The University. Master’s degree in Business Strategies (MBS): “abstract advertising,” “imaginative marketing,” “creative propaganda.” Selling stuff.
The poet, Alterkocher, taught poetry, great poetry, The Masters, to hacks like me. He also taught Undergraduates majoring in “liberal arts” — for these, he had hope. Young, not corrupted, possibly real scribblers among them to follow — him.
I was of the former, enrolled in The University’s prestigious MBS program, considered the finest in the country, its strategy to use “real” poets, artists, scholars, like Alterkocher, to teach hack copywriters, like me, literary techniques of The Masters. To float product on pillow clouds of deal. That, or conjure sweet soufflés of agit-prop for Government. Sell obedience.
Graduation postponed pending submission of Final Thesis. Prisoner of Final Thesis. No degree, no nothing, until I birthed a book of market strategies and advertisements for imaginary campaigns on behalf of imaginary clients. For this I suffered “writer’s block”?
Job with The Ad Agency beginning early-Fall. Dependent upon my thesis earning an MBS that Summer. Needed to be cloistered, refreshed, among people of wit and vision. Not Zombies. Not tired old professors at the school. Alterkocher said… but Alterkocher….demanded marketable copy and winning strategies, stitched together seamlessly with the huckster’s academic rigor, from his hacks.
I began at The University with vigor, ambition; truly I was not a hack. I believed words inside me would arrange themselves into great themes. I read Great Writers to energize my prose. Convert their life-stuff to muscle of raw being. Fuel of literary Other-ness.
Blank. Blank. Blankety-blank. White pages whiter than white, whiter than government. Blank-blank.
Changed the background of my word-processor to blue with white words. Then gray, red, magenta, turquoise, violet, midnight black. End result same shit-brown prose, like I’d wiped my ass with the “page.” It stank. Could not complete. Concepts fizzled on the screen: fragments, “Great Themes,” lost to Time. No. No. No flickering insights into The Human Condition; no musical comedy of tragic incoherence; no escape from boring. Nothing original or interesting. What had I experienced in Life but Time? Bad atmosphere. Writer’s workshop. Competing critics. No eyes for “vision,” none that is, but their own. Students wrote reams.
Professors’ numb tedium flake by flake mundane seeking sorting searching. By chance discover value worth worth? Professors value reading writing talking books, articles, poems, papers. Observation, exegesis, critique. How they live. Should writing stop, the stream of input/output building the myths (Official Mainstream Canon, and alternative, unendorsed “free thought”) denied, the professors would have no work, no income, and since no one but professors read input/output of culture — high and low, sensuous and martial, pious and just plain silly — no one to train new critics of everything, no learned masters of general niggling, vituperation. Common disregard for days-of-yore specifics of Perpetual Academic Rigor School would reign supreme.
Oh smash the sherry glasses no one drinks Apollo’s Dionysian after all return to yer cubicles, yer jobs, get back to woik!
Students wrote frantically for prizes. Teaching, possibly, to follow. I did not compete, could not complete. Just fragments, shards. Lifeless light-glyphs or worse: blank screens. Pretty icons abounded, as did colorful patterns, but alas, no books burgeoned.
When in doubt, advertise. Market goods and services and market the marketing of goods and services ad infinitum forever and a day, another difference or “a living” in The Nation. Fragments of ideal, ‘jagged broken bottle’ (now THAT’S good copy). What was needed for my Thesis. Sardonic, humorous, but not too witty, lest customers assume you’re laughing at their expense. Account.
But even fragments would not come. Time passed. Sleepless. Paced. Paced. Paced. Notebook blank. Chain-smoked my tarry brain.
Bummed out. Stress. Despair. Starved for sanity. Hygiene.