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Monday, August 08, 2005

Cathleen Miller on competition questions... 

I am by nature a person who avoids competition--perhaps out of a fear that I might always be the one who fails--so to end up in a creative writing program that was not very nurturing (at first) was a big shock to me.
I worked very closely with my creative writing professors in undergrad and expected to be treated with respect when I entered graduate school. I found something quite different when I entered my first workshop. I felt, as Carol expressed in her response, that the students were pitted against each other, that the mantra "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" was the reigning belief. I thought, very seriously, about quitting. The first workshop where one of my poems was discussed made me want to walk out the door in outrage. Thank god I wasn't paying for this program!

As I hung in there, however, I found a wonderful community (albeit, small) of people who were interested in forming bonds through poetry. I have always been much more interested in collaboration than competition, and while I would occasionally feel jealous of my friends' successes, I was also thrilled for them, for the fact that they were good and deserved to be heard. I am especially grateful for the friendship and collaboration that I found with Deborah Richards and Yolanda Wisher. They are, essentially, how I got through my first year of grad school. When Jena Osman was hired at Temple, things got much better, and I am grateful to her for the spirit of collaboration and respect that she offered to her students.

As for Whitman, well, it's pretty ballsy. It would be interesting to try to write a review of your own work...if you could see it objectively at all.

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