November 28, 2010

More on MFA, "MFA v. NYC" at Slate and N+1. Somewhat fascinating, because it is attempt to get somewhat at the round about around literature and how it circulates, and yet keep feeling grumpy about so much of this recent writing.

This on poets: "The model for the MFA fiction writer is her program counterpart, the poet. Poets have long been professionally bound to academia; decades before the blanketing of the country with MFA programs requiring professors, the poets took to the grad schools, earning Ph.D.s in English and other literary disciplines to finance their real vocation. Thus came of age the concept of the poet-teacher. The poet earns money as a teacher; and, at a higher level of professional accomplishment, from grants and prizes; and, at an even higher level, from appearance fees at other colleges. She does not, as a rule, earn money by publishing books of poems—it has become almost inconceivable that anyone outside a university library will read them. The consequences of this economic arrangement for the quality of American poetry have been often bemoaned (poems are insular, arcane, gratuitously allusive, etc.), if poorly understood. Of more interest here is the economic arrangement proper, and the ways in which it has become that of a large number of fiction writers as well."

Somewhat thinking that what is crucial is that the poet does not earn money on the poetry. And this means that some poets earn money as a teacher. And many do not. And yet both publish more or less similarly. And so poetry circulates in a field that is somewhat feudal (has a hidden feudal aspect?), even if on the surface it attempts to act as if it is the same as capitalist publishing ventures (it has barcodes and spines and sometimes ads are taken out and it is priced at least $15, etc.). This feudal field is often called "community." And it may or may not be that at moments.

Then how this feudal field (or perhaps hidden feudal aspect) or often called community intersects with the more obvious feudalism of the akademy is where it gets really confusing. Both to people in and out of it. This is where I keep wanting to spend hours figuring it out and yet can't yet figure out what needs to be noticed.

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