Monday, August 08, 2005

Carol Mirakove responds to both questions 

Question 1:
I got an MFA at George Mason University. It took 5 long years to earn the degree because the job I worked alongside school demanded lots of hours. I was unhappy throughout my first couple of years in the program, and I seriously considered dropping out halfway through. I was advised by a wise friend to stick it out, as he guaranteed that I would someday use the degree. I took his advice, especially because my employer was paying for the degree.

I had a miserable time working with some of the faculty members, and I felt my MFA experiences to be largely destructive. I felt that students were being played against one another by their would-be masters. I got an email once from a professor that said my poems were "without meaningful intent or content." I don't know that I have ever felt anything as cruel. The environment allowed egos and drama to spread like kudzu. I wanted no part of it, especially since I had made friends with many wonderful poets in DC and among the GMU student body. I wanted to spend my time with poets who were supportive, generous, community-based, and fun. I made it through the program by latching onto Carolyn Forche, who was sympathetic to my grievances. She made it possible for me to engage independent studies and she stood behind me in my discretions.

I am glad I finished my MFA. Most valuably, and often in spite of my professors' examples, I learned the import of speaking about poems I do not like using language that is respectful and, ideally, constructive. I am glad I have my MFA because it has helped me in practical, employment matters. I am glad I pursued an MFA at George Mason because I never met a DC poet I didn't adore. My comrades from GMU are among my closest friends today, 10 years later.

The uber-lesson I hold from the MFA experience is to move away from things that hurt and to otherwise take advantage of the opportunities in any given situation, which are usually plentiful.

Question 2:
Sure. If the reviews were well written and meaningful, I wouldn't object. I'm otherwise not interested in playing judge and jury on matters of self-aggrandizement. I have a basic distaste for such motivations, as I think listening and talking should be in balance, but I've heard some thoughtful arguments to my contrariness. At the end of the day, I don't feel so affected by such actions.

Thanks for asking!

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