Privilege and the MFA

There was some (understandable) bitching and moaning on Betsy’s site yesterday about the PW interviews with fancy MFAs. I didn’t read it. PW makes me want to kill myself on a good day. The questions that rise from the page like gross perfume in fashion magazines are: Are you young enough, smart enough, gifted enough, beautiful enough to be a writer? No. Fuck off.

I used to read PW before I got my MFA and I bought into the advertising. I saw myself with a perfectly clean desk, one pair of glasses (although this was years before I had to get glasses), the perfect cup of coffee, and the page. I went to poetry school and learned that the angels don’t sing the whole time you are there. It’s just like everything else, there are dishes in the sink, the person you are in love with is still in love with someone else, and goddamn if my bus is particularly late on rainy days.

But I did get to spend three hours a week talking about poetry in a workshop. And I sat in coffeeshops, between my job and class, and wrote. It made me smile when nothing else did. I had a thousand ideas to absorb or react against.

And I also had the means and opportunity to get there. And this is where the privilege comes in. I was 26, single, and spending money left to me by my father. I came from a family that valued education. I practically grew up on a college campus and so when I am in a college environment I always feel as if I belong. And sometimes that feels unbearably privileged.

I still write around my job, around the ever-increasing demands of my cat, around my dirty dishes, on a table littered with mail and other debris. Writing is still a secret that sings within me. Only it’s not a secret anymore, because I talk about it all the fucking time.

Moral of this blog post? I’m not sure. Unless it is that an MFA is a privileged thing, but writing isn’t. Writing is work. So get back to it.*

*Like how I neatly wrapped up my blog post without actually coming to a viable conclusion?

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2 responses to “Privilege and the MFA

  1. *Yes I do.

    Hearing about anyone’s degree makes me feel stupid. I’d like that to be different, but it hasn’t changed in years. (Yes I’ve been to the school of hard knocks and my life experience may be able to beat up some people’s life experience. Blah, blah, etc. Who cares?)

    I didn’t come from a family or neighborhood where anyone pointed out that one could study fiction writing at college. (My high school counselor hated me and held his tongue, too.) By the time I understood what college could do for me, I was way out of high school and it was too late to study and figure out how to get there and have the experience I would’ve wanted.

    I vacillate between listening really hard to smarter people and balancing a chip on my shoulder. When the chip shows up, I slink away before anyone notices. I hope.

    I don’t know what that all means, except that I’ve been up all night writing, but it’s my two cents.

    • It’s a good two cents. Smarter does not necessarily equal educated. Get some sleep, my friend, and congrats on the writing! I want a bumper sticker that says “My life experience can beat up your life experience.”

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