Monday, October 02, 2006

Theme-Centered Writing Sample

My bud David Roderick continues to answer some questions from the mailbag this week. One more to go after this one.

I'm applying for programs in poetry and have a couple of writing
sample questions.

1. I'd like to include a couple of poems from a theme-centered project I did a couple of years ago. The pieces stand alone but might make a bit more sense given a context. Is it acceptable to include a note within the sample, explaining that the piece comes from a project centered on x theme (without going into great detail, obviously)?

2. Do programs need to know, or will readers ask when poems were
written? I'm trying to decide how to balance my sample in terms of
more or less recent work. I'm tempted to include more pieces from a
few years ago -- they're stronger and better represent my writing. And of course, everyone says to send the best work you've got.

Thanks for all the advice,
rambling in rome


Rambling in Rome (and I hope you don't mean "Rome, Maine"),

Since your questions are of the poetic variety, Tom has forwarded them to me. I hope that's okay... and if it's not, you'll just have to give Tom some hell. Don't blame little old me.

I think it's fine to include those theme-related pieces with a note, as long as that note is VERY brief. You're instinct is correct here. Don't go off on any longwinded tangents.

As for your second question, I doubt that an admission committee needs to know whether your work is "old" or "recent." Instead, they're looking for poems that are ambitious, confident, and well-crafted. Avoid distracting them with editorial remarks or disclaimers. Just send the best stuff you've got and let it speak for itself.

Good luck,

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