My MFA Poetry Thesis Defense

Back on Tuesday, November 5th, I had my thesis defense.  My thesis was a manuscript of some of my early constraint-based erasures (a term I use to denote erasures created through specific methods/constraints, such as making use of every page from a source text), written during my second and third years of the program.

As the day approached, I decided I wanted the defense filmed.  My three years in Texas State University’s MFA program would culminate into this one hour; why not have it filmed?  My choice was unusual (and unprecedented for Texas State University), but accepted, and I present the link to the YouTube video to you below:

An MFA Poetry Defense

Preparation for the defense can easily get out of hand, as anything could be asked; these open possibilities necessitate attempts at anticipating questions but also necessitate an eventual acknowledgment that one cannot fully prepare for seemingly infinite possibility.  I was nervous in the days leading up to the defense, but, during the day of, I allowed for and emphasized a confidence and clarity.

I realize public speaking is a cliché fear that many have, but I think it is important to distinguish between two kinds: speaking when one is expected to speak versus speaking when one must (at least theoretically) interrupt others to speak.  There is a difference between giving a presentation and engaging in a free-for-all dialogue.

The former gives me more confidence, as its nature is such that I would not be treading upon the expression of others: this is designated as time for me to speak.  Further, it is a time in which I am clearly desired to speak and be listened to.  (In contrast, the free-for-all style dialogue has ambiguity, more subjective rules governing it; for example, one might speak, but have the sense that no one is necessarily interested, others anticipating what they themselves have to say.)  In sum, speaking before an audience can be empowering in ways group discussion cannot be.  (But, of course, group discussion has its own positives as well!)

Digression on the nature of public speaking aside, I welcome any questions regarding what it was like to defend my manuscript and have it filmed or inquiries about the nature of this work.