In January 2015, when the new Chax studio opened in downtown Victoria, as part of the University of Houston-Victoria Center for the Arts, Chax and the UHV started a new relationship. Just what that relationship is, and how it will develop, is an unfolding story. For now, Chax is an independent nonprofit entity, according to IRS regulations, and registered with the Texas Corporation Commission. We have not yet applied for grant funding in Texas, but that will come soon. We are building our new Board of Directors with new Texas directors such as Lidia Serrata and James Higgins, as well as our continuing directors Cynthia Miller, Mridul Nanda, Ken Bacher, Josh Metlyng, and myself). Chax is a thankful beneficiary of UHV in terms of our space, which the university found and prepared for Chax (and for the art studio of Cynthia Miller), and in terms of some support for two of our recent publications. One thing that is clear at present is that we will still need to raise funds, from grants and donations, to support our projects.
I am, in addition to being the Executive Director of Chax Press, the director of two programs at UHV: the graduate MFA program in Creative Writing, and the undergraduate program in Communications Design. I will try, in this blog, to speak sometimes for and to the Creative Writing program, which is new as of the current academic year, gradually growing in students, and in its sense of mission. I have centered on the term “mindful” as central to writing practices we hope to encourage an honor in the CW program.
My own practice derives from traditions of modernism and postmodernism that encourage creative experimental thinking as to what constitutes a poem and a poetics. I’m about to teach a grad class on Poetics that will begin with Aristotle, but that will have a strong dose of poetics writing from Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse” to recent works by living poets. Our Creative Writing MFA program, at present, is entirely online, with a capstone period before a student receives the MFA degree that will include a week of a conference, as well as student, faculty, and visiting presentations. By ten years from now we will have an on-campus MFA program as well. My colleagues in the MFA program are pretty incredible (Saba Razvi in Poetry, Diana Lopez in Fiction, Beverly Lowry in Nonfiction, as well as English Department creative writers and colleagues such as Dagoberto Gilb, AJ Ortega, Jeff Sartain, Jeffrey Di Leo, Liane Tanguay, and a variety of adjunct lecturers).
The Creative Writing MFA Program also shares vision and students with the MS Program in Publishing, ably guided by the gifted poet and publisher Kyle Schlesinger. All of us share the University space with a significant publishing community that includes the journals Symploke and Huizache, the presses Chax and Cuneiform, and the book review publication American Book Review. Soon we will be joined by Dalkey Archive Press. What we offer here, in terms of value, vision, and community, is something of which I am grateful to be a part.
Chax moves on, then, in great company.