Poetry at the Post: Should I Get an MFA?

I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title.
It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now

Poetry Workshop outside Galway, Ireland Photo: Maria Hofman
Poetry Workshop outside Galway, Ireland Photo: Maria Hofman

Now that I have an MFA in Creative Writing, writer friends have asked, “Should I get one too?”

Well, I can’t answer that question as getting an MFA is a personal decision based on one’s objectives, needs—and financial resources. But—if you have already decided to take the plunge and commit yourself to 2-4 years of demanding work then Spalding University’s MFA program may be the one for you.

But what I’m not sure about is the voice,
which sounds in places very casual, very blue jeans,…

One of the reasons you may not have applied to an MFA program yet is that you are nervous about the “workshop experience.” I know I was but  “Serious critique doesn’t have to hurt. At Spalding University, you’ll find a top-tier low residency MFA program that celebrates creativity and community, not competition. The program offers real intellectual stimulation in a supportive environment while giving writers the tools to make writing fresher, richer, more uniquely their own. There’s no such thing as a “Spalding voice.” It’s your voice, and at Spalding, it will be heard and read.”

Four years ago I became a member of the Spalding MFA family— a very large family indeed! Not only am I now connected to all of the incredibly talented and caring staff, faculty and fellow students but also to an alumni group over 500 writers strong. In addition, because I elected to do my residencies abroad, I have poet/writer friends around the world—and one of them is currently translating a selection of my poems into Bulgarian!

Poets in Paris Photo courtesy of Stephen Woodward
Poets in Paris Photo courtesy of Stephen Woodward

Residencies abroad? Yes! For me, a global nomad, this was a compelling reason to consider a Spalding MFA.  At Spalding, you have the choice to attend your residencies in Louisville, Ky or abroad—or do a combo of the two. During my years at Spalding, I traveled to Rome, Tuscany, Paris, Dublin, Galway, Prague and Berlin. I actually graduated in Berlin! How cool is that?

Graduating class Summer 2014 Spalding MFA in Writing. A biergarten in Dresden, Germany Photo courtesy of  Karen Chronister
Graduating class Summer 2014 Spalding MFA in Writing. A biergarten in Dresden, Germany Photo courtesy of Karen Chronister

But the best part is that in actuality you never really graduate as you can continue to connect with the Spalding family with opportunities for post graduate study, homecoming in Louisville,  and even travels with the program as an alumn.

In 2015, Spalding’s summer residency will be in Athens and Crete, Greece.

So-what are you waiting for?

The application deadline for spring and summer is February 1. Holy Ouzo! Get that application started today!

You can email: mfa@spalding.edu for more information. Or contact me at alicecatherinej@gmail.com.

You never know—we may meet up this summer in Greece. I hope so! First ouzo is on me!

But then there’s that last stanza, my favorite.
This is where the poem wins me back,

Poetry at the Post, Day 13: BARBARA KÖHLER, German poet who rocks language!

Ingeborg Bachmann stirbt in Rom/Ingeborg Bachmann Dies in Rome BY BARBARA KÖHLER, as TRANSLATED BY ANDREW SHIELDS

June 14, 2014
June 14, 2014

And the borders of the German language
are mined with murderous accidents.

I began reading Barbara Köhler yesterday and I was completely taken in by her work. A contemporary poet born in the former East Germany, she creates new ways of exploring cultural cues in language. She’s precise but also ambiguous. Anyone who has studied a foreign language and lived an expat life understands this ambiguity.. you think you know but do you really?

Sometimes it feels like “breath and smoke.”

The full “Ingeborg Brachmann Dies in Rome” can be found here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/29583

Ingeborg Bachmann was an Austrian poet and writer who also explored the potential of language. A member of the post-WW II literary group, Group 47, Bachmann moved to Rome in 1953. She died in 1973 at the age of 47 following a fire in her apartment in Rome. According to the police, the fire was due to a burning cigarette.

Bachmann's  apartment in Rome photo licensed under CC by SA 3.0 DE
Bachmann’s apartment in Rome photo licensed under CC by SA 3.0 DE

But back to Barbara Kohler. While Kohler was an artist-in-residence”with Cornell’s Institute for German Cultural Studies, she presented the IGCS Cornell Lecture on Contemporary Aesthetics April 16, 2013. “Some Possibilities For Sailing In A Friendship: Und Weitere Weitere MöglichkeitenBarbara” is a multi media presentation that is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. “The performance pivots on what this prize-winning author cultivates poetically as ‘precision in ambiguity.'”


Now if I could just get a copy of her book of poetry Niemands Frau Gesange , or Nobody’s Wife Cantos, a retelling of The Odyssey. This is a must-read for any epic junkie like me—or at least so I’ve heard.