Grad Student Spotlight: Maia Carlson

Maia Carlson.jpgBefore coming to grad school, I had actually only written one poem, and I had no real intentions of getting deeper into poetry – but when I got an email at the start of my first enrollment saying, “Hey, do you want to be in my class?” I was so excited to be included in a graduate-level class for the first time (and personally invited, no less) that all I remember doing was immediately emailing back, “Yes! Of course!” After hitting “send” and sitting there for a few minutes, I typed a second email, belatedly asking, “What class is it?” The class turned out to be a poetry workshop, taught by Professor Traci Brimhall, and through her assistance I’ve come to deeply enjoy writing poetry – although I’m still shocked every time someone says that I have any skill at it — and my master’s project ended up being a collection of poems.

Those poems focus on a triad of important factors in my life: family, emotions, and plants. I enjoyed exploring the fact that I’ve always been pretty reticent about emotions, even around my family. My home life has always been quiet, and it wasn’t actually until I was elbow-deep in my project that I realized how much my family runs on metaphors instead of saying things candidly. Most of my poems explore the way my family’s “metaphorical language” is heavily plant-based. Having inherited many of those metaphors, my own manner of explaining myself – and connecting with the world around me – is likewise heavily seeded with floral analogies.

Plants are my love-language. I’m running out of window-space in my house for planting, I’ve now got two plants squirreled away in the E/CS building (say “hello” to them as you come in the front doors…), and I can see the dread in my roommates’ eyes every time I say that I’m leaving town and need them to babysit my legless green children. It’s hard for me to give instructions on watering when what I want to say is “Just listen to them. They’ll tell you when they’re thirsty.” It’s fascinating to me that language as a whole works the same way: instead of explaining that society views love as a brutal and often dangerous commodity, we use metaphors like “falling in love” or “breaking their heart” or “love is war.” The way that metaphors act as an insight into how we understand the world around us fascinates me and served as the basis for my project – which I am glad to say that I passed on March 14. [Insert sight of relief here.]

— Maia Carlson (B.S. ’15, Biology, M.A. ’18, English)


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