Poetry. Writerly Advice. Memoir. Literary Analysis. Book Reviews. Serious Snark.
If everything is interesting, then nothing is.
This is a common thought that I have in a workshop or seminar setting. Most often, this word is used in a way that divulges zero information about the poem or story in front of me. When I hear a colleague say, “This poem was really interesting to me,” all I hear is, “I read this poem and I have nothing to say about it.”
Before I continue, it is vital to explain the definition of the word, that to me, has lost all of its meaning due to the construct of the MFA program.
Merriam Webster says,
Interesting: adjective ; attracting attention and encouraging the participant’s involvement in learning more about something…the thing being modified is not dull, nor is it boring.
The word was first used, or known of its use around 1768.
Over the past year-and-a-half, I have collected words such as this from conversations in workshop and seminar that have lost actual meaning because of the vague over-usage of them.
To change this, I think it would be wise for writers working with writers to use other words, or hell, if you are going to say the word interesting, then at least back it up with why it is interesting…and then, when you do that, do muffle together 20 big words that skirt the point. Pinpoint something. Is it the voice? Is it the tone? Is it the diction? What the fuck makes it interesting.
Last year, the editors that I work with and I set out to write a writer’s reference book that delivers poetry “writing prompts” only found at the illustrious MFA level.
Of course, many of us are or have encountered the MFA and walked away with little more than a degree and a manuscript. Yes, yes, I know those are GREAT! But what many of us also walk out with are loads of student loans and zero teaching experience.
How the hell are we supposed to get a teaching job with no teaching experience? Anyways while I am grateful for the connections that I made and the book that I’ve produced, I could have done it without the degree…part of my younger self feels a little tricked into the “it’s necessary” speech given to me by other mentors., but hey, it is what it is, right? After all, I am still writing and I am still doing the same job that I was doing prior to entering the MFA program…so, life is still smiling on me.
For poets and writers who cannot afford or do not want to change their entire lives to write. The exercises were developed from real workshop writing exercises, many of which came from esteemed MFA programs. We came up with a little over 50 exercises, enough for once per week.
If you are interested in supporting small presses and writers, then definitely give it a try. It can be purchased as an electronic copy or physical book.
MFA Reading List
This is my final book list for my upcoming oral defense. As you can see, my book list is far different from the list provided by our two faculty poets. I can tell which professor chose certain books based on previous classes (i.e. the fact that I’ve been assigned Mary Ruefle books THREE times in two years…).
Thank goodness I get to design my own reading list apart from this one because quite honestly, I expected a little bit more from the faculty in terms of breadth and diversity.
Books Chosen by Faculty
Books Chosen by Me