Ben Egerton (Writing for the Page, 2014)
A time of giving and receiving feedback, of delight and bewilderment, a year of mutual encouragement and harsh reality checks, of unbelievable generosity...
Ben writes: 'I can't remember now who it was - possibly advice from a poet from the previous year's workshop - who predicted that I'd spend the first half of my MA year avoiding what it was that I needed to write about, and then the second half of the year madly writing about what I should be writing about. In order to avoid the panic, she said, it was best to get on with writing what you needed to straight away. And, of course, as she predicted I spent the first half of the year "picking the low-hanging fruit" (to coin a workshop phrase) and only then did I get on with the business of writing what needed to come out.
'The MA is not a course that teaches students how to write. It's a course that allowed (forced?!) me to learn about myself, and then how to communicate that understanding. I've heard that the purpose of military training is to break soldiers down and then build them back up again. It's probably not too dissimilar with - at least my experience of - the MA year. It's painful! It hurt to be yanked out of my preconceptions and comfort and have my ideas challenged!
'What was my MA year? A space: a place to throw my ideas around, an irreplaceable time of giving and receiving feedback, of feeling overwhelmed and on top of the world, of delight and bewilderment, a year (not even...) of full immersion in ten different worlds (my own and those of my fellow workshoppers), mutual encouragement, close readings and harsh reality checks, of more baking than I could possible imagine (or manage), of unbelievable generosity...
And - how I managed it all I'm still not sure - I emerged at the end of it all, blinking and startled and clutching a lot of poems, and quite pleased to meet myself all over again.'
Bio: Ben Egerton is a poet, freelance writer and teacher from Wellington. His poems, some of which started life as MA manuscript poems, infrequently appear in print and online literary journals in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, and his work has also featured as art installation pieces at various festivals and events in Wellington and Auckland. Ben was one of the editors of Turbine 2014.
After completing the MA in 2014, Ben returned to teaching but the lure of the IIML and the desire to devote more time to poetry and exploration proved too strong... Ben started his PhD Creative Writing in 2017.