Thursday, February 14, 2008

The hoopla of Multiple CW MFA Rankings

When I started looking at CW MFA programs I immediately looked online for you guest it: a rankings list of programs. I definitely wasn't disappointed. There are numerous lists, which are sponsored and compiled by different authorities. Just take a gander at Seth Abramson's personal blog. He's got the torture down to a science with different criteria and several lists.

I learned, sometime ago, that Iowa's Writers Workshop is widely regarded as the top program while studying as an undergrad. Additionally, an old buddy of mine had luck (back then) and was immediately accepted by Johns Hopkins' program, which I believe is considered another prestigious program. Do these rankings really matter in the whole scheme of things?

40 comments:

dbmicheal said...

You know, I tend to agree with Tom. I think the ranking system is pretty superfluous. It might be good for the ego to think "I got into X," but other than that, I think it's kind of silly. (For a couple of years, whenever I felt low, I said to myself, 'But you got into Columbia!'--not that I could afford to go. Probably it would have been better to be more secure than that.)

For the record, when I applied to MFA programs, I based it almost exclusively on one of those old ranked lists. That was pretty stupid. I applied to Columbia, Arizona, Montana, Memphis, New Mexico State, Bowling Green, Maryland, Florida, and Washington University in St. Louis.

My experience was like many others. Many of my 'safety' schools (Bowling Green, New Mexico State, and Maryland) rejected me. Many of my reach schools like Washington, Columbia, Arizona, and Montana accepted me.

Go figure.

I think the rankings serve more to confuse us than anything.

If I had it to do over again, I would apply to places based on funding and location. I'd give lesser known programs like Illinois, Idaho, Vanderbilt, and Texas State a try and leave off a lot of those other places.

After attending an MFA program, I truly believe that what an aspiring writer needs is time to write. You can get that anywhere. Sure, it's nice to have a thriving writerly community and great cohorts, but that doesn't supersede the experience of writing. I firmly believe that regardless of where you go, if you you take the time to write, you can be successful

My advice is forget the lists and apply to schools based on info you can glean from former and current students and the program websites. Trust your gut, especially if your gut is screaming 'Don't go in debt!'

Sugah said...

I applied based on geographic location. I'm almost forty with four kids, two of whom have reached or surpassed 18 but don't seem to be in a hurry to leave home, and I'll be commuting. How much that will cut into writing time, I don't know. But, I'm rambling.

I get a little jealous reading the lists of programs and places where my peers here and elsewhere are applying. Ultimately, though, my goal is to learn to be a better writer without getting a divorce in the process. So what if my "top picks" barely break the top 30? I am and will be a writer, regardless of the prestige of the program where I choose to hone my skills.

And, besides, like any writer, I have enough ego that I don't need a top name school to further inflate it.

JoeyD said...

Also hobbled by geographical constraints...I'm in my early thirties, and I have family to look after, so I can't pick up and move to Iowa. MFA or no MFA, I'll continue to write no matter what.

Sean said...

for me, my applications were based mostly on finances and how much time i had. I have $0 to my name and my applications went out to places that would waive my fee. I had planned on applying to Emerson -- and they wouldn't waive the fee. Virginia had also been on the radar, but technology mixups coupled with a need for GREs blew that one out of the water as well.

At this point, my viable (complete) applications are at Univ of New Hampshire and Umass Amherst. I have one (minus the gres) out to Washington, and dont think im going to have the money or the time together to get my GREs done.

So, really, i applied to two places. UMASS got 600 applications and UNH got 150. So...we'll see.

In terms of Prestige? A big part of me wants to say that i went to Iowa or Virginia or Columbia, but that's mostly my name-recognition bug talking. I'm doing my undergrad at Plymouth State University and no one's ever heard of it (which is okay).

And for other Criteria? I wanted something large. Umass with it's 25,000 students was about what i was running for. UNH has...15,000 or close i believe. Again, something on the medium size. But, i'm 21 with little debt or obligation, going far seems like a great idea.


:)

-

Sarah Perrault said...

At risk of starting a debate, or insulting anyone who did the MFA at Iowa, I think it's worth mentioning a lesser-known part of their reputation: I have heard that it can be a very emotionally difficult program. (This is based on talking with creative writers who are graduates of the IWW, and one person who left the IWW.)

I bring this up mainly to highlight that there may be important considerations aside from, or in addition to, the prestige of the program.

Another point to consider is that if you're aiming for an academic position, the MFA itself probably won't get you that, even if it's from a high-ranked program. An article on the AWP site points out that "Unless one has the fortune of having a very well-received, popular, or prize-winning title for one’s first book publication, many MFA graduates must publish two or three books before they can secure their first tenure-track job."

I really like what dbmicheal said about time to write. Quality of workshops and seminars is important, but to my mind, time to write comes first.

Toby said...

How is IWW "emotionally difficult"? Dish, please!

r.p. said...

Sugah, I think you said it really well. I'm married but I don't have kids and I did get to apply to many top schools (11 in total) but I'm trying to brace myself for not really getting in at all. And what then? What's after the MFA?

I feel the same even though we're in different stages of life, I guess. I'm still going to write. So regardless of the MFA, I'll always write.

Screwsan said...

Sarah P.: thanks for the article. I wonder, is an MFA from Iowa as valuable as a PhD in Creative Writing from a top program? I know that a lot depends on publication record, but I also know of PhD programs that place graduates who have not yet published books in tenure-track positions. (I also have heard the arguments for getting a PhD in Rhet/Comp or English, but I'm just asking about the CW PhD here). What's the feeling about an Iowa MFA vs. a CW PhD?

Screwsan said...
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Margosita said...

I think I am getting tired of hearing the refrain of "don't go into debt for your MFA!" On one hand, I agree with it. Avoiding debt is good and I have my own fair share of debt fear. (I panic when I have to carry a balance on my credit card!) But on the other hand, every other graduate program requires students to make the kind of investment in their future that involves debt. Why is the MFA SO different that programs that don't offer full funding to every student get so easily disregarded? I understand that there is the issue that writing is often not a lucrative high paying career. But I don't think it is unreasonable to have to put some money into a graduate program. How much one puts in is a valid question, but I think assuming that the only good programs are the ones that fully fund isn't so valid.

So I also think that the lists are somewhat superfluous. They aren't completely arbitrary, certianly, but sometimes I feel like money gets more weight than it deserves. Good writing can come from anywhere and I assume that editors, agents and publishers are going to respond far more to the work in front of them than where someone got their MFA.

Plus, as I've learned from many non-writing friends, no one outside the MFA/writing sector really has any idea what MFA programs are good and which aren't. So bragging to a room full of lawyers or science nerds that you went to the IWW isn't going to make you the envy of the cocktail party!

Heather said...
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Heather said...

Can someone please detail the differences between an MFA in creative writing and a PhD in writing? I thought the MFA was a terminal degree.

Screwsan said...

Heather, an MFA is (usually) a two year program that may or may not include literature coursework and teaching, and does include some form of workshop or writing training (I know you know this, but for the sake of comparison, bear with me. ;) The PhD in creative writing is actually an English PhD with creative dissertation (I think this is always the case, but someone correct me if I'm wrong). PhD students usually have their MFAs already. The PhD student studies literature, teaches classes, and takes workshops in his or her genre, takes orals like a regular English PhD, then at the end, instead of writing a research paper, s/he writes a novel or a collection of stories, poetry, etc.

The MFA is still considered the terminal degree for now, but more and more job listings are citing preference for their applicants to have PhDs.

Some people make a strong case for getting a straight English PhD or Rhet/Comp PhD after the MFA to be more marketable. Personally, I don't want to spend any time with a long writing project that isn't creative. Also, it's four more years of funded creative writing, which sounds wonderful.

eLily said...

"what an aspiring writer needs is time to write." that's perfect, dbmichael.

Some people might argue that cw MFA programs have been popping up worse than dandelions recently - and that some programs are pure money-makers. I suppose I have my opinions of certain programs, too. But I think an acceptance to any program says something about the writer. The main idea of the mfa is to give you time (for once in your life) to dedicate to writing.

I think, aside from funding-options, it comes down to an applicant's personal pov when selecting a program. and can that really be ranked?

blarring said...

One thing that is essential when choosing an MFA program is not necessarily "where" but "who". Who is teaching and who will best meet YOUR needs as a student. Of course, top schools will have superb faculty, but will they be for you? Always study up on faculty members at MFA programs so that you can find the best teacher for YOU.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi all,

I might come back later with a quick comment if I can, but just wanted to mention two things now:

1. I agree with the very first respondent to this thread, who said "I firmly believe that regardless of where you go, if you you take the time to write, you can be successful." I think that's true. It's also one of the reasons U.S. News came up with their wholly reputation-based rankings in 1997: the theory being, if you can have a good experience anywhere, how do you decide where to attend? Their answer was that while they weren't going to presume to rank programs' locations, they were going to go, instead, for what they saw as the next most-important consideration: reputation. In other words, the theory was that, if indeed "all things are equal" (or, as I might amend it, equally unpredictable, as to what kind of experience you'll have at a program personally), reputation is a possible tie-breaker.

2. When I started thinking about my own rankings (i.e. my own, personal view of things) in late 2006, I discarded with the U.S. News theory as outmoded. I believed that it was impossible to predict where you might have a good experience, and realized (a little belatedly I suppose) that location also can't be quantified, and so I looked instead at a) funding, and b) which schools seem to be the most popular among students, which I took as an indication of both reputation and also student satisfaction (satisfied graduates tend to recommend their schools, after all), and therefore a more mature view than U.S. News had taken.

As a result of the above, the rankings I did were either based on hard data (funding packages) or else the views of others in my peer group (the poll). A common misperception was that some sort of effort was being made to assess reputation--but that's not exactly true. The view of "reputation" being taken wasn't one of "prestige," but of "which schools do people seem to hear good things about, and thus want to apply to?" I think that was a reasonable view for someone who can't afford to visit 100 different schools (and most programs' websites are less than useless in this regard).

The result, now, is an (as-yet unreleased) funding ranking based solely on funding--which gives folks who need to worry about funding some hard data to look at--and a 250+ respondent, two-year poll (also as-yet unreleased), the largest look ever done at which schools folks have heard enough good things about (or done enough research about) to want to apply to.

I just wanted to mention all this to distinguish my own "rankings" from the U.S. News ones, and to indicate that the reason for these latter rankings was actually precisely the menu of concerns listed by the posters in this thread (e.g., funding, acceptance rates [so applicants can make better choices about the number of schools to apply to, and which ones are the longest odds, and so on], and the word-of-mouth of people in the know and others similarly-situated to a first-year applicant).

The rankings now done would have made clear that Bowling Green, New Mexico State, and Maryland were up-and-coming programs with low acceptance rates, rising application numbers, and excellent word-of-mouth. The old U.S. News rankings, based solely on decades-old views on "reputation," were what misled a lot of people, inadvertantly.

Best,
S.

Sean said...

here's an interesting question for professors and faculty. has anyone had an experience where they met a professor who's work they hated, but was able to help them as a person?

The main fiction prof at my university has had a pretty decent career writing in a variety of things. He brought in a piece to workshop and i blew it up -- i thought it was perhaps one of the most aesthetically unappetizing pieces i'd ever read. However, once he and i realized we didnt like what the other wrote (he habitually calls my characters boring ciphers and thinks of Fantasy as a BS excuse for a genre) we were able to really talk about craft in a meaningful way (while almost never talking about our own writing as subjects)

am i just weird?

Samara said...

Sean--
Nope, you're not weird. I've definitely had that experience. I don't think disliking someone's work means they won't be a great teacher for you.

Re. debt: I only applied to schools where I had a good chance of getting full funding. Funding is a deal breaker for me. Even with the prospect of generous stipends and tuition waivers, I am absolutely panicking over finances. A big part of it is my husband is moving with me, so I feel responsible for his financial stress (and therefore terribly guilty), and we are facing having to try to sell our house in this shitty market.

Anyone else freaking out over this? It's like, I feel like I have to choose between personal fulfillment and financial stability. I have an editorial background, but even so, there aren't many decent paying jobs out there for me.

Bolivia Red said...

Margosita:
A few things to consider about doing the MFA without funding:

Even when you go to a school that gives you a full-funding package, you're often going to run out of funds before you run out of bills. (Try five root canals and four fillings in eighteen months—that's one whole year's worth of a "generous" funding package for my mouth!) You're probably going to need some student loans or extra funds even with a funding package.

Compare the MFA with a masters in the sciences or business or language or other non-arts degrees. For those masters programs, you'll have concrete knowledge and/or job skills that will be immediately useful in the job market. You can get the masters in physical therapy and walk into a job in physical therapy immediately. You probably also walk into a higher pay bracket that in effect "pays for" the degree within a few years. That would justify going into debt to "invest in yourself."

The CW MFA in theory prepares you for two things: to write in your genre and to teach at the university level. However, the first thing—to write—gives you little in the way of an immediately marketable skills or knowledge that would allow you to walk into a job in your field; nobody's hiring poets or novelists. You might be able to transfer these skills into other kinds of writing or creative projects, but that will probably require development beyond the MFA degree and possibly more time and money. Also the degree doesn't guarantee that you'll ever publish one single story or poem or essay; even if you do publish, as you say, it's often not lucrative. The second thing, to get a university job, requires more qualifications than just the MFA. That is, you need to publish a book, or three or four, before you can even begin applying for teaching jobs, which is going to mean an additional 1-10 years for most people beyond the degree. Even publication is not a guarantee of a job. So, you'll have to do your writing unpaid on top of another job for a few years before you can even begin to see income from your degree.

Maybe you'll get lucky and write a smashing best-seller to make your investment worthwhile—I hope so—but most of us are going to have to do it the hard way, so paying outright for the MFA isn't a feasible option.

Sarah Perrault said...

Toby, the gist of what I've heard about the IWW is that positive feedback is rare, harsh commentary is not unusual (for example, dropping a student's story into the trash in front of the class while saying that was "the only possible response" -- this happened to one IWW grad I know), and some teachers favor students whose work resembles their own.

This raises an issue worth considering when deciding between MFA programs -- the difference between a good reputation as a writer and as a teacher. Some profs in MFA programs have little training in pedagogy aside from reproducing the workshop environment in which they learned. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it's not so great.

And that in turn raises another issue. If you (Toby, or anyone) are hoping to teach after the MFA, find out how much pedagogy training you'll receive. A lot of MFA graduates expect to have university teaching jobs when they have taught only English 101/102 and taken one pedagogy course (at most in some cases!).

The MFA folks who do get hired, in my experience, are those with a strong teaching background, which means not only good evaluations, but also the ability to talk about teaching writing in a way that shows they have a conceptual as well as practical grasp on what to do in a writing class.

At my current university, one of our best three-year term lecturers has an MA in creative writing, but she has it from a strongly pedagogically oriented program, and she's one of the best people we have.

Although I don't know the details of her hiring process (I wasn't on the committee), I do know that the term lectureships receive many applications from MFA and PhD holders. Her teaching ability trumped their degrees.

We also have some MFA graduates in term lecturer positions, and they too have a strong background in teaching.

I was going to post about the MFA vs PhD in Creative Writing question as well, but I think I have said enough for the moment. I hope everyone's having a good weekend, with lots of exciting acceptance calls and emails coming in.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Sarah,

I think someone needs to put these rumors about the IWW to bed--right now. I'm at the IWW, and it's clear to me that every story you've related (which I do understand you're only relating because others related such stories to you, so I'm not blaming you) stems from the Frank Conroy era at the IWW, which is long over. Lan Samantha Chang is the Director now, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer, gentler, or more open-minded administrator in any program (of any kind) anywhere.

As to students supporting students, it's one of the most phenomenal features of the entire program: when I received an Honorable Mention in an intra-IWW poetry contest last term, no fewer than thirty students went out of their way to congratulate me in the days that followed, and only five of those were folks I knew well. Likewise, the students run a well-attended student reading series called "Talk Art," and that's yet another way students show support for one another. The atmosphere here is as suppportive--no more or less so--than any other program, and the faculty are by and large wonderful to work with (my workshop instructor at the moment, Matthea Harvey, is as gentle and considerate a workshop leader as you could ever hope for, and I'm not just saying that--I could have remained silent here but I want to expressly quell the rumors that somehow the IWW is competition-obsessed).

Oh, and as to positive feedback--I've never received such insightful and generous-minded comments about my poetry as I've gotten here.

As to professors taking special interest in students who write as they do, I'm sure it happens--it's somewhat natural, for working poets to admire others with similar instincts--but I haven't seen it yet. Also, as to teaching experience, as far as I know every single IWW student who wants a TAship has one, with the only question being whether it's a TAship in Literature, Rhetoric, or Creative Writing.

Best,
Seth

Jess said...

Seth,

From what you hear from fiction kids, do you think the same goes for their workshops? I don't get a competitive vibe at all, at least not a cut throat one, from any of the Iowa folks with web presence. The opposite actually, everyone seems warm and supportive. The rumors that Sarah heard freaked me out, though. Not just about Iowa, I've suddenly imagined that I could get into any school, and show up eagerly with my new red back pack, only to find myself in the hands of Big Bad Wolves!

I come from a theatre background, and I have worked with a few directors from the "old school" - at Julliard in the 70's they used to throw chairs at students, pin them against walls, even punch their faces! There are people still out their (older folks and imitators) who practice teaching and directing with a philosophy of mean-spiritedness, (and not much else!) I know that this method does not work for me, personally. In fact, it stops up my creativity, and brings out the Jersey in me!

This is not to say that I can't take criticism, BUT, there is a big difference between being honest with a student about the flaws in their work and the gargantuan ego and emotional deficit that it takes to abuse them publicly. (Or even to write them off, when all they are trying to do is learn.)

I guess my long-winded question is, to Seth (though you've already answered it about Poetry at Iowa) and to others, are there programs that are known to have hairy, slobbering monsters on their faculty? I'm specifically concerned about fiction, but there may be P/NF writers who echo this concern.

I seriously would avoid a school if I knew in advance that I would have to waste my time with such a person. I don't know about y'all.

Sarah Perrault said...

Seth,

Thanks for the clarification, and I'm glad to learn that the stories I've heard are no longer true about the IWW.

Although the example I recounted is about a prof still there, perhaps that person has mellowed with time -- this particular event took place in the 90s. Most of the other stories did in fact involve Frank Conroy.

Thanks for the clarifications. I think this kind of open discussion about programs is important, not only to people making decisions about programs but also to the academic creative writing community.

Sarah

Seth Abramson said...

Sarah,

Thanks (and I think I may know who you mean).

Jess,

I'll be honest: I sense that, at Iowa and elsewhere, folks in fiction programs are slightly more competitive (by a hair) than poets are. But there's a reason: poets know they can't and won't become truly "famous" (no poet is truly famous, except maybe Maya Angelou, whose poetry is not representative of professional work in any sense of the word), and there's no money in it for anyone. Plus, most poets hit their stride in their 40s and 50s, so the twenty-somethings in most MFA programs don't necessarily feel that it's do-or-die time for them. And no agents come to town to talk to them, either. With novelists, it's different: you could become famous, you could earn a lot of money, you could have a book optioned for a movie script, you could land a better (or worse) agent, you could land a major-house publishing deal or a small-press one (and whereas small presses are well-respected in the field of poetry--in fact they may even publish the best poetry overall--in fiction this isn't necessarily the case). So the fiction folks are slightly more likely to see others as competition, and to feel their time in a program is make-or-break, than poets do.

Also, as to workshopping fiction versus workshopping poetry: if someone dislikes your poem and says so clearly but gently, no skin off your back, you write another one; if you're 100 pages into your first novel and someone clearly but gently tells you the idea isn't working, it will "feel" harsh even if it was said with a generous spirit, an open heart, and in the kindest language.

So when you ask me about fiction workshops here at Iowa, I can only say that I'll bet here, as elsewhere, students are as gentle and kind as they possibly can be in workshop, but the circumstances of fiction workshopping--which are just part of the territory--are such that I'm sure there are some (particularly youngish) folks out there who, when their novels are workshopped, feel especially attacked because they've simply invested so much time and energy into their project. But overall, the folks I'm friendly with in the fiction program are enjoying their workshop experiences immensely.

So I guess what I'm saying is, I think there are few--very few--poets or fiction-writers at the IWW who would ever be deliberately cruel in a workshop. Both because it's indecent, and also because everyone else in the workshop would think (rightly) you were a prick (excuse my language). Tactful honesty is what workshops are all about--cruelty is a sick and useless impulse, both for faculty and students.

Best,
Seth

Samara said...

Does anyone here, especially grads or current MFA students, have any thoughts on two year versus three year programs? In three year programs, is the third year usually spent more independently, finishing up the thesis? Is this something people ever do on their own, from different locations? Some people have told me they feel two years isn't enough time, but I'm nervous about committing to the longer stretch of time.

Bolivia Red said...

samara--I'm taking your question to the main blog since I'm sure a few others are debating the same thing now that acceptance letters are trickling in.

Murphy said...

Seth,

Let me start by saying I'm not a poet, but I'm curious as to what you meant by this --

(no poet is truly famous, except maybe Maya Angelou, whose poetry is not representative of professional work in any sense of the word).

Would you mind explaining? Thanks

terry said...

I agree completely with Seth. Most of the rumors out there about Iowa are coming from people who went there ten or twenty years ago. You get a lot of college students who are hearing things from their professors who went there back in the seventies or eighties when things were different. It's just not like that anymore.

As for the earlier question about academic positions and which looks better, a Ph.D. in CW or an MFA from Iowa, I'd have to say that it depends on the school. After all, some English Departments require all of their professors to have doctorates. Neverthelees, as a professor of creative writing who has served on numerous search committees, I have to admit that the applicants with MFAs from Iowa always rose to the top (ditto other top programs) and that the Iowa MFA tended to be weighed more heavily than a Ph.D. from somewhere else, even if it was from a reputable program like Houston or USC. Collegues of mine at other universities have said the same thing. The truth is, it's hard to get a job as a creative writing professor without a book, but the ones who do tend to come most frequently from Iowa or occasionally other top programs. That is to say, an MFA from Iowa and some promising publications will often appear more desirable to a search committee than an MFA from a lesser known program and, say, a book from an independent press. The reason: most professors in English Departments only know about a handful of MFA Programs, and the one they know the most about is Iowa. I'm not saying that students from other programs should throw in the towel. In the end, a strong publication record will always win out, especially if it includes a book. I'm just trying to paint a realistic picture of how these things tend to work, at least from what I've observed.

Seth Abramson said...

Murphy,

Angelou writes inspirational verse, which by definition is verse which must inspire the reader immediately--on a first reading. Such a method precludes the use of any of the devices or mechanisms professional poets use, including: tonality; texture; syntax; complex metaphor; and so on. All that's left, with inspirational verse, is sonics and rhythm, and an occasional motif (intended to be fully unpackable instantaneously), but as these must always take a back seat to rhetoric, and as the rhetoric itself must frequently lapse into triteness to be universal, I just don't see Angelou as having the same project as non-inspirational-verse poets. To the extent Hallmark greeting cards contain poetry--and as you know, Angelou recently signed a contract to write verse for Hallmark--Angelou is a poet. To the extent that no writer I know considers Hallmark verse to constitute professional-quality verse, she is not a professional poet. A poet she may be, but she does not approach the craft professionally (in the technical, not pejorative sense).

S.

amsp said...

I'm interested in creative non-fiction. I'm just beginning my search, but so far, many of the schools that offer funding or look incredible don't have creative non-fiction programs. Does anyone know of any really great creative non-fiction MFA programs?
Thanks so much!

Murphy said...

Seth,

You present an interesting argument. I do want to emphasize again that I'm not a poet, but I do know that a volume of Angelou's work was nominated for a Pulitzer.

Would her work ever be studied in an MFA program, or is it sort of dismissed out of hand? Is it something you would read?

This is fascinating for me even though I hope to study fiction. I feel like I can learn a lot about a writer by what they have to say about another writers' work.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi again Murphy,

To my knowledge, Angelou is not studied in any MFA program in the United States--and honestly, I don't expect she ever will be.

And you'd be surprised how many people have been nominated for Pulitzers (the requirements for nomination are oddly lax). Maya Angelou won't--ever--win the Pulitzer Prize, and if she did, the outrage in the literary community would be heard from one end of America to the other. It would be like a AAA second baseman winning the MLB MVP award.

In other words, yes, her work is dismissed out of hand by serious writers. Which is not to diminish how important and moving her work is to the millions of Americans who don't regularly read contemporary poetry except for hers.

Best,
Seth

Sarah Perrault said...

Murphy,

I want to second your comment that one can "learn a lot about a writer by what they have to say about another writers' work."

For those visiting MFA programs prior to choosing one, listening to how people talk about writers outside of workshop, as well as during workshop (under the guidance of a professor), could be most illuminating, whether or not those other writers are fellow MFA participants.

Cheers,

Sarah

Seth Abramson said...

Sarah,

I promise you, Angelou is an exception--there is resentment toward her because lots of folks, 99.9% of whom are not in Iowa City, believe that the phenomenon of her success may be an inauspicious sign for contemporary American poetry. As to professional writers, just about the most you'd ever find me saying outside of class is either "I dig their stuff," or "I don't really dig their stuff, but that might just be me." And that's what I hear folks here say when they're talking about their peers in Iowa or anywhere else. Angelou is in a different category, for all the reasons aforementioned. So I do hope no one will attempt to divine the "tone" in Iowa by how I discuss Angelou, who I admit to having issues with. It's simply not representative of how I feel toward/about other writers, whether they be "famous" ones or ones just writing their first poems. Anyone who knows me knows, in fact, that it was from Iowa, and nothing/nowhere else, that I learned to have respect for all types of poets and poetry. It was before Iowa that I think I was a judgmental little so-and-so, largely because I hadn't yet been exposed to the sort of kindness and mutual consideration I've found here in IC.

S.

Margosita said...

Hey Bolivia Red,

I agree with you, completely. I think that ultimately the funding decision comes down to the individual and many won't be able to make the committment without full funding (or close to it). I think I'm more concerned with the reputation of schools that can't/don't fully fund their students. It seems like even in discussions of quality of experience or quality of faculty, programs like Columbia (for example) seem to be left out by virtue of the money situation.

I guess from a personal perspective this was frustrating because schools like the University of San Francisco or San Francisco State don't seem to garner much interest. (Well, the ridiculously high price of living in SF combined with little or no funding may contribute to that.) But I'd love to live there!

Anyway, I reapplied to MFA programs this time around to try to get into a big name, so I admit that I am/was pretty influenced by the rankings.

fdg said...

"Professional" poets? Oh good lord.

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Smart Finance Blogs said...

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KEG__7 said...

I've applied to the following MFA programs for Fall 2013:
Minnesota
Colorado
South Carolina
Bowling Green
Florida
Portland state
Boise state
Eastern Washington
Ole miss