Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Voice of Reason: Charles Jensen Responds...

Charlie Jensen also blogged about that torturous article I posted yesterday, and he wrote about it so much better than I did!

Here's some things he said that I wish I did:

I've always thought that making more poets was a good thing, since it created more readers of poetry (theoretically). If more people are reading poetry, then more people are reading books, talking about poetry, thinking about poetry, supporting poetry readings and events, creating reading series, founding journals and magazines, and generally working to widen the reach and impact of poetry. This is a change from the former model, where only the highly educated, wealthy, and/or pretentious elite had access to "literature."

Do photography MFA programs worry they are creating too many photographers? While some MFA graduates will go on and become literary superstars, some will go on to write in their diaries. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. 

For some people, the teaching credential is valuable. For others, the time to write. For still others, the community of writers with whom they work. These are all valid and valuable reasons to pursue an MFA degree. An MFA degree is also only required in the case of the first concern. . .

The world is already full of reasons why people shouldn't write. Let's not be part of creating another one.

~~  Yes!  And education for the sake of education is not a bad thing.  People spend money on new cars, giant televisions, monthly cable, dinners out and we don't say anything, but someone goes back to school and we wonder if they are "wasting their money."   Hmmm.

Thanks for this, Mr. Jensen!  An excellent response!



  1. Bravo!

    I'd add that one only need troll the Web a bit to see how vibrant the poetry community there is. Poetry isn't disappearing. While most of us won't go the MFA route, or find typical publishers or any publishers at all, who cares? The point is that words are being used, read, and shared in ways that are powerful and delightful.

  2. Amen, Maureen! I'm an activist for powerful delight - and perhaps some insight, too.

  3. When I first started writing poems (fall of 1968), there were still few enough poets in the United States that it might have been possible, with a little time and thought to name most of the living American poets who had published more than a book or two.

    In my high school, only geekish-nerdish types wrote poetry. There were a half dozen of us who met after school every couple of weeks. This in a school of a little under a thousand students.

    Just as an interesting comparison -- years later, I met a man, a few years older than me, who was originally from Greece, who said that in his class in school, out of about 45 students he was the only one who didn't write poetry.

    With many more people writing, and reading, poetry, even if they don't all (or don't most of them) continue writing, or not "publicly," at least it creates a greater potential audience or readership for people who continue writing and who find ways to publish.

    I don't know too many poets who are rock stars, but at least, these days, when I tell people I'm a poet they don't think it's weird or something.


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