Surprisingly, I wrote a pro-MFA post on facebook yesterday. I want to reiterate here how getting an MFA and/or a doctorate can help one become a better poet. Some guy said that you could just buy books and read them -- forty dollars worth! Ha! I am sure we've all read more than that. Anyways, some bemoan the MFA as a money making cash cow for universities. Although there is a lot of truth to the statement it doesn't follow that the MFA is "worthless." The guy said one should take community workshops or find a mentor they admire. The "either/or" attitude there doesn't work. There are some fantastic community workshops and some horrible community workshops. I attended one where the guy running it hates MFAs and PhD's for the most part. He thinks he knows more than most of us who earned an education. He is so bitter that he is blind to learning new things. This community workshop was a failure.
I think that hating what these degrees offer is strange as there are so many programs to chose from, which are all very different. The two programs I attended, University of North Texas, and University of Texas at El Paso were completely different in ideology, workshops, reading lists, mentoring, form and criticism.
In any case, I don't want to argue with the man as he has deemed himself an authority regarding the worthlessness of the MFA. I wonder if he has one? I hope he doesn't find me here in the ether.
The whole thing, the generalizing has made me re-think my language and opinions regarding academics who are poets. I tend to distrust the political privilege that goes on in an academic setting, but to say that one doesn't learn a great deal in MFA/PhD programs is ludicrous. It depends on the program. It depends on the student. Not all of them are expensive. Not all of them are just interested in the tuition money. People care genuinely about their students. Learning from people who teach well and write well is the goal. I was fortunate enough to learn a great deal from professors, fellow students and visiting writers. Yes, there were some bad things learned as well, but those things taught me a lot about what kind of writer I wanted to be.
I also took a number of fiction workshops and recently sent out three stories. My education, which I have long regretted, was not worthless or a waste. Knowledge is something which is essentially priceless.