By Laura Cyphers
What comes to you when you think of Goddard? What does “radical imagination” mean? What does it require of us to be a writer in the world? If we said to you, “Write for the World,” would that imply a social consciousness, a personal urgency, or an exhortation (along with the skills you will need) to reach the greatest audience possible? In the spirit of “Yes, and!” Goddard is all of these things, as well as community – one that endures long after the degree has been awarded.
At each graduation ceremony, Goddard graduates take the podium to give thanks and share their parting thoughts. When she graduated earlier this month, fiction writer Laura Cyphers reflected on a question her advisor asked, “What keeps you up at night?” She shares it with us here:
“If Michael now asked me what kept me up at night, I would have a better answer.
“I would tell him that the ghosts of our pasts, our need to punish ourselves and others, our deep self-hatred, our dependency on substances and chemicals, and all the freaking noise of our lives keeps me up at night.
“I would say that genuine compassion, authentic understanding, and the quiet and content beauty of which we are capable, even in our roughest spots, also keeps me up at night because I follow those fleeting, quivering bits through my dreams and see them only peripherally in the day and taste them like lingering drops of something zingy plopped on my tongue at night. And, while that’s scary for me, it’s also a hopeful and curious way to be if one is going to be up so late at night.
“I want to know why those good things are scary, why they barely quiver and then go out. I want to know how we keep stars alive, how we don’t avert our gaze no matter what’s in front of us. I want to know how we’ve come to look upon beauty with the same fear with which we once looked upon horror and how with horror we’ve become rather horrid ourselves because we can be real complacent, our shock levels reaching near obliteration, our faces registering near nothing. Other times, I want to know why we are so aware, sometimes so highly sensitive that it gets in the way of our living.
“I want to breathe life into characters like that. Many of my characters are not always conscious of their bodies, and I want to know why. I am interested in that—why they can’t feel much, why they are so inward yet have these beautifully intricate thoughts that they cannot share with others and yet long to share with anyone who’ll listen.”
Do you remember your graduation speech? What have you taken away from your time at Goddard? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or send us a note with a blog post idea of your own.
Congratulations to all the January 2016 graduates!
Laura Cyphers is a recent graduate of Goddard’s MFA program and has been published in The San Diego Poetry Annual (2014-2015) and a ClarityWorks Newsletter for Writers (April 2012). Her thesis, Wicked and Scolding, is a collection of short stories that features unorthodox protagonists who explore their lives from skewed or fragmented perspectives. She lives in Bristol, Tennessee with her partner, pets, and books. You can find her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/laura.cyrus.3760