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April 03, 2014 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 3Br

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 3B

Prestigious Zell
program this

Saying goodbye

MFA program
fosters writers and
relationships
By ADAM DEPOLLO
Daily Online Arts Editor
One lesson to be learned from
the success of the most recent
Coen Brothers film "Inside
Llewyn Davis" is that the image
of the starving artist remains as
popular and compelling today as
ever. As almost all of those starv-
ing artists would attest, however,
it's neither as glamorous nor as
full of spontaneous singing as
"Rent" or "Moulin Rouge!" would
have you believe. Writing the next
Great American Novel suddenly
seems much less important when
you default on your electricity bill.
Fortunately, for a handful of the
most talented young poets and fic-
tion writers in America each year,
the University of Michigan offers a
way to leave the "starving" moni-
ker behind and just be artists.
The Helen Zell Writers' Pro-
gram - named after University
alumna Helen Zell, who, along
with her family's foundation,
donated $50 million to fund the
program into perpetuity - is the
current incarnation of the Univer-
sity's creative writing MFA pro-
gram, which first began in 1982.
The gift was the largest in the his-
tory of the college of LSA. Megan
Levad, an alumna of the program
and its current Assistant Director,
explained that creative writing at
the University has an impressive
pedigree.
"Nicholas Delbanco, who is now
the Robert Frost Distinguished
Professor of English Language
& Literature, came to Ann Arbor
and was the director (of the MFA
program) for several years," Levad
said. "And even before that there
was Robert Hayden on the fac-
ulty, Robert Frost was here, W.H.
Auden was here. The University
of Michigan has a really long,
rich history, especially with the
poets."
Thanks to itsgenerous funding
and the number of exceptional
writers among the University's
faculty, admittance to the writ-
ers' program is highly competi-
tive. As Levad explained, over a
thousand writers apply for the
program's 22 spots - 10 for poet-
ry and 12 for fiction.
For the lucky and talented

few who do get in, the Zell Writ-
ers' Program offers a series of
invaluable assets to aspiring
writers in addition to three years
of the funding necessary to live
and write in Ann Arbor without
needing a full- or part-time job to
make ends meet.
The program's first and second
year students attend workshops
each semester in which they dis-
cuss and critique their own and
their colleagues' work, guided by
an English Department profes-
sor. Poet J.D. Duval, one of the
program's first year students,
described these workshops as an
important opportunity to grow as
a writer.
"(My favorite aspect of the
program has been) just working
with a group of people who are
all serious about poetry, and also,
surprisingly for me, the range
of aesthetics," he said, "Some of
which I didn't think that I liked
at first, and didn't really know
how to talk about. But in work-
shops, as we figure out ways to
talk about each other's work, you
really learn to appreciate dif-
ferent things, and learn how to
incorporate things into your work
that you didn't think were impor-
tant before, or weren't thinking
about."
Writers in the program also
take on some academic respon-
sibilities. First and second year
students typically take three
graduate-level English courses
and one graduate-level course
outside of the department in addi-
tion to preparing a thesis for the
end of their second year. Each
writer is also assigned to teach
two undergraduate courses - one
in composition and one in creative
writing - in their second year
in the program. The students-
turned-teacher develop their own
syllabi and generally have little
faculty supervision.
After earning their MFA at the
end of the second year the stu-
dents are guaranteed placement
in a postgraduate fellowship to
spend time writing without aca-
demic responsibilities.
"The third year is really when
wedon'thave anyresponsibilities,
don't have any teaching or work-
shops, so we really have the time
to get something publishable out
there and really complete what
we're working on," Duval said.
Another important aspect of
the program is the Zell Visiting
Writers Series, which brings a

different writer to the Univer-
sity every Thursday to perform a
public reading of their work at the
University of Michigan Museum
of Art and conduct small work-
shops with the program's MFA
students. Pulitzer Prize-winning
novelist Jane Smiley was on cam-
pus on April 1st as a part of the
series, and past visitors include
poets Eduardo C. Corral, Edward
Hirsch and Marianne Boruch.
Duval got the opportunity to
work one-on-one with Boruch
when she came to the University
in February.
"She was really fantastic, real-
ly sweet," he said. "She gave me
some great advice on some poems
that I thought were close to being
finished, and also she gave me a
miniature notebook 'to record
images in,' she said. Like when
you're on the bus, conversations
you hear, that kind of thing, it was
really nice."
The goal of the Zell Writers'
Program is not, however, to sim-
ply provide students with an MFA
and send them on their way. The
workshops, one-on-one time with
established writers and consul-
tation with faculty are aimed at
providing some of the best young
voices in poetry and fiction with
a point of departure into a life of
writing and publication.
"Work ethic is really empha-
sized here - our students are
expected to handle quite a lot,
whichI think will serve them well
for rest of their lives," Levad said.
"As a writer, you have to be so self-
disciplined and so able to manage
your time. But I think that we are
also particularly tuned in on talk-
ing about craft and being really
transparent about how talking
about poems and stories and nov-
els and essays are put together. If
you learn how to read for craft,
that's going to be so instrumental
for you in the rest of your writing
life."
For the three years that they're
here, however, the program pro-
vides its writers with a commu-
nity of fellow artists and mentors
devoted to their craft that would
be hard to recreate anywhere else.
"It'll be great to know that
there's a group of people out there
who I spent my time with, who
I'm comfortable with sharing my
work with and who are serious
about it," Duval said."To always
be able to have that even if poetry
turns into more of a hobby than a
career."

ver the past two and
a half years, I've had
the great pleasure of
developingthis column dedicated
to good food and the gathering of
close friends and family around it.
"The Under-
grad Gour-
met" - as
I've come to
only half seri-
ously refer to0
it-has been
a source of
pure joy in my NATHAN
college career WOOD
as I've con-
nected with
my fellowstudents, University
faculty, staff and alumni; and Ann
Arbor community members over
the culture of cuisine. It's been the
lens through which I've focused
my perception of the experiences
that I've had here, and, unapolo-
getically, I wouldn't have it any
other way.
Moving into South Quad my
freshman year, I remember viv-
idly the hustle and bustle of the
move-in-makers, the bright and
shining faces of the resident-
ready RAs and the emotions of
fear, anticipation and eagerness
plastered plainly across my peers'
faces. But even clearer are my
memories of the homemade baked
goods nervous mothers sent with
their kids: "They'll help you make
friends," they coaxed hopefully. I
remember the ecstasy of realizing
there was all-you-can-eat food
in the dining hall 14 hours a day.
And, of course, I remember the
warm and creamy chickenobroc-
coli bake - the truest "Welcome
to Michigan!" any student could
possibly have.
The Welcome Week to follow
had me slurping bubble tea with
my roommate and discovering the
dive that is Bell's Pizza. Chicken
quesadillas from BTB - nobody
knew what it stood for - were
S
GScreeching guitar tinged
with eloquent desperation and
avoice to match - that's the
essence of
Jack White's
career. Lis-
tening to the High Ball
guitar maestro
do histhing- Stepper
whether with
The Racon- Jack White
teurs, The Third Man Records
White Stripes
or his solo
work - I rarely
give a shit what he sings about.
I mean seriously, who/what the
fuck is an "Icky Thump?" I don't
have the answer, but I do know
itsounds awesome when White
sings about it.
Strangely enough, Jack
White's lead single, "High Ball
Stepper," off his newsolo album
Lazaretto, is an instrumental
track. Lazaretto is White's
second solo album and his first
since 2012's Blunderbuss. When

consumed late night en masse.
The quad at Blimpie Burger (RIP?)
was conquered, and countless slic-
es of pizza courtesy of Kaplan Test
Prep were garneredby pimping
out my newly acquired @umich.
edu email address.
Not more than a few days later,
I found myself stumbling around
Festifall, where hoards of candy
were thrown my way at every
turn as over 1,400 student orga-
nizations pined for my supposed
a capella voice, Quidditch skills
and - yes, it's true - Bollywood
dance moves. I began acclimating
myself to the idea/reality ofcthe
freshman 15.
Before long, though, I was
passing as an upperclassman.
I pretended to understand the
course numbers people injected
casually into conversation. Ihad
a beard, which helped. And most
importantly, I was picking up on
where to eat: The Hill Dining Cen-
ter - "MoJo" - was where you
could getsushi. North Quad was
for crispy brick oven pizza, West
Quad for burritos and Martha
Cook for ladies only. (I hadto find
this one out the hard way.)
Also like an upperclassman,
however, I tired quickly of dining
hall food (who doesn't?). Eager
to try each and every Ann Arbor
eatery classic, my friends and I
embarked on a four-year culinary
adventure. And as shallow as it
sounds, these tasty excursions are
what I'm going to remember most
fondly about mytime here at the
University. Playingnose-goes to
see which poor sap got the job of
runningto Jimmy John's to bring
back subs for Professor Nolta's
Friday-night organic chemistry
review sessionswas a weekly
game of luck. Waiting in line in
the freezing cold for deep-fried
French toast at Angelo's was
a Saturday morning tradition.
Late-night shakes and feta bread
at Pizza House. Espresso Royale
I NG LE REVI EV

lattes - with an extra shot of
espresso - during exam weeks.
The occasional Main Street al
fresco dinner. And, of course,
Zingerman's Deli.
Then suddenly - BAM: senior
year. It's crept up on me. With
so many places left to try - and
even more now that I'm 21 (sorry,
grandma) - a few of my friends
and I form "The Rooftop Club."
Essentially, we use the custom-
ary social celebration of one's day
of birth as an excuse to dress up,
head somewhere new and fancy
and enjoy a great meal. Usually, to
our mutual delight, this occurs at
restaurants offering rooftop seat-
ing. A little pretentious? Probably.
Totally awesome? Definitely.
Fishbowls and trivia at Char-
ley's on Wednesday nights. San-
gria and a Constant Buzz to share.
at Dominick's on warm after-
noons. Ashley's for craft brews
and pesto fries. Rod's Diner for
candy-packed colliders. And most
recently, fragles - deep-fried
raisin bagels coated in cinnamon
sugar (oh yes) - after a long,
sleepless night of waiting outside
in the hopes of getting tickets to
see Obama. Does senior year have
to end?
But I guess the answer is yes,
isn't it? Just like all good things,
this food-filled college journey to
adulthood whose final destination
I'm oh-so-quickly approaching
must come to an end. My solace is
that friendships and memories...
they don't.
For the last time, this isthe
Undergrad Gourmet reminding
you to savor each bite: each bite of
food, of life, of friendship, of each
moment you have at this amazing
University. And from here, what-
ever you eat, whomever you meet
and wherever you go, GO BLUE.
Wood is moving on up in
life. To send encouragement,
e-mail nisaacw@umich.edu.

ARE YOU AN AVID PITCHFORK OR SPIN READER
WITH A KNACK FOR WRITING?
START YOUR JOURNALISTIC CAREER WITH THE
DAILY ARTS MUSIC SECTION.
Email jplyn@umich.edu to request an application.

I first listened to "High Ball
Stepper," I was expecting some-
thing innovative in comparison
to his previous work. However,
"High Ball Stepper" is less of an
instrumental revelation than it
is a standard Jack White song -
just without his voice. The track
is not a failure - it's always a
pleasure to hear him shred - but
it doesn't offer many surprises.
Without hisvocals, the track
is rendered one dimensional
and repetitive. "High Ball Step-
per" without White's signature

vocal touch is like Burt without
Ernie, college without ramen,
Bill without Monica - it just isn't
right.
"High Ball Stepper"leaves
the listener wondering what
White is going for on Laza-
retto. Is Jack trying to reinvent
himself? Willhe attempt more
surprises - and if so, will they
be more successful than his first
try? And most importantly, is
there a love stain on the ceiling
of the oval office?.
-NICKBOYD

TH E D'ART BOARD
Each week we take shots at the biggest
developments in the entertainment world.
Here's what hit (and missed) this week.nN
Grande pain in the ass
Nickelodeon shuts down production on
"Sam and Cat" amid reports of drama
between stars Ariana Grande and
Jennette McCurdy.

DesignbyGabyVasquez
.rs
a Sequel?
Story 3"
rated

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