MFA @ FLA

Friskily Bogus Introductions

Suzanne: A Study in Two Parts

Part I – Memories

Yes, Suzanne has many. Some go back to her home in Philadelphia, and some go back even further to her hunting and gathering days, to her scavenging days. And further even. Suzanne on the plains of Pennsylvania, dressed in fur, bringing down elk, separating other people’s wheat from their chaff. Suzanne in the Ice Ages, taking pictures of glaciers with her seal-skin camera. Don’t we all go back that far, some minnowed part of ourselves traveling up time’s uterine canal? That’s what most of us would like to believe. But we don’t know how old Suzanne is for the simple reason that she won’t tell us. She could be twenty by now, twenty-one. She could be a dog’s age, a reverend’s. We don’t know. We just know that she’s come to Florida for her MFA: her Masters of Fine Arts, her Masters of Finding Artists, her Masters of Flattening A Cockroach that she Found on the Nape of her Neck Early this Semester. Ageless Master Suzanne. Our fond memories of Suzanne Warren don’t go back to the Ice Ages, nor do they return to Nomadic Pennsylvania. We never attended any of her famous Eatings-with-Friends in Philly, incidentally one of the country’s most overweight cities. Why is Philly one of the overweight cities? Because the food’s good? “No,” Suzanne tells us. “It’s because people eat with friends. They eat their friends’ food. Also, groups are more likely to order appetizers.” She wanted to know why people in our Masters of F*cked-Up Appetite didn’t eat together more regularly. No one answered; we just sat there starving. We share none of these Philly memories with her. Before she entered Florida like a mixture of the grandmother and the Misfit, she was merely a zealous e-mailer, shooting rapid-fire questionnaires and demographic surveys into our monitor-fried retinas. She was Scared Suzanne, prospective tenant of the South. What was in store for her here? The endangered, yet still dangerous, Florida Panther? The Ku Klux Fiction Writer? Spanish moss drooping from trees to suck up her hair? No, just Padgett Powell. What have we seen so far of Suzanne? One evening while walking through the Duck Pond neighborhood with a friend, Suzanne pointed ahead to a toilet bowl in one of the front yards. The house owners had upgraded their back nine. As Suzanne and her friend neared the spectacle she identified the toilet seat to be one of the soft kind. Her friend then made some remark about having a soft seat in his own bathroom; he regarded it as a technological advance in gluteal ergonomics. For Suzanne, however, soft seats weren’t a matter of scientific progress, rather they were a mystical node. “Sitting on one of those seats,” she said, “is like sitting on someone else’s butt. An upside-down person.” In this moment, Suzanne was revealed to her friend. While here Suzanne has proved to be a most intrepid writer. Journeying last month into the sixty-some-degree Ichetucknee Spring water, she became harnessed in a compulsive breast stroke for a quarter of an hour, but emerged refreshed. She has thrown darts in bars, been on romantic walks, written about men and women foraging for sustenance in grocery stores. Once, during a lull in an otherwise sedate house party, she found some Mr. Bubble in the bathroom and, perhaps with the instincts of an approval-seeking pet (or more likely for reasons as secret as her age), she brought it out onto the porch where the others sat. It was a hit, and still sits there today. Mr. Bubble on the porch. Why?

Part II – Essence

Who is Suzanne Warren? Born and raised in Philadelphia, she attended Bryn Mawr College from which she graduated with a BA in English. She has worked as a waitress, as a freelance film and video critic, and as a publications assistant for a scientific journal. She is single and has neither pets nor car. Rather, she has a washer and dryer, plenty of toeless shoes, an upside-down-butt-woman sense of humor, and much support from her friends here who admire her and who are increasingly convinced of her talent. Please welcome Suzanne Warren.

– Peter Grimes, MFA 2003

Chris Jones

When the members of this year’s incoming class decided to come to the University of Florida to pursue their Masters of Fine Arts degrees, each of us was assigned a “buddy” from among the rising second-year students, to help guide us through the transition. My buddy was Chris Jones. He was the first person I met when I came here, and he was tremendously helpful in answering my questions about all aspects of life here at UF. You may find it surprising, then, when I say that I don’t know Chris Jones at all. I’m not sure that any of us does.

We know Accumulation Jones. We know Map-Maker Jones. We know Teeth Title Jones and Green Bus Jones, Unstressed Jones and Six-Shooter Jones, Felix Culpa, Cat-tail, and Catamite Jones. We are aware of that mysterious figure, CIM Jones, and of the wily Swamp Hole Jones. His poems come to us only under these many pseudonyms.

Chris’s is a coruscating brilliance that can’t be contained by one name; thus, the many pseudonyms by which we know his poetry. But what we are only now starting to realize is that the Jones figure has a resonance, a cultural and historical penetrance, in a realm larger than contemporary poetry. Few people realize, for example, that the early American religious poet Jones Very was just another nom de plume for Chris Jones. (Thankfully, he has left his fundamentalist tendencies behind, though between you and me he did once slip up by founding Bob Jones University. We can forgive him, though, because of all the good he did as the liberal labor organizer Mother Jones.)

As Inigo Jones, he was famous for his painting and for developing what became known as the English Classical style of architecture. He also made a more light-hearted contribution to the arts as Chuck Jones, the animation director for Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes. Two of the finest actors of modern Hollywood, Tommy Lee Jones and James Earl Jones, are in fact Chris Jones. And he was also a figure who inspired art: as Casey Jones, the runaway locomotive engineer, he was immortalized in folk ballads and featured in the famous song by the Grateful Dead. He was Fielding’s Tom Jones, the foundling, and the Tom Jones who sang “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone.”

He has always been fond of football, and liked to play Defensive End. He made his contribution at this position first to the LA Rams, where in the late fifties he invented the sack, and later to the Dallas Cowboys as Ed “Too-Tall” Jones, who sat out the ‘79 season to pursue a boxing career. (He resurfaced in the late 1980s as Roy Jones Jr, compiling a record of 48 wins, 1 loss, and 38 knockouts.)

There is new speculation that only Chris’s humility has kept us from knowing an Ezra Jones, F. Scott Jones, T.S. Jones, Jones Madox Jones, Jones Carlos Jones. It is believed that he humbly asked John Berryman to truncate his name from the numerous references to Mr. Bones Jones in the Dream Songs. However, we tend to dismiss theories that he was the Leroi Jones who became Amiri Baraka. We vehemently deny reports that he is talk-show host Jenny Jones or cult leader Jim Jones. Yet we are sure that he was both the John Paul Jones who said “I have not yet begun to fight,” battling at sea during the American revolution, and the John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. He was also Jimmy Paige Jones, Robert Plant Jones, and John Bonham Jones.

This could go on for quite some time, and bizarre as it all seems, none of it should surprise us; for we now know that Chris Jones is superhuman. His father, the Intergalactic Emperor Jones, brought him to earth from the planet Arakis, where the younger Jones once looked at the moon and asked to be named for one of the craters on its face, and they called him Mouadh’ Jones after it. We stand in awe of him; we can see that he will change the face of American poetry. And how can this be? Because he is the Kwisnatz Haderach Jones. He is a new kind of man: Homo jones poeticus. He is Christopher Ian McKenzie Jones.

– Jon Stern, MFA 2004

Liz Bevilacqua

As some you may know Liz worked at a large New York publishing house before coming down here. I’d like to hit some of the highlights of her career.

A few years ago, she edited Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood. In an interview I read on the New York Observer’s website, she explains that she was integral in choosing the novel’s direction. “Padgett sent me this manuscript full of both declarative statements and questions,” she explains, "and I said, what if we just cut all the declarative statements?”

Liz first gained notoriety for analysis of David Leavitt’s laugh, “Echo: Just After Finding Out If Everyone Else Thinks It’s Funny.”

Her entry into the editorial world was as the Executive Editor of the New York general interest magazine Tampon before making a lateral move to Sanitary Napkin.

In 2008 she traveled to Iran to do research for her now famous essay, which appeared in The New England Review, “Reading Reading Lolita In Tehran In Tehran.”

She has work currently appearing or forthcoming in the following magazines and publications:
Escargot: A Journals of Stuffed Snails
New England Bait & Tackle Magazine
AARP 4 YA Magazine
5:43 in the afternoon Magazine
Pyschoalphadiscobetabioacquadooloop Magazine: a Journal of Emerging and Established Voices
Knock off, plastic Q-Tip Magazine
Grand Marnier Magazine
The Difference Between White Folks and Black Folks Magazine
Push! Magazine
Berkekekex Koax Koax Magazine
, (ed, Sorrentino et. al.)
Tickle! Magazine
Shove! Magazine
Alphabisexual. Magazine
The Boston Gym Socks Magazine
MEN are from Venus Magazine
Lookadishair! Magazine
The Best New American Erotica of 1983
Little Wing: An Anthology of Historical Fiction About Jimmy's Hendrix's Pet Parakeet: Johnny Hendrix
i know you are but what am i Magazine
Arcane Magazine
Alphabet shoop shoop bay doop. Shoopadoopaydopaydoop Magazine
Outamywaylady! Magazine
Having Sex Is Like Sticking Your Unit Into Warm Mashed Potatoes: An Anthology of Fiction
, (ed, Aaron Thier)
Japanese Vending Machine Fetish Magazine
Cap in a Can Magazine
The Angry Dragon Magazine
Alchemists Quarterly Review
(I know you want that gold, Liz!)
Ponycon
All t-9 predictive text en Espanol Magazine
The Negritude Movement Magazine
The Pulchritude Movement Magazine
The New England Catamite
Turncoat Magazine
Apples!
Alain De Botton’s Intercontinental Medicine Show Magazine
Bittamelon Magazine
Overeasy Magazine
There’s shit on my parade! Magazine
Turkey Magazine!
Doctor Who Magazine
Oxycodone Aficionado Magazine
(I think there are a few prescribers – I mean subscribers here in the audience tonight.)
Crooklyn
The People’s Republic of Creative Nonfiction Magazine
Durian Magazine
Everywhere is an Indian burial ground Magazine
Gretsky Magazine
Hippopotami Magazine
Hustler
The Horny Arkansan
Johnny: La Gente Esta Muy Loca Magazine
The New American Fartist Magazine

and of course Slice Magazine.

And now, since she’s better looking than I am, Liz Bevilacqua.

– Harry Leeds, MFA 2012

Ezra Stewart-Silver

Ezra Stewart-Silver needs no introduction.

(beat)

Well, are you going to come up here or what?

(motion for Ezra to come forward)

Well, actually, since I'm up here . . . something's bothering me.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, describes the Large Hadron Collider (or LHC) "as the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator." The LHC is expected to address some of the most fundamental questions of physics, advancing the understanding of the deepest laws of nature." OK.

The Large Hadron Collider could theoretically produce stable microscopic black holes right here on terra firma. Understandably, this has sparked a number of doomsday scenarios. Will science be our undoing?

(beat)

Could be.

But we have bigger things to worry about, folks. Larger, even, than Large HARDON Colliders (excuse me--Hadron).  Right here at the University of Florida, MFA@FLA has devoted time and money to a machine that could rend our very universe and identities into something resembling tiny pieces of paper, but smaller than that even. They call it the Huge Hyphenated Surname Collider (beat) and it's part of one man's mad quest to create a stable, controllable supermassive MFA, skilled in both prosody and attentive narrative craft.

The Alachua Project, as it has since been dubbed, began with the program's acquisition of two unstable materials—one part Coker-Dokuwitz and one part Heath-Wlaz. Initial operation of the Huge Hyphenated Surname Collider resulted in the creation of a new element, Dukowitz-Wlaz-Heath-Coker, but it couldn't be stabilized more than 5 seconds because it didn't flow good. In other words, a mixed success.

Deciding he wasn't yet satisfied playing God, head researcher David Leavitt wondered if the addition of a Hyphenated Given Name would stabilize future output from the Huge Hyphenated Surname Hardon Collider. The introduction of an isolated, but decidedly stable Hai-Dang resulted in Hai-Wlaz-Heath-Coker-Dang-Dukowitz.

(beat) 

The flow was much improved.

But Leavitt, insatiable, ravenous, foaming at the mouth at little bit . . .

No, really, you got something like . . . GOT IT! 

Anyway, David decided his new creation wasn't supermassive enough. "Fuck it," he said, contacting some "friends" in "Siberia" to obtain two highly volatile cakes of weapons-grade S-S, the rarest alliterative element known to man. Levitt's sick plan is to throw one part Smith-Stevens and, lastly, yes, one Stewart-Silver into the Huge Hyphenated Surname Collider.

(quiet)

Nobody knows what trouble might befall us as a result of this hyphenated collision. Even the best result, Smith-Silver-Dang-Heath-Dukowitz-Stewart-Coker-Stevens-Wlaz, the first supermassive MFA candidate with a really good flow, capable of tearing a hole in White Space or sucking all the world's first-book titles from their dust jackets into some unknowable void, could spell R-U-I-N for us all. Imagine, The Mysteries of Pittsburg or The Twenty-Seventh City or even, my God, North of Boston, all suddenly and without warning . . . silenced. 

What's worse . . . you're all are sitting in the collider right now . . . and all the elements are in place.

Ladies and gentlemen,

S-S Series 2 -- Ezra Stewart-Silver - Weapons-grade

– Andrew Donovan, MFA 2013

Kristen Dawes

(Note: After Quint’s Indianapolis speech in Jaws. Peter Benchley & Carl Gottlieb, with modifications.)

Kristen and I—we go way back. Most folks don’t know that, but we do. Fact is, we were mates on a cruiser not so long ago, back in ’45.

Hard story as it was. Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We'd just delivered the bomb--the Hiroshima bomb.

Eleven hundred sailors went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.

Didn't see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. Thirteen-footer. You know how you know that in the water? You can tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail.

What we didn’t know … was our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent.

They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups—kinda like old squares in a battle, like you see on a calendar, like the Battle of Waterloo, and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes that shark, he go away... sometimes he wouldn't go away—sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't seem to be livin’... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin' and your hollerin' they all come in and ... rip you to pieces.

You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I don’t know how many men—they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’, Kristen and I bumped into a friend of ours, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson’s mate. We thought he was asleep. Kristen reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up and down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist.

Noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Fishman here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol' fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time we was most frightened. Waitin' for our turn. We’ll never put on lifejackets again.

So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.

Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

I imagine Kristen—she don’t much care for talkin’ about it now. Nor do I know or much care for what you folks write about anyway, if you write about these things. But I expect you show support for my mate, here, tonight. Ms. Kristen Dawes.

– Rebecca Bauman, MFA 2013

Youmi Park

Upon diligent research and careful analysis of the form of the MFA@FLA Reading Series introduction, I’ve determined that several rough “genres” of introduction can be said to exist:

1) The wacky fictional conceit wherein the introducer shoehorns the introducee into some fantastical tale or fable, some series of comically irrelevant historical events, and/or imagines the introducee as the recipient of all manner of literary prizes. e.g., Youmi Park first attained fame when she resurrected Hemingway, but sent his sorry ass back to the grave when he tried to get fresh with her. More recently she got into a fistfight with Karen Russell, whom she handily defeated, dislodging several of Ms. Russell’s teeth. For this, Youmi was awarded a Lannan Foundation Fellowship.

2) The earnest appraisal of talent wherein the introducer, in pleasant, soft-spoken tones, shares his or her unironically flattering opinion of the introducee’s work. e.g., Youmi Park writes stories that surprise, that deftly balance humor and heart. She writes with range, equally comfortable telling the story of an elderly woman essaying to retrieve her dead son’s ashes from a cult, or the story of a woman struggling to navigate the interpersonal politics of mothers gabbing at a playground. Youmi’s dialogue makes me feel boring, makes me wish I could speak as her characters speak.

3) The panicked, last-minute introduction wherein the introducer scours the introducee’s Facebook for biographical talking points. The panicked mode may also desperately employ thin anecdotal accounts of introducer-introducee interaction in a clumsy attempt to garner some semblance of authority and relevance. e.g., Youmi Park has a small dog that appears to belong to the breed of Schnauzer. It presumably has a name, which I presently cannot recall, but I seem to remember it being a good name that fits the dog well.

4) The psychological attack wherein the introducer attempts to get inside the head of the introducee and sabotage his or her reading.
e.g., Youmi Park definitely has nothing to worry about reading to this standing-room crowd at Volta. Nothing could go wrong. No one will strain to hear her over the whir of the espresso grinders. She will be fine, one presumes.

5) There lies a fifth path—heretofore unseen—wherein the introducer spends the duration of the introduction introducing the concept of an introduction. This mode receives a reaction from the crowd that could best be categorized as “mixed.” People are beginning to tire of the introducer’s shit. They want him to leave, but he doesn’t seem to recognize that he’s been talking for too long. People come to the conclusion that he’s an “odd man” and never should have been put in the position to introduce anything to anyone. And it’s not until the introducer looks up from his paper and locks eyes with Sebastian, whose face reads, “Good God, man. Get out of there. Abort. Abort”—it’s not until this moment that the introducer realizes his folly and says, “I’m so sorry. Please help me in welcoming Youmi Park.”

– Glen Lindquist, MFA 2016

Jacob Guajardo

So when I sat down to write Jacob’s introduction, I realized that this was actually a pretty onerous task—trying to come up with a funny intro for someone who, without a doubt, would be way better at introducing himself. And then I thought, why is it that we even introduce other people in the first place? Why can’t people introduce themselves? They know themselves way better than anybody else does—I mean, look at all the misinformation in last semester’s introductions. And then it started seeming really unfair to me that Jacob wouldn’t get the chance to give himself the amazing introduction he deserves. Which is when I decided, fuck this, Jacob is going to get that chance. So Jacob, come on up here.

Jacob: Marsha, you shouldn’t have!

Marsha: Really, it’s nothing.

Jacob: No, I mean you actually shouldn’t have. You’re supposed to come up with something yourself.

Marsha: Yeah, but like… you love attention, so I thought…

Jacob: God Marsha, how could you say that about me? That’s so rude!

Marsha: But you’ve literally said that to me before. “I’m never nervous about reading, Marsha, I love attention.”

Jacob: Fine, but like, what am I supposed to say? You’ve had weeks to prepare for this!

Marsha: Please, I didn’t spend weeks preparing for this. I didn’t even start thinking about it until two hours ago.

Jacob: [starts fake crying] How could you? I thought you cared about me!

Marsha: Come on, Jacob, you know I don’t care about anyone.

Jacob: You’re the worst!

Marsha: No no, this isn’t about me. This intro is about you. So come on. Tell them something.

Jacob: Fine. [turns towards the audience] Um, hi everyone. My name is Jacob Guajardo. I’m the smartest and definitely the most beautiful writer in this program. I mean, look at this outfit—could I be any better dressed? I’m also a really good teacher—did I tell you that I got a perfect evaluation last semester, like, perfect? There wasn’t a single thing my evaluator would’ve changed. Also, I love helping those less fortunate than I am—for example, the first years MFAs, who are all really shy and boring but I thought, no, I’m not going to let them watch Netflix alone in their rooms every night, I’m gonna invite them out and show them a good time. And look at them now! They’re still boring, but at least they have friends. Uh, what else should I say about myself. Well, I really don’t think I can sum my writing up in a sentence, I mean I have such a huge range, there’s really nothing that links my stories together… Oh, blowjobs. They’re always about blowjobs. But they’re also really tender, and insightful about how cruel we can be to the people we care about. Plus we all like blowjobs, right? Basically, all you need to know is that I’m amazing, and everybody loves me.

Marsha: There you go, you did great! Now everyone give it up for Jacob!

–Marsha Sasmor

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