Thursday, October 15, 2009

Check Signal Cable

I was going to wait until tomorrow to write what will most likely be lost to you in my own incomprehensibility, But Seth Abramson's words, as related to the MFA and beyond, always make me want to put my own experience and thoughts on the table. And most of my words are a springboard from what he says, mostly, I would imagine, completely off course from his initial statements.

This was from a link on a recent Facebook post of his: Thinking of getting your MFA?

You have to pay for it, but if you're interested, $4.99 probably won't break the bank. It might also be in the new Poets & Writers, though.

There's also this link, which gives you the "top 50" programs. And there's an extended link too, which names, I think, every "other" MFA program.

I guess what I'm most interested in is a comment made by someone on his Facebook thread: "Read the article 'Confessions of a TA' and had a visceral reaction, realizing that since I have zero interest in teaching, I can't spend half my time in a traditional MFA program doing something I don't like and don't plan to use (even for funding)." Now from what I gather, this is not someone in their 20s, 30s, or 40s (this person said something about their age that would make me think this). Maybe 40s, but maybe older, so that's the first thing, since this person alluded to the fact that they're not your average 20-something wanting to explore the MFA option.

But I feel like there are many others who are 20-somethings and are saying the exact same thing. Maybe the Rhet Comp class I'm taking right now—which I have to take before I can teach composition, even though I've taught nearly 25 sections of composition classes in the last five years—is making me realize that it's also an issue with the Rhet Comp programs regarding TA positions, wages, "low pay," etc. Meaning that since TAs usually teach composition to earn their stipend, this is why there are so many essays regarding TAs these days, and all those issues like wages and "low pay."

Wait a minute, people, I'm not complaining here. I'm really not. Because I understand something: this is how it works at most places if you want to get your MFA or PhD and want the TA gig. Would I rather get free tuition and get paid X-grand a year for just taking classes so I can write all the time, get out in three or four years, and try to get a job and support my family and all of that? Why yes, wouldn't we all in some Utopian society that doesn't exist?

Maybe it was good I went into VCU when I was 22—I was more naive (if you can believe it) than I am now, and I kind of had no clue what was going on. They could've told me I had to teach four sections of composition comprised of thirty students each for my stipend, and I would've said, "Seems a little much, but OK!" And yet for what I had to do at VCU, which was two English 101 sections of 25 students each, it still doesn't even seem that bad right now, and it wasn't then either.

This is what happens when I write these "posts": I don't really go anywhere.

But I guess I would ask you, as a fabricated and wraithlike future MFAer, is all the money in the world going to help you write better poems? Is it going to help you learn about becoming a better writer? Is it going to help you develop indispensable relationships—if you're lucky—with friends in your program who will become your go-to readers, the ones who can take your awful fifteenth draft and make it into something worthy because they, somehow, seem to know your work better than you after a while?

I come back to asking, "Where was all this stuff when I was applying?"

I say that because I'm beyond exponentially ecstatic that this information on MFA calculations, rankings, etc., wasn't available then.

I'm not sure about the rankings or calculations or legitimacy of programs anymore (not that I ever was to begin with), but I think, like many now, that I would've been bogged down with so many questions at that point of the application process, so many questions that would've led me to try something else, and I wouldn't be sitting here in Vestal, New York, of all places, a few months into a PhD program, with an amazing woman who somehow decided to say yes when I asked her to marry me, and a first book of poetry coming out next year.

Sometimes it pays to suck it up, live on what you can, and be passionate about something. Sometimes it might be better to leave those other questions for later.

But doesn't it always come down to passion? Or, better yet, shouldn't it?