Poetry MFA graduates
The recent hubbub over the respectable poetry press which demanded their authors pay for the cost of producing their own book struck a real nerve.
Why? Because an uncomfortable truth was brought into the open: U.S. poetry market inflation is so severe, a book of new poems not only has no value–it has a negative value.
In today’s marketplace, a new book of poems represents not growth, but a grave—new poetry not only does not add wealth, it takes wealth away from the world.
The truth will be argued away by some, convinced their poetry is worth something.
But this rationale fails, since the economic fact of this uncomfortable truth is no less true for being a general truth.
At least when a publisher asks you to pay for your book’s publication costs, it’s better than the contest system—where you pay for the publication of someone else’s book, and unethically so, in the crooked contest system judged or run by once respected poets such as Jorie Graham and Bin Ramke, who were exposed by Alan Cordle’s Foetry.com.
The press which asked its own authors to pony up did so because it couldn’t stomach the contest system. Ironies such as this will breed when a market collapses—and the market for new poems has collapsed big time.
Hence, it is no wonder that financial aid is the chief criterion in rating MFA programs.
What other criteria could there possibly be? Earning an MFA degree in poetry is nothing more than an individual poet’s desperate gamble against inflation—even as MFA numbers add to that inflation.
The poets swim in the sea of their own doom, unable to be a poet unless they get wet.
A bunch of MFA profs and administrators have signed a letter of protest against the Poets & Writers rankings of MFA programs put together by Seth Abramson.
It’s unfair, say the protestors, who include relative titans such as Robert Pinsky and Tony Hougland, to weigh financial aid so heavily; there are other criteria, they protest, such as teaching methods.
Really? What teaching methods? Even the MFA programs themselves admit they don’t teach anyone to be a poet—the programs only give one time to make the attempt, with varying degrees of informal contact with peers.
Classical criteria, based on quantity and measurement, never did grace Poetry MFA curricula. The aesthetics of Plato, Aristotle and Horace would seem horribly old-fashioned in today’s MFA. Classical learning is not even included in a hybrid. It is the enemy. It is out. Byron is out, because he may have read a classical author once. The exclusion of the old is total. Intelligence is the only hallmark: intelligence left to swim on its own. This is poetry education: We can’t teach you is what we will teach you.
Modernists outlawed quantity about 90 years ago, and these same gentlemen established the MFA programs 60 years ago. The result? Inflation as the world has never seen.
Scarriet’s MFA Poetry program criterion is simple. Find one book of poems published by administration or faculty in the MFA program which has been purchased freely by a general reader. Then, check out the financial aid package.