Friday, February 27, 2009
a gratuitous swipe at MFA programs in poetry
I would generally support graduate programs in writing prose,since this is the thing that all of us live by and it is the language form that is most useful in enabling us to construct something resembling a coherent approach to a world that cares not at all whether we can create metaphors comparing unlike things in the same stanza.
The finer points of writing a prose that can best convert experience, opinion, research into material that is meaningful and useful to a reader is a goal worth striving for, and the social good it produces is rather obvious; a culture that's able to express itself better is capable of generating better ideas as well. We write our sports pages and monographs in prose, not in metered verse.
Poetry would be a side project , in my view, something to be considered as an elevated art only after some required courses in writing clear, articulate prose have been mastered; poetry is about the muddle of our thinking, the ambiguity that lies between the utterances we make, it is the feeling of being unsecured in the world when the talking and the reciting is done with. Even so, the aim is toward clarity of a kind, a connection to a world beyond the words contained in the books professional poets are loath to leave behind. It is a mistake, I think, that one should enter a program with it in mind to become a poet, the way one would become a medical doctor , or an accountant, certified by an institution. The training in poetic technique is fine with me, but only in the larger context of a system that trains graduate students to become writers rather than self-referencing log rollers.