Mark Lager is a graduate of Truman State University with a B.A. in English & B.A. in Philosophy/Religion. His poem “Pocahontas, Arkansas: June 2, 2001” was published in issue #99 (spring 2015) of Chiron Review and his translation of Raoul Ponchon’s “La Chanson de la Lune (Moon Song)” was published in Columbia Journal. He also has forthcoming translations in Circumference (a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts) and Denver Quarterly.
Rachel Hoge: Hi Mark, thanks so much for agreeing to share your thoughts on the Arkansas Writers Program. Artistically speaking, what do you find most appealing about our program?
Mark Lager: It’s quite common for writers (myself included) to become accustomed to only one form or genre of writing. What’s essential and exciting about our program is that we are being challenged constantly to step out of our comfort zones and experiment: I’ve tried my hand at poetry, screenwriting (wrote my first feature length script), translations, short stories, travel writing, etc.
RH: In what ways has our MFA program transformed you as a writer, artist, or professional?
ML: In my first workshop during my first semester, we were required to submit poetry to literary journals. I had been writing poetry, on and off, throughout my twenties but had never mustered up the courage to send any of my poems out because I never thought any of them would measure up. My first poem was accepted at age 29 and published the following year at age 30. The MFA program has cracked my hermit shell, to some degree. (It’s still difficult for me to send out my writing, yet the MFA program has helped me.)
RH: How will this degree be beneficial to you in reaching your post-grad goals?
ML: During my time in the MFA program, I’ve had the opportunity to work at the Writing Center and the Graduate Office. This graduate assistantship gave me insights into how the theory of writing is applied in pedagogy and practice, as well as how students in different programs write a thesis or dissertation. I hope I get a chance to teach a class before I graduate next May.
RH: How has the faculty of our MFA program helped you prepare for the future?
In Carey Clark’s class I created a syllabus and teaching philosophy; in Stephanie Vanderslice’s class we considered the complexities of creative writing pedagogy; John Vanderslice’s Fiction workshop and Garry Craig Powell’s Forms of Fiction both shared accomplished authors to learn lessons from in the art of prose; Mark Spitzer and Sandy Longhorn both guided me in the art of poetry; and working with Jennie Case and the rest of my fellow MFA students in our current Arkana project has been eye-opening as I’ve had the honor to read so many different submissions from so many different writers.
RH: Why would you recommend the Arkansas Writers Program to an MFA applicant?
“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” (Thomas Mann)
The professors in the Arkansas Writers Program are on the same voyage as you. Your fellow students are on the same voyage as you. As writers, we change and grow through sharing our work with a community which features different aesthetic perspectives and tastes. This is crucial and important in order to become a better writer.
Stop by next Friday to meet another graduate student from the Arkansas Writers Program.