Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ronald Palmer responds to both questions... 


I graduated from NYU's MA in Creative Writing, which turned into an
MFA program, but when I was there in the early 90s you still had to
take linguistics and lit courses and pass a translation exam in
another language of your choosing. I must say that I felt VERY
intimidated because right off the bat I felt inferior due to the fact
that I was the only student in my class who was accepted who did not
graduate from an IVY league school...or some top notch university; one
very sweet woman actually said: "I've never met anyone who went to a
state school before!"....Luckily, Michael S. Harper was the teacher at
the time and he blurted out "I went to a state school!".
There was a sense of competition for attention of the teacher. This
was certainly student generated. I was so young! (only 23 when I
entered the program, so that's 15 years ago) and naturally most young
writers want to be nurtured and admired and told that their writing is
worth something. For the most part, I found the program, the
professors and the other students very helpful and encouraging. We
were encouraged to say both critical comments and explicit praise
(what was working, what wasn't working in the poem). In the end, I
think it did help me writing and make the fire in my belly grow. I
wanted to publish and I wanted to make my poems better. Some people
from the program did not continue writing and got corporate jobs or
editing jobs; others became quite well known within 10 years from
winning highly publicized contests or from their manuscripts being
picked up at well established small presses. I sent my manuscript off
to contests several times before Soft Skull contracted Logicalogics in
2003. It went through many incarnations...."Becoming a Queer Saint" ;
"The Logic of Orange" etc...and truthfully I think it does take 10-15
years to put a first collection together (on average) post-grad school
or otherwise. I certainly don't think a poet needs an MFA to be a
successful writer or to win a contest for that matter, but the
MA/MFA/Workshops help a poet refine his/her craft, learn how to edit
his/her own work, hear him/herself read the work outloud to others,
*which really helps a great deal* and to develop that elusive "inner
voice" or "writer's voice" that is supposed to magically appear from
the practice writing. I've heard so many writers say this before me,
but I really think it's so true: reading is the best way to better
writing. And I mean Philosophy, History, Letters of "Enter Favorite
Dead Writer's Name Here", Biographies, Novels and yes poetry:
especially to see what's being published currently in the journals and
from the presses. Sometimes fine tuned manuscripts will continue to
make it to the final round time and time again, yet not be chosen due
to the subject matter, the craft, the experimentation of the
punctuation, the pornography, etc...or the judge knew who s/he was
going to pick before they received the finalists package, which is
more common than one would like to admit.
CRUSH, by Richard Siken (sp?), which was chosen by Louise Gluck for
The Yale Younger Poets award this year, is absolutely brilliant (in my
humble opinion) and it's a miracle that she chose it because it is a
strange and risky book. I highly recommend it! Anyway, I hope I've
touched on some of the questions in #1. If I were 23 again and NYU
accepted my for their M/F/A program, I would most definitely take the
whole crazy trip again; I might not have wasted the contest money
until I really believed the thing was finished. In some ways, I was
just sending it to contests as practice, you know, to see if I could
actually finish a 48-60 page mss.

Question #2

No I don't think it's unethical that WW wrote his own reviews under a
psedonym and I think we should do it too! hee hee. You gotta get your
book some publicity...but I think it wouldn't work as effectively
because there's like so many more outlets and so many more

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