took his own life this past year. The endless day, beginning at breakfast and ending long after 9pm, often on the commons lawn if it was summer under the drone of fireflies, or the dank, foul-smelling pub in winter. I can still conjure the images of it, but the feeling of it--of having actually lived it, spent five residencies there, written hundreds of pages of material and read as many books, has become more insubstantial. More something I know I did, than remember doing.

Still, every time I receive the preliminary schedule (they include alumni), I get nostalgic. Wish I could be there to hear the lectures, to drink in the lovely surreality of academia where constructing a manuscript feels like the most important work on earth.


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