I finished this year at my personal best: I spent my summer scraping off the residue of my first, guiltless "F" but will graduate in May with a GPA of 3.53, I got engaged to the most creative, handsome, free-thinking mentor-slash-friend I know, and was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Master's of Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism program. Here are a couple of things that I've learned over this year.

“The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked. . .” (Eliot, Hamlet, 1919).

Given the flavors of Individualism and Surrealism steeping the tone of John Ashbery’s talk, the residue of Enlightenment (à l’Eliot) doesn’t translate well into Modernity. Key words being: “formula,” “facts,” “must terminate,” it’s no mind-bending surprise that an avant-garde artist in mid-century of the “Now” would reject his being pinned down by a label that would suggest his job as Creator to be otherwise. According to his talk “The New York School of Poets” (at the National Book Awards symposium, 1968), there is one thing that he can be certain of: “I feel that [poetry] should be anything that it wants to be.” First of all, that rings of a pillar in a Modernist Manifesto, (certainly not unlike Marionetti and the rest of the Futurists of the early twentieth century–Pound’s “Make it new,” has indeed been percolating through the artistic ecosystem for half a century), but even more strikingly, he shifts the agency of creation from himself to his poetry. In other words, it is not ‘his’ making poetry whatever he wants it to be, it is the nature of the poetry to assume an agency over the role of the author. (“The plume leaps in the hand” (line 9, “Le Livre est sur la Table”).)

We call them Altoids and they crash and scatter all over the blue-carpeted bathroom floor. Quick! Find them all before the cat does. I tell Keller’s baby sister they’re little white mints filled with white powder. If she finds one, she can have a stick...