Subscribe | Give a Gift Subscription

Log In or Register | Help | Contact Us | Donate

Advanced Search

Main Index » Writing and Publishing » MFA Programs
Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs
Edit your profilePrivate messages Search postsWho's online?
You are not signed in. Click here to sign in.
If you are not a member, Register here!
151829 registered users
First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 Next page Last page  View All


Oct 16, 2007, 9:16 AM

Post #26 of 76 (10571 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

"As well" seems to signify that people should give equal weight to your friend's description, but I'll bite.

Among the amazing alumni from the program, as well as people who are still here (so people can judge the work for themselves):

Dorothea Lasky (First book, AWE, just came out from Wave)
Carson Cistulli (First book, SOME COMMON WEAKNESSES ILLUSTRATED, from Casa Grande)
Elizabeth Hughey (1st book, SUNDAY HOUSES THE SUNDAY HOUSE, won last year's Iowa prize)
Laura Soloman (2nd book just out from Ugly Duckling)
Lisa Olstein (2nd book forthcoming from Copper Canyon)
Michael Earl Craig (2nd book, YES, MASTER, out on Fence)
Christian Hawkey (2nd book, CITIZEN OF, from Wave)
Matthew Zapruder (2nd book, THE PAJAMAIST, from Copper Canyon)
Andrew Roberts (GIVE UP, a chapbook, just out from Tarpaulin Sky, also just won this year's PSA chapbook competition)
Natalie Lyalin (see some poems here: http://versemag.blogspot.com/2007/02/new-two-poems-by-natalie-lyalin.html)
Suyenne Juliette Lee (recent chapbook from Octopus)
Eric Baus (1st book, THE TO SOUND, out on Verse)
Dan Chelotti (THE EIGHTS won last year's PSA chapbook competition, you can also read selections from it here: http://bostonreview.net/BR31.1/sampler.html)
Noah Eli Gordan (God knows how many books he's put out at this point. I think he's into imaginary numbers.)
Seth Landman (http://www.glitterponymag.com/archives/issue-one/poetry/seth-landman/Voyager.html)
Lyndsey Cohen (http://www.glitterponymag.com/archives/issue-one/poetry/lyndsey-cohen/July-1972.html)
Seth Parker (http://www.glitterponymag.com/poetry/Seth-Parker/)
Christopher DeWeese (check out the new HAT)

This list is far from comprehensive.

We are luckly enough to have not only Jim and Peter Gizzi teaching here, but Dara Wier, who is reinventing the very idea of what workshop can mean, be, and do. It's electrifying.

We have the Visiting Writers Series (Tomaz Salamun, Alice Notley, George Saunders, Lydia Davis, Graham Foust, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Anthony McCann), the jubilat/Jones series (Matthew Rohrer, Loren Goodman, Deborah Digges, Evie Shockley, Cathy Park Hong, Keith & Rosmarie Waldrop), Live Lit (where current students read their often incredible work), not to mention the countless non-Program-affiliated readings in the area.

We have incredible local bookstores. (Troubador & Amherst Books are especially notable.)

We have the annual Juniper Literary Festival, which last year brought first-book poets Amanda Nadelberg, Eugene Ostashevsky, Tao Lin, Tony Tost, Sabrina Orah Mark, Timothy Donnelly & many others into the area for readings and discussions all over town.

Among the students, the readers, the faculty, the aesthetic diversity and vitality that brew here would be difficult to exaggerate.

Then there are (to use your phrase) the journals and presses: Slope, Wave, jubilat, the Massachusetts Review, Skein, Glitterpony, the Chuckwagon. Some are long-established, while others have sprung up from the student body. Fertile student body!

There are teaching opportunities, internships w/ many of the above-named organizations & projects, any number of independent study groups pursuing reading lists both esoteric and canonical.

Perhaps when your friend says Jim smokes in class he means that at break he steps outside for a cigarette, where he is often joined by students who may continue to talk about poems? What a nightmare!

I mean seriously, avoid this "top" program.

(This post was edited by heatherchristle on Oct 16, 2007, 11:21 AM)


Oct 16, 2007, 5:34 PM

Post #27 of 76 (10542 views)
Re: [heatherchristle] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Did you read my original post?

No one's arguing that you guys don't have alumni or bookstores. The objections had to do with unprepared (or, if you prefer, untraditional!) teachers, and with peer cliquishness, snobbery, and delusion.

Basically he felt it was a big circle-jerk that shouted down any form of dissent. (Kudos for disproving that).

He wanted teachers to read his poems before class, to consider his work. He wanted classes to be lead by teachers, not by fellow students. He wanted alert, tolerant peers who worked hard, didn't hide behind stillborn theories.

It's a nice publishing grocery list. Problem is, for my buddy, at least, UMass just felt like a way to buy entree into the very cliquish small small mags like Octopus or Fence or what have you. The five or six mags that publish the UMass LangPo crowd. I guess he wanted something...more.

He was in workshop with Dorothea Lasky, by the way. She took big pride in the way she wrote poems in ten minutes. From her book:

They stole my tires
They knocked down my house
They killed my father
They cut off my fingers
And I thought, “And I did like those fingers."

I don't have any beef with UMass. All I'm saying is, it pays to do your research.

six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 16, 2007, 6:02 PM)


Oct 16, 2007, 6:09 PM

Post #28 of 76 (10531 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I did read your origninal post, in which, for god's sake, you said to avoid the whole program. Then, in your second post, you asked me to talk about my experience. All of the elements I listed (the people who've come through here, the bookstores, the readings, the ongoing projects) are part of that. I included publication info so people could search the books out and judge for themselves. It's one thing to dismiss several dozen poets as writing "word salad," and quite another to give people a real sense of the work that's emerging from this community.

To call the poets the "UMass LangPo crowd" is to display not only a deep misunderstanding of UMass, but of Language poetry as well. I have never heard a poet so much as mention a theoretical justification for a poem in workshop. Nor can I imagine that using cold reading in workshop means a professor is "unprepared."

And I suppose that if your friend had dismissive feelings about "small small mags like Octopus or Fence," then probably the program was a poor fit for him. This does not make it a program to avoid.

I'm not trying to shout you down; I just find your friend's characterization of the program to be incredibly inaccurate. I would hate for prospective applicants to believe that UMass is in any way like the place he described.


Oct 16, 2007, 6:42 PM

Post #29 of 76 (10522 views)
Re: [heatherchristle] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right about that first part. I apologize.

Maybe it's wrong to condemn an entire program based on one or two teachers and a peer group from a few years ago. I think it's mighty significant, but allow me to amend that to a strong exhortation to do your research, know your expectations, and know where you're applying.

Remember, these are not my opinions. "UMass LangPo crowd" was how my friend referred to his fellow workshoppers. That or "LangPods," when feeling less charitable. I really am a big fan of Octopus, Fence, et al. The objection wasn't with the magazines themselves, but how they fit into and sort of colored his UMass experience. I.e. they rejected some poems he sent before he was a student, and then, when he was a student, he sent the same poems, and they were suddenly, magically good enough. He felt that rather than improving his poetry, he was just making dubious connections, connections that didn't justify the price of a school where his favorite poets didn't really teach.

(I'd add David Berman to that list. His sweetness, his lack of irony without sacrificing the weirdness, sets him apart from similar writers.)

six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 16, 2007, 6:52 PM)


Oct 18, 2007, 5:38 AM

Post #30 of 76 (10473 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Worry not, heatherchristie: UMass is not the only program (or person) about which Junior Mass spreads secondhand rumors, blatant exaggerations, and outright lies as if they were fact. In my brief time on the board, I've seen him/her give a number of programs/people the same treatment: Robert Olen Butler, Florida, Derek Walcott, BU, David Foster Wallace, Arizona, Stanford, Tobias Wolff, numerous Stegner fellows, and now UMass, James Tate, and various members of its faculty and alumni. I'm probably forgetting somebody, but if you search around, you'll see a pattern. My guess is that those unfortunates have a stack of rejection letters somewhere in Junior's closet to blame for all of this. That, or Junior's trying to become the Perez Hilton of the literary message-board world.

I just hope nobody who reads it takes it seriously.


Oct 18, 2007, 6:46 PM

Post #31 of 76 (10440 views)
Re: [toadvine] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

People come to these boards to share useful information, not for a circle jerk. We're not the AWP.

I defy you to list one instance where I've lied.

You stretched one Stegner observation into an indictment of several institutions: Florida! Stanford! Butler! Wolff! They give Stegner spots to friends, students, wives of current fellows. Google it. It's not a revelation. Wallace is my favorite writer; he wrote some unkind things about Arizona. Walcott was involved in a sexual harassment scandal. I mentioned it in passing and did not even provide his name. These things are taboo on an MFA message board?

And yeah, I watched a friend become entirely disillusioned with UMass. I listed the reasons. Is this too second hand? I don't get it. Should I attend every school before I attend them, to discuss whether I'd want to attend?

As long as you're cyber-stalking me, you might as well go back and list all my positive comments, too. You'll find they far outweigh the negative.

I don't imagine anyone comes here just to get smoke blown up their ass. If that's what you want, visit the official school web sites.

six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 18, 2007, 6:56 PM)


Oct 18, 2007, 8:25 PM

Post #32 of 76 (10425 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

How about this: how about instead of telling me to spend the time listing your legion lies, exaggerations for effect, irresponsible innuendos, and deflection of responsibility for them onto your unnamed friends in the know, how about you just start supporting the aspersions you love to make against so many people and programs. Don't tell me to "Google it" (what exactly should I be googling? every single person you slight or slander? i don't have that kind of time!). Google isn't saying these things about people Google doesn't know -- you're saying them.

And, just out of curiosity, I did google some combination of robert olen butler and stegner fellows (I don't recall the exact phrase I used). Guess what I got? A blog post from somebody who actually DOES seem to have insider knowledge (he or she claims to be involved with admissions), which refers to one of your conspiracy theory posts as "paranoia" and does a rather good job of using common sense and a dash of reason to discredit your ridiculous claims.

Also, as a matter of fact, posting things you heard from your friend IS second-hand! That's the very definition of second-hand! No, you shouldn't attend every school (but I am curious -- have you attended any? Do you have any real knowledge of the MFA world whatsoever, or just what you heard via Google searches and rumors and "friends"?) -- maybe you should just stop talking poorly about places and people you have no knowledge of.

As for your constant equivocation about what you actually said about Butler, Wolff, and co., or what you actually used Wallace's comments to say about Arizona, or what you actually said about UMass and BU, the original posts are still there. Anybody who wants to see them can search.

"Cyber-stalking"? Wow. You really are paranoid. You cast aspersions about all kinds of people in a very public and high-profile message board, and then when somebody calls you on it, you call them a stalker. You are remarkable.


Oct 18, 2007, 9:55 PM

Post #33 of 76 (10410 views)
Re: [toadvine] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Dana, what do you call it when someone makes personal attacks, rather than addressing the content of their posts? I seem to remember some rule against this.

I'm here for discussion. We've been through this. If you object to something I write, make a factual argument against it, not me. The problem is you can't.

And by the way, the gentleman you link to -- who is in some way Stegner-affiliated -- doesn't deny the appearance of impropriety. His explanation for the nepotism is rather weak. But that's neither here nor there. I'm not on some crusade against them, nor have I ever applied, which you repeatedly imply. I'll apply for the MFA in January. If you don't like my reasons for avoiding a school (based upon a friend's experience -- how off the wall!), then for goodness sakes, offer something other than, Well, they must have rejected you!

six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 18, 2007, 10:27 PM)


Oct 18, 2007, 10:24 PM

Post #34 of 76 (10397 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I have no issue with you. I don't know you. I just don't want any readers of this board to be misled by the unsubstantiated things you say about many MFA programs and faculty. That's why I've spent all this time addressing the content of your posts. You've made a lot -- and it has been a lot, I can link to the original posts if you want -- of unfavorable and poorly or unsupported claims. I just listed some of them earlier. It's a shame that's being misconstrued as a personal attack, when in fact the only personal attacks being made are the accusations you level against all of these people.

In hopes of moving this in a different direction, I would just say, to any prospective applicants or students of the programs in question -- UMass, BU, Florida, Arizona, Stanford, or indeed any others -- that if you're here to research them, there are plenty of first-hand accounts from people who've been there and actually know the faculty and aesthetic and so on available on these very boards. Please don't let unsubstantiated rumors prevent you from applying somewhere you might like. The difference between the two kinds of information is very apparent earlier in this thread in heatherchristie's posts, and in that blog post I linked to earlier.

(EDIT: And in response to your edit, which was posted after I wrote this, saying that the person who runs that blog "doesn't deny the appearance of impropriety" is a classic example of what I mean about your method of insinuation. No, you're right, she or he doesn't -- they deny the impropriety itself, which is far more important. And the logic presented is far more sound than anything I've seen in opposition.)

(This post was edited by toadvine on Oct 18, 2007, 10:29 PM)


Oct 18, 2007, 10:33 PM

Post #35 of 76 (10393 views)
Re: [toadvine] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

No, you've never addressed anything I've said, other than to call me paranoid. The fact that they gave the Stegner to Ryan Harty's wife is not unsubstantiated. What do you want from me? A marriage certificate? Ditto for the Walcott sex scandal (which, again, I didn't even refer to by name), or Wallace's comments about Arizona (it's in his essay, for gosh sakes).

You'll also notice that, while Heather's take on UMass is certainly different, on some issues, it is factually the same. For instance, my friend abhored the fact that his favorite poet, James Tate, did not prepare before class, that is, he did not read, consider, and prepare comments for student work before workshop. Heather calls this "cold reading", and is fine, even enthusiastic about it. My friend was not.

But what is so bad about discussing it? It will appeal to some applicants, it will turn others off. I am trying to find out as much as I can about certain schools. Surely others are too?

(And geez-a-whiz...I began my edit before you'd even posted. Yeesh.)

six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 18, 2007, 10:41 PM)

Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Oct 18, 2007, 10:55 PM

Post #36 of 76 (10378 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, Amory, you've been called out before on many of your comments and opinions and the way you've presented them so this really isn't anything new. On the other hand, toadvine, a few of your statements have been somewhat inflammatory, so....

Let's everyone take it down a notch...There's plenty of room for respectful opinions and respectful disagreement.



Oct 18, 2007, 10:58 PM

Post #37 of 76 (10376 views)
Re: [motet] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't mind being called out. What I mind is that the caller-outers never respond with any kind of facts, even going so far as to say that well-documented marriages, sexual harassment scandals, and published essays are the product of my imagination. Sometimes, it's like the Bush administration around here...

six five four three two one 0 ->


Oct 19, 2007, 12:22 AM

Post #38 of 76 (10364 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah, the old Bush administration jab. How clever and original. But I'll take the advice and bring it down a notch. I'm only going to respond to the content of your post. I've been doing it the whole time, but maybe if I say I'm doing it it will be clearer.

In your next-to-last post, you said:

The fact that they gave the Stegner to Ryan Harty's wife is not unsubstantiated. What do you want from me? A marriage certificate?

No, I don't. And if you had originally only said that they were married, I would have no problem with that. But that's not what you said before. What you said in the first post I ever saw where you discussed it was:

We also shouldn't discount that Robert Olen Butler exerts undue influence in these matters; like the Stegner, one of his recommendations to Tobias Wolfe or whoever will magically appear. So for me, this kind of throws Florida into doubt.

Later in that same thread, you went on to further impugn the character of Butler, Wolff, and others. I pointed out that two other programs have produced more fellows than Butler's, but nobody had accused them of nepotism, and you said that was irrelevant, among other things.

In another thread I just found, you said the following:

Hey there. Before you get all disappointed, just remember--historically, they pick folks Robert Olen Butler recommends to Tobias Wolfe, along with various other 'insiders', such as people married to current fellows (like Ryan Harty and Julie Orringer) along with their honest choices. So when they say they pick five or whatever a year, keep in mind the actual, non-rigged number is much smaller.

I repeat: you said that Robert Olen Butler is involved in underhanded (if not illegal) dealings with Wolff, and that Stanford is rigged. The above are your words, not mine. Later, you equivocated or retreated from those statements and claimed that you only said the two were married. That's not true.
So, there you have it: the evidence you asked me to provide. You've said and insinuated a lot more about Butler than just that two of the fellows were married. Those claims have been disputed, by me and others, including at least one person who knows more about the process than any of us.

I could do the same thing for all of the other programs/people I mentioned, all of whom you've given a similar treatment. But I really don't want to devote the time. Hopefully this example of the behavior I'm talking about will suffice. This thread is a great example, with UMass. Note that this is not a personal attack. Its' just evidence and support for what I'm saying, which you requested.

I really don't think what I'm asking is so unreasonable. I just think you shouldn't go around spreading these sorts of disparaging rumors about people, when it's obvious that they're exactly that: rumors. Unsubstantiated rumors based on a little bit of circumstantial evidence and a little bit of hearsay. It's a very uncivil thing to do, and there's no reason to do it as much as you do, which seems to be a lot. A lot of people read this board, including apparently some of the people who works at these programs. Somebody in one of the other threads said that they knew some of the people you're talking about. I don't, but if I did, I'd be upset by it. And I'm sure a lot more people here are looking for info about those programs. So it does very little good to spread this sort of thing, in addition to being distasteful.

Earlier in this thread, you said that people come to this board to share useful information. You're right about that. But this sort of so-called "information" is not useful. It's spiteful and false and potentially damaging.


Oct 19, 2007, 2:19 AM

Post #39 of 76 (10348 views)
Re: [toadvine] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I was asking you to refute what I said, not quote it. There's a big difference, you see? You've provided evidence of what I wrote, not that what I wrote was wrong.

I stand by my comments. I'm not sure how quoting them makes them wrong. They gave the Stegner to a current fellow's wife, and Wolff's decisions are highly influenced by Butler, who teaches at Florida. Wolff also gave the Stegner to a writer he'd previously given other awards. Varying degrees of nepotism. Those are facts, and you can make up your own mind as to how 'bad' they are. The later 'impugning' and 'maligning' of Wolff's character you mention was a reference to his memoir: he entered academia by forging records. That is a fact. Do I have to stand by that, too? Is it a revelation, seeing as how it's in his own memoir? Is it wrong to point to it as an example of his character?

You write, "I could do the same thing for all of the other programs/people I mentioned...". Well, no, you cannot, and you know that. The Stegner thing is clearly the most subjective matter (as we all know, brave epistemologists that we are, we can't prove what an administrator was thinking when he gave the Stegner to a wife or his buddy's students. To you, it might be, This friend/fellow's wife is clearly the best candidate because she went to Iowa. To the hundreds of other Iowa grads that applied, it might be, They gave it to Harty's wife, for chrissakes!

Oh, the maliciousness of bringing it up! Shame on me!

I'll take your word that there was no Walcott sex scandal, and that it doesn't reflect poorly on BU. I'll take your word that it's malicious to say that David Foster Wallace didn't think so highly of Arizona, based on his essay. And here, I'll give you some more 'evidence' against these absurdities: "
I'll have to take your word that there was no Walcott sex scandal, and that it doesn't reflect poorly on BU. I'll have to take your word that it's malicious to say that David Foster Wallace didn't think so highly of Arizona."

I mean, Jesus.

six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 19, 2007, 2:26 AM)


Oct 19, 2007, 7:17 AM

Post #40 of 76 (10330 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


This argument is boring. Take it to private messages.


Oct 19, 2007, 2:15 PM

Post #41 of 76 (10301 views)
Re: [Hamlet3145] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Montana has full funding for all its students, right?


Oct 19, 2007, 2:36 PM

Post #42 of 76 (10295 views)
Re: [zebulon] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

About half.* This is pretty much the new director's biggest focus these days. That said, once you have funding you have it. There is no re-allotment during the 2nd year which could cause potentially destructive competition among the students. If you don't get a TA (I didn't) there are still ways to make it manageable. I think I had a post about this a some point, but it is possible to get in-state tuition by your 2nd year and a way to get 12 "free" credits by taking advantage of a certain tuition cap. And some other options as well (including getting a permanent position at the university and utilizing the resulting tuition-waiver). If later this spring there people on the forums who wind up accepted without funding, I'd be happy to provide some tips.

*We usually have an incoming class (all genre's combined) of about 20 so there are usually about 10-11 TA's to go around.

Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Oct 19, 2007, 7:50 PM

Post #43 of 76 (10264 views)
Re: [bighark] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
This argument is boring. Take it to private messages.

I couldn't agree more.
Thanks to the patrons who are putting the topic back on track.



Oct 21, 2007, 7:53 AM

Post #44 of 76 (10198 views)
Re: [motet] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I may have posted this link before on another thread (I can't remember), but since people were asking about the most recent rankings of the best MFA Programs, here's the list:



Oct 21, 2007, 3:03 PM

Post #45 of 76 (10170 views)
Re: [bodel] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

At this point I think the best ranking in America is the one that the users of Poets & Writers did themselves, which can be found here:


The Atlantic listing is not actually a ranking, as it lists top programs in several areas, arranges them alphabetically instead of by rank, and then (unhelpfully) says that at least twenty other programs could have made the unranked top 10 list. For me, the big indicator that the list is helpful (which I think, generally, it is) but flawed is the idea that Cornell and Boston University should even be mentioned in the name sentence as one another. Cornell may be the best program in the country, and at worst (very worst) is fifth; BU is a narrow edition to the top twenty-five (at best), from everything I've seen. In any event--

--I'll be tabulating a 2008 Poets & Writers poll this fall, and I should mention that I've already started it, and am astonished (but thrilled) to find that last year's poll (at the link above) wasn't a fluke. The same programs are already lining up as the top ones in America (and, as I'm apparently genetically pre-programmed to always point out, there's some synergy between these rankings and the ones Tom Kealey did, also at the link above). Here's a brief preview of where the 2008 Poets & Writers poll (taken from the P&W site, but unaffiliated with it) stands now (keep in mind it's very early, so some of these schools will fall and some will rise):

1. University of Iowa
2. Syracuse University
3t. Cornell University
3t. University of Michigan
3t. University of Texas
6t. University of Virginia
6t. University of Massachusetts
6t. University of Montana
6t. University of Wisconsin
10t. Brown University
10t. Columbia University
10t. Indiana University
10t. University of Oregon
10t. University of Minnesota

+3 others tied for 10th.

(This post was edited by umass76 on Oct 21, 2007, 3:55 PM)


Oct 21, 2007, 6:31 PM

Post #46 of 76 (10141 views)
Re: [umass76] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow -- must say I'm a bit surprised UC Irvine didn't even make the top ten.


Oct 21, 2007, 6:49 PM

Post #47 of 76 (10137 views)
Re: [bennyprof] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

At the moment, they're tied for 23rd, but I emphasize it is very early, and there'll be a lot of changes over the next three months. I posted the preview now just to note how striking it is that, even this early, the list is starting to take the recognizable shape that those familiar with all the rankings on The Suburban Ecstasies website will be familiar with...

...I do tend to be of the opinion (and in a bit of a minority here) that at this moment in history the top twenty programs in Creative Writing are about as well known, and reliably consistent, as the top twenty law schools or medical schools (NB: "as consistent" in the sense that, on occasion, a few schools will swap into the back end of the rankings, to be replaced some years later, often, by the very schools they originally replaced)...Irvine is definitely in that group, as are nearly all of the schools listed in the current (primitive!) version of the poll, above.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Oct 21, 2007, 6:50 PM)


Oct 21, 2007, 7:40 PM

Post #48 of 76 (10126 views)
Re: Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I have a lot of mixed feelings about rankings, and I've always believed that no program is going to be perfect for everyone. I'm not going to go into that right now, but I do want to point out that according to its Table of Contents (which is now online), the new issue of Poets & Writers has articles on "Six New MFA Programs" and "Nine Distinctive Programs." I'm eager to see what's included, and how these articles have been put together. My subscription copy hasn't arrived yet--has anyone else seen these articles?

Erika D.

Quiet Americans: Stories


Oct 21, 2007, 9:03 PM

Post #49 of 76 (10112 views)
Re: [edwriter] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


I know we have slightly different views on rankings--though not, perhaps, as different as you might think--so I won't go into that now, but I've worried for some time that organizations like the AWP, and even Poets & Writers, want applicants to understand the options before them only in the same sense that politicians want voters to know where their donations are coming from.

The AWP says on its website that one of the major factors in judging a school is its selectivity, defined on the organization's website as what percentage of applicants are admitted each year. Yet the AWP, the only organization with the power to encourage programs to release such data, has made no effort to do so. Which begs the question, I guess, is the AWP willing to ask the tough questions of programs? Is Poets & Writers? Applicants should be asking for specifics about the funding scheme at every single school (precisely how many TA positions out of precisely how many students, precisely how many fellowships, precisely how many internships, and so on), but they can't get that information. The AWP, or Poets & Writers, could get that info--but do they? How about doing a detailed assessment of the quality of individual faculty members (their teaching as well as their writing) rather than, like a star-struck teenager, merely cataloging who teaches where--one of the only pieces of information an applicant to a given program can find on-line?

So, this thread is about the best "Poetry MFA and MA programs." If the AWP and Poets & Writers won't get for us the numbers on individual programs' funding schemes, or their acceptance rates, or any information whatsoever on whether their graduates have had publishing success, or even taking a poll (and how easy is that...?) as to whether graduates are satisfied with their programs (as U.S. News does for colleges), what are we getting except puff pieces endorsed by the programs themselves? You're right to urge people to ask the hard questions and to try to get the information behind the basic information; the question is, are the sources you're looking toward ones that can, or that will, or (dare I say) that want to present that vital information to applicants?

Right now there are folks from many quarters--and I'll tell you, it's not just here at P&W--who are expressing severe dissatisfaction about the programs at Iowa and Massachusetts, which coincidentally enough finished 1-2 in last year's informal Poets & Writers poll (see link above). I've heard negative whispers about the latter from multiple sources, and without getting into my own views have heard plenty here at Iowa, as well as from graduates of the program on this board and others, bemoaning their lack of satisfaction with aspects of the program in Iowa City. But what happens when those people speak up? They get shouted down. And who's cataloging their complaints and presenting them to the schools for some response? NO ONE.

So I do get a little suspicious when there's a sense--communicated in any fashion whatsoever--that if applicants just work harder the information is there to be found, because no, it isn't, and yes, the difficulty in acquiring information about MFA programs is intentional. I'm trying to do my part but, as you say, rankings (and acceptance rate data, and award/fellowship statistics, and post-graduation employment data, all available on my website) are only the beginning. More must be done, and I only wish the AWP and P&W would do their jobs--would make good on their implicit promise to poets and writers to inform them--and make it happen.

So, a link:

http://www.sethabramson.blogspot.com/ [MFA Data in Right-Hand Frame]

P.S. Lest anyone think I'm pursuing some advantage here by continually touting TSE, keep in mind that a) I'll tout any site that takes the time and effort to track down vital information about MFA programs that is not readily available (and hint: it does take a lot of time and effort, as I know all too well), and b) asking these questions and taking this stance has only made me less, not more, popular. At least to those in positions of power, who definitely do not want information released to applicants beyond the types of information they decide are appropriate. It's for them to know, and for you to...well, not know.

(This post was edited by umass76 on Oct 21, 2007, 9:06 PM)


Oct 21, 2007, 9:13 PM

Post #50 of 76 (10105 views)
Re: [edwriter] Best Poetry MFA & MA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


Thanks for pointing that out; I hadn't realize it was online yet. Shameless plug (though directly related to some of the conversation above): in the upcoming issue my girlfriend wrote this: Confessions of a Teaching Assistant. It is basically about TA'ing at Montana. (Though I just noticed they must have cut her paragraph regarding a trend of non-TAs having more sucess immediately post-graduation).

(This post was edited by Hamlet3145 on Oct 21, 2007, 9:16 PM)

First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 Next page Last page  View All

Main Index » Writing and Publishing » MFA Programs


P&W Newsletters

Sign up to receive our monthly email newsletter to stay informed of the latest news, events and more.

Click to Sign Up

Subscribe to P&W Magazine | Donate Now | Advertise | Sign up for E-Newsletter | About Us | Contact Us

© Copyright Poets & Writers 2011. All Rights Reserved