Sep 13, 2011, 12:20 PM
Post #2087 of 2090
Re: [rjh] Great Teachers You Have Known
I'm in the first year of my CW PhD, and have only been in school a week, so I don't feel like I can offer you a rundown of my current program. But I was at Houston for 3 years for my MFA, taking workshops and classes with the PhD students, so I'm happy to talk about their faculty.
I'm a fiction writer, and while I definitely don't hold reservations about being honest about my experiences, I have to say that I don't have anything negative to say about the Fiction faculty at Houston. They are all wonderful teachers, they are present, and they are each quite different from one another (both in terms of the kinds of writers they are and in their teaching styles). Antonya Nelson has serious x-ray vision for fiction, where she can look into your piece and see what it is you're trying to do, even if you're doing it poorly, even if you yourself haven't figured out what it is you're trying to do. I am a much stronger writer for having studied with her. Robert Boswell is a very generous reader, offering pages of feedback that is honest and constructive. They're both at UH in the spring, along with Alex Parsons and Mat Johnson, who are both very generous teachers. Alex likewise offers pages of feedback, and Mat has a no-nonsense approach to writing that encourages you stay focused on getting the work done. Mat, also, is not reluctant to talk about publishing, which many creative writing MFA profs shy away from. Mat (who also teaches nonfiction) and Alex are there year-round, and in the fall you also have Chitra, who will also discus the more practical side of the writing life and who's also taken time to do things like help you practice reading your own work aloud. I feel extremely lucky to have spent 3 years studying with these people. I've never taken a poetry workshop, but the poetry faculty has recently been rounded out nicely: in addition to Tony Hoagland and Nick Flynn (who teaches nonfiction too), Ange Mlinko and Kevin Prufer joined the faculty last year, and Martha Serpas joined the year before.
I can't speak to any lit scholars on the narrative side, but the poets have David Mikics, who is an insanely smart poetry scholar. Houston is a pretty good city to spend 5 years in; there are tons of museums and theaters, an opera and a symphony, and more readings than you'll be able to attend. Peep this year's Inprint reading series schedule, for example: http://www.inprinthouston.org/20112012-brown-reading-series Many of these writers (Michael Ondaatje, Rae Armantrout, Christian Wiman, and W.S. Merwin) are coming to the university to give smaller craft talks for the creative writing students. All in all, it's a pretty good deal.
Good luck to everyone applying! I remember last year's insanity all too well. Hope everyone ends up somewhere that makes them happy.