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The Truth about a M.F.A. in Creative Writing
Scroll to continue. Despite the best intentions of the faculty and administration, most MFA programs are not focused on educating the poets as not just writers of verse but as scholars of it. During the best moments in workshop, there was the kind of engaged critique that should be the norm for graduate-level study: rigorous, thoughtful and, most of all, informed. In the studio-model workshop, students are rarely requested to read and comment on the work of published poets, nor are they encouraged to review the history of poetry, the variety of ways in which poetry is manifest and responds to other art forms, nor to consider how they will eventually teach other poets should they have the opportunity.
Instead, most unsuccessful workshops exist somewhere on the continuum between a gladiatorial match and the hyper-benign. In general, a poet presents a work-in-progress which is often treated as if it is a final draft and is critiqued until it is drained of all vitality.
Such an approach has little to do with fostering creativity and opening up a dialogue. Since rigor and critique are viewed as dangerous rather than a reflection of real engagement, the presenting poet learns nothing. In both cases, the student is left at a loss as to how to hone her craft. It remains well regarded and is structured so that students work closely with mentors, visiting campus only twice per year during a two-year program.
This course of study appeals to a more diverse pool of students than traditional programs because they do not ask writers to step out of their lives for two years to enroll full-time. It is worth noting that many celebrated low-residency programs minimize or forgo the workshop altogether. Rather than the studio model or the mentor-student model, I propose a third alternative that might provide an intellectual grounding in the genre while fostering the creativity and intellectual ambition of those poets fortunate enough to gain acceptance. Students would follow a four-semester sequence in the history of poetry, from the Sumerians to the present, grounding them in the form in a manner that is lacking in conventional MFA programs.
Students would also be required to study prosody for at least two semesters. The first would familiarize students with the wealth of poetic forms available. During the second semester students would generate work informed by the poetry covered in the first semester.
About the MFA in Creative Writing
One-semester classes could explore interdisciplinary connections and foster creative thinking about poetry. In connection with the study of prosody, a course on sound and poetry might investigate the relationship of sound and sense, offering students the opportunity to connect aural effects to the essence of the poem. Such a course could be particularly beneficial to the current generation of poets, who have grown up without the musicality of poetic language being considered essential.
A translation course would ask students to consider how works are translated from other languages, the challenges of translation across languages, and how translators work with poets to shape poems written in a language other than English. This course could be coordinated with foreign language departments, thereby giving students the opportunity to more directly engage in the work in the original language.
For students without a second language, this could provide an opportunity for second language acquisition and for opportunities to collaborate with native speakers.
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A course in visual poetry could be offered, with particular consideration of the interaction between how poems are presented visually and how poems can be realized in video, sculpture, online, and through other visual media. This would not only consider ekphrastic poetry, but would also examine how the creation of visual art could be used as a compositional tool for the writing of poetry. In contrast to the purely aesthetic, a student could learn about poetry and publishing; another class might consider the poet as publisher and critic, and examine how poetic criticism emerges, leading poetry critics past and present, the seminal works of criticism that have shaped poetry, as well as how contemporary poetry is being published and received.
What I Remember from Getting an MFA in Creative Writing - VICE
Such a course could involve the publication of a literary magazine or letterpress broadsides of poems. This program should involve discussion and pedagogical training that provides a rich, broad experience for those pursuing the degree. In this model, students compose and share their work together, then work on their pieces outside of the classroom, rather than bringing in work primarily for critique. As any veteran of a traditional workshop knows, writers quickly find the people in workshop who understand and can effectively critique their work.
Those relationships often flourish outside of class, making much of workshop a process of ignoring bad advice as much as soliciting constructive criticism. A generative workshop would foster the sense of community where poets engage with each other respectfully and collaboratively, encourage new work, and foster independence. The MFA that I am proposing would rely less on bringing in poets whose names sell the program and would instead ground students in the history of poetry exposing them to many of its current and possible manifestations.
Students would emerge as thoughtful, informed citizens of poetry, eager to write and shape the world. Such a program would bring with it the prestige of creating a degree that matters to the future of poetry. Created by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature.