my MFA: in a series of what some would call foolish decisions

Posted by
road trip to my MFA residency: entering OHIO from the PENNSYLVANIA border
road trip to my MFA residency: entering OHIO from the PENNSYLVANIA border

yesterday, i arrived in ohio for my first summer residency with the ashland university master of fine arts in creative writing. i’ve been feeling torn about coming. for one, as friends pointed out, travel and writing seminars used to be an escape for me. and now the need to run away, which i’ve known all my life, is the weakest it’s ever been. i’m going to miss — in no particular order, don’t get crazy! — my dog, my kids, my boyfriend/friends.

in addition, the residency’s happening at the least productive writing period i’ve experienced since returning to poetry in 2004. it’s so bad, in fact, that when i registered, they had my packet filed under the name “Big Fat Phoney.”

it’s also happening at a time in my life where i’m making decisions that other people could call very, very foolish. i’ve divorced (it’s almost final!) a man my community respected, one who could have taken care of me (in some ways) for the rest of my life. i’ve moved downtown. and i’ve cut back my hours at work… while borrowing thousands of dollars to get a degree that’s somewhat controversial in a field — poetry? — that’s not well-respected, valued or understood.

now none of us should make decisions based on what others think.


i know that.

fuck ’em.

while i’ve always believed myself to be one of the crazy ones, the rebels, the misfits (yes, that’s from the crazy ones apple commercial), it’s much easier to take a stab at that kind of lifestyle when you’re not a single mom. and so i am more sensitive to the perception of frivolity now… whether it comes from other people or from my own doubts.

it wasn’t until i was on the second leg of my journey (from western new york into ohio) that i remembered writing this blog post almost one year ago: the poetry MFA (or what can be ridiculous and still worthwhile).

at the time i wrote that post, i was starting an MFA program at st. rose, thinking the on-campus model was the best fit. however, i learned that a class schedule determined by the college every semester wasn’t going to work for me long-term. i’ve since completed a semester of ashland’s low-residency MFA online (a program i very carefully chose for the interplay of poetry and creative non-fiction), and i am attending my first summer residency now. (i rarely take the linear path as i wrote here: city or country? why she’s no mouse at all!. anyway… )

i’ve known from the beginning it may not make financial or career sense to get a creative writing MFA. my reasons for wanting it have never been based on concrete outcomes. very simply, i love writing poetry. i love being a poet. and i love hanging out with poets and other writers at bars… i mean: i want to challenge myself to be the best god damned poet i can be.

some people climb everest. some swim with sharks. others walk tight ropes across the falls and the grand canyon. they’re not always understood, either. but i’d say one thing about them: they not only know what makes them happy, but — “foolish” or not — they prepare and they go after it.

Read more about the journey in these posts I later published about the residency:

One comment

Leave a Reply