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February 25, 2010 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I've never been all that struck by her poems, but I liked that interview quite a bit—thanks for the notice. My favorite part, about being asked for advice by a young poet:
She said that she was a cook and that she wanted to quit her job cooking and enter a creative writing program full time and really concentrate on her writing in that way. She wanted to know if we had any advice for her. . . . I said, "Stay a cook." I really meant that. The genuine thing in us is much too fragile to tolerate the kind of peer pressure or superior pressure of most writing programs or workshops. What we have to take care of, really protect, is something very unshaped, that we hardly even know.
Wise and beautiful words.
posted by cirripede at 6:53 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I said, "Stay a cook." I really meant that.

One of my grad school professors, the generally under-appreciated poet Hayden Carruth, used to say similar things frequently. He always regretted having given in and taken an academic position at a university. (And he uttered the titles "Department Chair" and "Dean" the way some people speak curse words.)
posted by aught at 6:33 AM on February 26, 2010

Wow, that's pretty awesome that Carruth was your teacher. I often wonder whether the MFA-industrial complex is producing better writers or not. I guess it's good that poets and other such ne'er-do-wells can find work in a society which so militates against the literary, but the culture I saw in undergrad writing workshops leaves me skeptical.

I suppose I think that if you want and need to write, you'll write, whether someone gives you a degree for it or not, and that obtaining that degree is more likely than not to suck the marrow out of your work. But I'd be interested to hear from writers who have gone through the MFA meat-grinder.
posted by cirripede at 7:57 PM on February 26, 2010

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