Monday, September 24, 2007

The local (that's local, not lo-cal!) report

Best recent google search leading to my blog: "i'm sick of self indulgent bipolar people"

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I see that IU's MFA program has updated their website … but they haven't put redirects on the old site yet, so I've been continuing to check the old site, not knowing the new one was up! Oof. Web designers, take heed. The new site is a big improvement, though! Very attractive. So kudos to them for that.

Looks like A.E. Stallings is reading here in October, which is lovely. And Ross Gay has joined the faculty this year -– hooray! I haven 't read that much of his work, but I look forward to doing so, and maybe hearing him read sometime soon. He seems to be a good fit for the program. He's a Cave Canem fellow; that program seems to do such amazing work in supporting and encouraging young African-American poets and so many terrific voices have come through those ranks. I'm glad it exists. It would be nice to see something equally vital and exciting and productive for GLBT poets, wouldn't it?

They've taken Kevin Young off the list; he was officially "on leave" for a while, but for some reason I was under the impression that he wasn't coming back, which apparently is the case.

It is odd, being a poet affiliated with a university that has a strong MFA program, but not being connected with said MFA program. I've been known to rant at length about the fact that it's hard for someone outside the department to find out about the readings they sponsor; I've attended the occasional MFA student reading (and they're usually pretty good) and try to make it to as many of the visiting-writer readings as possible, when I find out about them in time. When I've had a chance to get to know some of the MFA students I've consistently been impressed with their energy and talent.

I really think the "MFA versus non-MFA" divide is a fallacy that hurts us all. I know non-MFA poets who look down their noses at MFA folks, and MFA poets who don't quite trust the credentials of non-MFA types; it goes both ways. The fact is, MFA programs are great for some people, not so good for others. It's certainly not the only way to learn how to write. And I do think they sometimes do poets a disservice by leading them to believe they'll be able to get a cushy teaching job once they have that degree in hand; there are far more MFA grads than there are teaching jobs, of course. But for the right poet at the right time in her/his life, I think an MFA program can be an incredible learning experience. And while for various reasons I do not think that IU's program would be right for me, I think that for some students, it's a tremendous program and I really respect and value what they do. And truly, I think that non-MFA poets and MFA-type folks have a lot to learn from one another, if we can all just get over being a bit defensive about our choice to MFA or not to MFA.

This has been your "can't we all just get along" moment for today.

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