Jan 13, 2007, 11:03 AM
Post #306 of 764
I've been following this list for a few months, and this is my first time contributing.
Re: [ecphraticknolls] Shall we try?
[In reply to]
One thing I've noticed is that the programs which are considered "top 10" or even "top 20" for fiction do not necessarily coincide with the "top 10" "top 20" lists for poetry. Close scrutiny of the MFA programs clearly reveals that various programs are much stronger in one genre than the other. It seems to me that the majority of participants in this discussion of rankings have been fiction folks. I think we might see a very different ranking if we were to make a specific one for poetry. In any event: I want to specialize in poetry. The factors that led me to apply to the places I chose to apply to were largely subjective: I have read almost all of the poetry by almost all of the poetry faculty at approximately the top 20 MFA programs, and I was quite struck by the marked differences in my responses to the poetry. I found that some of the professors' poetry, even if they were well-known, big-name, etc., simply didn't resonate for me - didn't move me. And I found that some of the professors who are not well-known and who don't presently have wide "name recognition" blew me away. I guess it's a matter of taste, which there's no real accounting for, or "chemistry", kind of like in a relationship. And I know that people have warned me that I should not base my decision too much on the faculty, since faculty move around, take leaves, retire, etc., but the reality is, that if several members of a program are writing poetry that I love, and at another program I can't even find one poem by one faculty member that "speaks to" me, I think that says something about whether that program would be a good "fit" for me. Also, while I know that people have often said that a good writer doesn't necessarily make a good teacher and vice versa, I just have this deep feeling of not wanting to spend 2-3 years of my life being taught poetry by poets whose own work I don't admire or respond positively to, at least a little bit.
Another factor for me was that I would really like to do at least a certain amount of cross-genre work, and it's pretty hard to find programs that let you do that - i.e., at least to be permitted to take one workshop in a second genre.
And a third factor for me, a very subjective one I admit, is that although intending to specialize in poetry, I would like to be in a program and/or a university in which playwriting exists as a field of study - either within the MFA itself or at least, within the university's department of Theater or English, simply because I like associating with playwrights and I am interested in doing some experimental work which combines poetry with drama.
Anyway, sorry for being so longwinded (very unpoetic!), but here is the list of places to which I've applied, in a very rough approximation of my present sense of my order of preference, along with a few comments:
University of Houston (extremely impressive poetry faculty, both at present and in past years - was number 2 in the USNWR 1997 rankings, and I'm really surprised that it's not being given a higher ranking in the most recent discussions on this list - they seem to have some really exciting things going on.) (note: Kimiko Hahn is no longer there, she has gone back to New York, and Ed Hirsch is no longer there, he is now heading the Guggenheim Foundation. This means they have no women in their poetry specialization, though they do have some great women in the fiction specializtion, and they seem to bring in visiting writers who are women on purpose, presumably to make up for the present lack of women in the regular poetry faculty caused by the departure of Hahn. Amazing history with the playwriting program, Edward Albee was there for about 15 years and did a lot of teaching and training and his influence there still seems strong.)
Hunter College (also has an extremely impressive poetry faculty, some very exciting recent books by nearly all of them, affordable, just feels like a very dynamic, up-and-coming program)
University of Virginia (faculty, especially Charles Wright, whose work is truly extraordinary; funding; location) Note: Rita Dove is going to be on leave for 2007-2008, which means those going to UVA in poetry would only get to study with her for one year.
New York University (faculty whose poetry is wonderful, and community outreach opportunities)
Columbia University (reputation, networking, faculty)
New School (faculty, reputation)
Iowa (reputation, assumption that quality of the students in the workshops will be very high because the program is so selective, feeling a part of a strong literary community with a very rich history of involvement in literary life, presence of playwriting program at same university)
U. Texas Austin Michener Center (exciting and rare cross-genre opportunities, funding, location, reputation)
U. Mass. Amherst (location, community outreach opportunities, thriving literary community in the surrounding area, faculty)
Brown University (reputation, presence of playwriting program within MFA, some cross-genre opportunities)
Adelphi University (I like the poetry by faculty, cross-genre opporunities, presence of playwriting program within MFA)
Brooklyn College (presence of playwriting program within MFA, location, small community atmosphere in program and people who have been involved in this program have spoken favorably about it)
Boston University (has got several of the most outstanding poets in the country, all of whom I would love to work with, but is only one year and is not an MFA, it's an MA, which are the factors that cause me to list it low on my order of preferences. If based on faculty quality alone, it would be my number 1, because I really love the poetry of Robert Pinsky, Louise Gluck, Roseanna Warren, and Derek Walcott, all of whom are on the faculty of this program. The program also has an amazing history, and a very strong track record of publication by students.)
So, there it is.... I should add that as I am presently living outside of the U.S., I have not been able to visit any of these programs in person, attend any open houses, talk to any present students, etc. So, my impressions are based mainly on what I've been able to glean from the Internet and of course, from reading the poetry collections by the faculty members.
I must say that I feel a bit dismayed that others on this list don't seem to have as deep a respect as I do for Houston's program. I am curious about why. They've got Mark Doty, Nick Flynn, Tony Hoagland, and Adam Zagajewski - what more could you wish for? - they've also had amazing visiting poets. My sense is, as mentioned above, that the main reason is that more folks in this rankings discussion are from the fiction genre and not the poetry genre.
Any chance of a "rankings" specific for poetry?
I hope this information is of some kind of interest to somebody out there......
Bye for now!