The University of Mississippi boasts one of the top Master of Fine Arts in English Programs in the nation, among other honors and awards.
Continuing Oxford’s tradition of great writers, the UM MFA Program has been working to develop the creativity of talented graduate students. Once a month, first- and third-year MFA students showcase their work at Proud Larry’s in an event called Broken English, organized by the second-year students.
“It’s really good for the program,” said Elizabeth Tran, a second-year MFA fiction student who co-hosts the event with second-year MFA poetry student Andrew Freiman. “It provides us a chance to have an event every month. Because our program is so small I think it’s good to have a program we can kind of revolve around. You can hear someone’s work when they first get here and how it sounds at the end of their time here at Ole Miss.”
At 9 tonight, Tuesday, February 18, MFA students Joe Zendarski and Jimmy Cajoleas will read from their work. Zendarski will read a selection of his poetry, and Cajoleas has been designated for the creative fiction oration.
“I’ve been working on poetry the last couple of years, so that’s what I’ll be reading tomorrow night,” Zendarski said. When prompted to elaborate he simply responded, “Just come and find out!”
At the time of Cajoleas’ interview, he was not sure what he was going to read.
“I actually haven’t figured out what I’m going to read yet; I’ll probably pick something at the last minute,” he said. “It’s probably better to plan it, but reading in front of people is terrifying and I usually just go with whatever I’m feeling at the moment.”
Though Cajoleas may not enjoy reading out loud, Tran said she likes hearing his work.
“Jimmy has a very particular style,” Tran said. “It’s fun to hear his stuff out loud. I think that everyone in the program really loves that.”
Since the fiction and poetry students do not have classes together, Tran has not heard Zendarski’s poetry. But she praised Broken English as a way for the students to share their work with students who have not heard it.
“Broken English is also another opportunity to hear the work of your classmates if you haven’t heard it before and get exposed to some of their new stuff,” she said. “It’s a good way to get to know the other students.”
Tran emphasized that while other MFA programs are “cutthroat and competitive,” UM’s program unites students.
Tuesday night will give these two writers the opportunity to share their work, and possibly to get over some of the initial stage fright.
“Reading in front of people is such a terrifying thing to do,” Cajoleas said. “The more you do it the better you’ll get at it, so you just get used to being afraid.”
Broken English readings are open to the public and illustrate the collective spirit of this small town.
“It really builds a sense of community that is pretty fantastic,” Zendarski said. “Writing art can be a solitary act. I’ve come to appreciate that immediate interaction with people.”
Courtesy of The Daily Mississippian