Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Low-Residency MFA

What's the deal with these. The W-Chronicle is swarming with these programs. Is this just a way for universities to rake in money without having to actually give tenure to poets - they just hire people who have tenure elsewhere. And then the attendees don't teach, so they have to pay for it? That sounds like the worst kind of scam. If that's indeed how these things work. And clearly I am no authority.


Blogger Max said...

Any MFA program that doesn't give funding to all its students is a scam.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I'm banking on your rightness, Max!

I looked into Low Residency a year or so back, thinking I'd never get away from Iowa City. I think they plan on people who can't fully quit their jobs or lives to go to grad school. I believe, if you like, you can check out Francois' and my discussion on our blogs. I had looked into Warren Wilson.

I ultimately decided against it because, basically, my lovely workplace wouldn't allow me to have 10 days away from here every six months. Thinking back, I'm not sure what job would...

Also, the lack of funding and having to travel like that would be unpleasant. Chris Merrill had first suggested the possibility to me. I believe Matt Hart is a WW grad and Dean Young teaches there sometimes.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Max said...

What makes them so disgusting, in my opinion, is that they prey on people who think that such things will advance them in the writing world, or make their writing "good." I don't think Dean Young's opinion matters very much more than your average serious writer's insight (MFA'd or not), but one is free and the other you'll pay out the nose for. A lot of these people who go into low-res programs have illusions about what they're doing. The people who run such programs are well aware of these illusions, and that's why the market exists. It's a pretty vulturous little economy at work.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I'd say that's a fair point, Max. People who are of the belief that they have to be trained to write poems. I suppose it took me some time realize that's not the case, but I'm young :).

I think the point of an MFA isn't necessarily the opinions, but rather the time you have to write. So basically, you pay a low-res program lots of money to sit at home and write, which is exactly what you could have been doing in the first place.

Now, a workshop and a full-res program, it seems to me, has the benefit of being in a specific local or, hopefully, with a group of people whose opinion on poems you don't mind getting.

I've been asked twice this week as to why I still want to get an MFA. Both times I've faltered in answering, because I felt like each had their own correct answer in mind before I could say anything. If I hadn't stumbled, I think I would say I want to teach and get teaching experience and to be in a decent place and not working like I do now. Whether that's right or not, I don't know. What is right?

Either way, the low-res option can't offer any of that, and they take advantage of people who want to write but don't know where to begin.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Fran├žois Luong said...

What? Me? What have I said about Low-Res programs?

5:49 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

We talked about it briefly like a while ago.

OK, so maybe it was just on my blog that you responded. Who can keep track of such things nowadays?

6:58 PM  
Blogger Max said...

I would say that if you're going into an MFA program for the time it allows you to spend working on your writing, that is a pretty solid mindset. I came here thinking that I wanted some kind of university career, but I'm leaving (in a few weeks) not wanting to have anything to do with that end of it. However, I still value the time I was given to work on my writing, and the teaching experience has been nice as well. If I had it to do over again, I would, though I think I would come in with fewer illusions about achieving the holy grail tenure-track position in my lifetime. I'm kind of sore about academia, because I don't really appreciate how writing has become so bound up in universities, but at the same time, I think that from a practical standpoint, an MFA program tends to give you whatever you want to get out of it. The system at large is problematic, but as a student, you can kind of ignore that bullshit and write all day if you really want to.

10:08 PM  

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