January 26th, 2011 / 1:35 am


The New School asked that I take this down. They did say it violated confidentiality. They were extremely courteous and understanding about the post, its relevance, and my concerns. In short, I’m all good with them.

On the upside, we saw people writing a whole lot, which was my complaint in the first place. (jk)


  1. Anonymous

      before commenters blow their load on this:

      I understand the need and/or desire for a “break,” or a time to “recharge one’s batteries,” but if you are expressing the desire and/or “need to write more,” then there is a very easy (and cheap) solution to that…

  2. Roxane

      These are the kinds of things students say whether they are undergrads, MFA candidates, doctoral students, whatever. Students, in general, do not think about tuition and getting the most educational value for their money. It is a question of maturity. It is also, oftentimes affect, like I’m going to make it seem like I did nothing over break because it’s cool to pretend to do nothing or care to do nothing or whatever. These statements seem more like posturing than anything else. Who wants to be the person who says, “I wrote 50 poems over break and had 10 of them published”? There’s nothing wrong, necessarily, with being that person, but knowing what I know about student culture, that person would immediately be branded as a “show off” or a “kiss ass.” This kind of harkens back to Justin Taylor’s post about writers, confidence, and success. And of course, if none of this applies and these students just didn’t do shit over break, so what? The only thing that really matters is what you did over break, isn’t it?

  3. Trey

      the one about writing a lot but not in poem form is at least possibly good, unless they mean like they wrote in tweet form or facebook form or texting form.

  4. Ricky Garni

      My concern is entirely different. When I was a teacher, I would never considered broadcasting ANY material of any sort generated by my students, particularly in an unrestricted forum or public domain. I am astonished by the breakdown of the bonds of confidentiality made possible (and certainly made easy) by the presence of social networks, blogs, websites, etc., and I have found myself (more often than I would like to admit) saying to colleagues or teachers “You do realize that anyone can access these comments / this blog / this site, etc., right?” Regardless of whether or not the student’s name is used, the student would no doubt recognize the comment and realize that the teacher either 1) has a low opinion of the student, of his/her work ethic, or commitment 2) is mining the classroom experience for material for his own use and without showing any sensitivity with regard to how the student might react to such pilfering. I believe that the best teachers do not betray such confidences, are respectful of their students’ privacy (regardless of their opinions of the students’ work or motivations) and are diligent in the pursuit of establishing and maintaining a sensitivity towards the all aspects of their students’ endeavors.

  5. Anonymous

      Yeah, I know. I hear what you’re saying. Maybe it is hyperbole and I should calm down. It’s just hard to sit there and listen to this kind of talk when I feel (this is going to sound so retarded) “totally consumed” by poetry and literature. I’m just not sensing the same from a lot of my classmates, who are paying a lot of money to be there. I’ve heard several different people refer to writing poems as “homework.” I know I should probably just worry about me, but I can’t help but be affected by this. I find myself sitting in class thinking “is this really what an MFA program is?”

  6. Jonathan Crowl

      Guess I won’t be applying to that school.

  7. Roxane

      I think Andrew is a student in the program, at least that’s my assumption. That said, it is interesting how eroded confidentiality/privacy have become.

  8. Roxane

      An MFA program is an academic program and most people do not really want to be in school. They are in school because they feel like they should be, because they think that a degree will afford them privileges inaccesible to them without a degree. Very few people are in it to be totally consumed by poetry and literature. The “MFA” thing doesn’t make it a purer experience, I’m afraid. An MFA program really is whatever you make it to be, though some programs have students who are more committed than others.

      Again, though, I would say, who cares what everyone else is doing. You do you. The only shame, I would say, is that you don’t have totally consumed peers with whom you can collaborate and discuss writing with. But you do have HTMLGIANT.

  9. mark leidner

      every grad program in the country is like this

  10. Anonymous

      Yes, a student. A frustrated one.

  11. Nicholas Liu

      Andrew, I’d be interested to hear what you said in that same conversation. Were you “that guy” Roxane talks about? Or did you say something more like “I worked on a few things that aren’t quite done. Finished a couple which I’d been tinkering with for a while; I think they’re ready, but who knows. etc.” (which is something like what I’d have said)? And if so, can you explain to me what the substantive difference is between that and “I need to write more” and “writing isn’t coming easy”? The stuff you’ve quoted conveys nothing but insecurity about their productivity. It tells me nothing about what these students have actually done–so why assume they’re lazy jack-offs?

  12. Really?

      It’s super-uncool to take what ought to be a respectfully confidential gathering of fellow writers and broadcast what they say in a way that is, let’s face it, pretty easily traceable (Who are the poets at the New School right now?) I’m glad I don’t go to school with you.

  13. Nick Mamatas

      I hear that poetry editors like cover letters that read, in part, “I wrote these poems over the winter break!”

  14. Nick Mamatas

      What’s that Joan Didion line about writers always selling someone out?

  15. Roxane

      I also have to say it feels like you want your classmates to behave according to a set of standards you deem is appropriate. That’s just now how the world works. I understand the sentiment of your post but it just comes off… not well.

  16. Ben Jahn

      The programs I have known have, in addition to providing time and encouragement for their writers, been places for people who can fake their way well enough through workshops to realize that they are not writers, that they don’t have the stamina, that they don’t have the taste for failure.

  17. Trey

      is it unreasonable for him to think that the people who pay 12000 dollars/semester to go to poetry school might have some outside interest in poetry? or for him to be disappointed that they don’t?

      is it unreasonable for a person to be disappointed about things?

      trying not to be confrontational, don’t want this to seem confrontational, aware that I regret commenting on things 50% of the time. hm.

  18. Really?

      Would it have been unreasonable for him to secretly audiotape his class and broadcast it on the Internet? This is a not-dissimilar move.

  19. Trey

      well I’m not really talking about the actual practice of the post because I don’t really care about that kind of ethical thing. seems like Roxane was talking about like just the idea of him posting (posting that he felt this attitude in his classmates was disappointing) came off bad, and I thought it was probably OK for him to feel disappointed. don’t know if it’s OK to quote these people without telling them, don’t know if it would be OK to secretly record them and broadcast the audio. If that’s what Roxane was talking about then my bad.

  20. tao


  21. Roxane

      He’s not paying their tuition. I clearly state his disappointment is understandable but again, students, in general, do not make the connection between their tuition and what they should be getting out of their academic experience. Again, a lot of of this is a matter of maturity. I teach at the university level. Graduate students give just as little of a damn as undergrads. It is the rare student who wants to make the most of the experience. And as I also said below, these were one off statements on the first day of class when people are posturing and feeling each other out. You simply cannot make a judgment based on these statements. I doubt those students expected their commitment to poetry to be judged based on some first day of class bullshitting. I don’t really think there’s a right or wrong way to be a student, writer, or anything at all for that matter. On the first day of the semester, all my colleagues and I said the same thing. “I didn’t do shit over break.” That is not a reflection of our commitment to our teaching or our writing.

  22. Bradley Sands

      I’m in an MFA program now and finished with my classes. Working on my thesis. During the past semesters while taking classes, I was always disappointed by my lack of productivity. I barely did any writing beyond the assignments, while I always wrote a lot during the breaks. There were too many critical writing assignments, which usually left me too mentally exhausted to do “outside writing,” so I would just end up doing leisurely things during my free time.

      I think a lot of MFA students enter programs because they don’t write often because they lack the motivation to write and feel being a student will provide them with that motivation. I didn’t become a student because of this, although it definitely had the opposite effect on me. I wrote a ton more before I started classes. Now that the classes are over, I’m back to writing a lot.

  23. Daniel Bailey

      i ate a lot over the christmas break. i’m pretty sure that was a requirement of my program. if not, then whatever. the food was good.

  24. Anonymous

      you should just come to class next week

  25. Anonymous

      The school’s actually really great. The instructors are fantastic.

  26. zusya

      thinking about taking on an MFA there, furtive?

  27. zusya

      the one thing i’ve always abhorred about the institutional class setting: the unhealthy mix of and want-to-be-theres and the couldn’t-cares.

      and i hope you don’t mind me asking: what do you teach at the university level?

  28. Nicholas Liu

      What’s unhealthy about that mix?

  29. zusya

      i seem to be on a tear with faulty wordchoices.

      to be honest? i’ve no idea. i think i meant something more along the lines of… unhelpful? though unhealthy mainly to the wallets and intellectual stimulation for those who want to be there, especially when a classroom’s population of sleepers and phone twiddlers comprise a majority.

      i’ve taught in uni-level settings, and most teachers (who value their lives outside of class, anyway) will just teach right through scores of students aren’t paying attention. you still get paid in the end.

  30. zusya

      i seem to be on a tear with faulty wordchoices.

      to be honest? i’ve no idea. i think i meant something more along the lines of… unhelpful? though unhealthy mainly to the wallets and intellectual stimulation for those who want to be there, especially when a classroom’s population of sleepers and phone twiddlers comprise a majority.

      i’ve taught in uni-level settings, and most teachers (who value their lives outside of class, anyway) will just teach right through scores of students aren’t paying attention. you still get paid in the end.

  31. Joshua Kleinberg

      Kind of agree. I’m not that hung up on the ethics of it, it just seems like you’re getting ahead of yourself. Last year, week 1, I found a classmate’s blogpost talking shit about the workshop. By the end of the semester, we were a pretty tightly knit class with a ton of mutual respect for each other. Don’t get all cynical about your peers based on the first bits of small talk you heard.

  32. lily hoang

      There’s a pretty big difference between what is *said* in the workshop and what is actually *done*. During my MFA, it seemed like everyone complained about a lack of productivity. I also complained, in part because I wanted to “fit in” but mostly because I thought I wasn’t being “productive.” As a student, I had no real concept of what productivity meant. So, over this break and that, sure I wrote a few things. Sure, they were unpolished. Sure, they were just started, unfinished, whatever. But by the end of my MFA, to my surprise, I had two manuscripts finished. So to give your classmates the benefit of my doubt (not sure they really deserve it), Andrew, I’d say maybe they really are writing. They just don’t know how much they’re writing?

      Also, I have this pet theory (I have many pet theories): As we grow older, it becomes harder and harder to bond with new people. Remember when you were 18 and met your college roommate or newest bff, whatever. You could talk for hours about your whole life. (Because up until then, you had only 18 years of life, and for many of us, those 18 years were fairly sheltered.) Now, as are getting older (some of us, at least), it becomes harder to create that bond of friendship. One of the easiest ways for strangers to bond is by bitching. It is a bonding mechanism. Think about it.

      So, maybe everyone is just fronting. Maybe they want to be the “cool kid” who doesn’t do his work. Maybe they are attempting to bond with you by bitching about being unproductive. After all, what writer among us can say that she has ALWAYS been productive? It’s the easiest way to bond.

  33. c2k
  34. chet

      what is this, another tweet off from maurice jones-drew ragging on cutler?

  35. alex crowley

      As a 2nd year in the poetry program I have to back Andrew up on this, the instructors are fantastic. The school doesn’t have a large endowment, hence the lower levels of funding. That’s the trade-off, I guess.

      And I have to agree with some of the other commenters that every grad program is full of folks who either downplay their work-ethic or actually don’t give a shit. It’s not your money that’s being wasted (unless someone can prove some sort of financial machination that has such an effect), just keep in mind these folks’ attitudes when it comes to providing valuable criticism(s) in class. That’s really what counts.

  36. Nicholas Liu

      Sure, but you also said you “abhorred” it. That can’t be accidental.

      Not saying you’re wrong to. Was just wondering why.

      Knowing that you’re speaking as an educator rather than a student clears up a lot. Of course it sucks to teach a bunch of people who aren’t really there. From the students’ POV, though, I’m not sure it matters so much. The three people in class who care can talk to you and each other–it’s like their real staff:student ratio just shot right up. Everyone else can nap or txt as they like. All-round win!

  37. Amy Lawless

      WOW. I know you probably don’t mean this Andrew Weatherhead (maybe you’re totall level-headed..), but you sound like a real jerk. I went to the New School for my MFA in poetry (and loved it, but like anyone who shells out major $ I have a problem with it and other things.). I was going to comment initially like “who he think he is?” but I took a shower and cooled off. So here’s what i think: think before you write a blog posting & the resultant comments that just dig you further down into the grave with lines like “I feel (this is going to sound so retarded) ‘totally consumed’ by poetry and literature.” – Think about who reads HTML Giant. Your professors, your classmates, and alumni of YOUR school. Jus’ sayin.

      Also, you know what you sound like? You sound like a rich kid who doesn’t have to fucking have a job in NYC. You know why a lot of those kids aren’t writing over break? They’re working their tails off to afford to live in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the US. I don’t know your situation, nor to I have to make certain assumptions about you. I’m sure PLENTY of your instructors didn’t write poems over break because they were either tying one on, traveling, WORKING, READING (for inspiration though not explicitly must they state such in a blog posting), or GETTING ACTUAL LIFE EXPERIENCES THAT WILL GIVE THEM THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT.

      I’m sure you’re a very lovely boy (condescension intentional). Now cash that check and be back to thy books.

      Cheers to everyone’s comments. Very entertaining today!

  38. zusya
  39. c2k

      Hah. Thanks. I’ll take a look at this.

  40. zusya

      i abhor the waste — the wasted opportunities, the wasted effort, the wasted time, really — of students in classrooms who don’t want to be there (regardless of why they’re there). you don’t really get a feel for it until you’re there with chalk calluses on your thumbs and daily wearing work-casual dress shirts. which is also why, in theory, i like your ‘all-round win’ scenario, but it still just seems like a waste. the worst can be when you do get only like three people interested in what you have to say, with an overwhelming majority tuning you out, not showing up, etc.

      the ‘abhor’ also comes a little bit from seeing the potential in an academic institution — its size, scale, number of people involved — and then, yep, seeing it all going to waste.

  41. c2k

      Interesting to read his follow-up. Admits to being in a better place but stands by what he wrote, and this in his introduction might be relevant to the original post her and discussion:

      I felt, and still feel, that the chief function of higher education in America is to indoctrinate and indebt the young [my emphasis]. The idea so popular among right-wingers, that the academy is a bastion of liberal propaganda, is laughable. It is not entirely false—liberal arts majors are required to regurgitate plenty of politically correct, identity politics dogma. But the overwhelming majority graduate with a committed belief in the American Capitalist Empire. They have no choice but to believe: they graduate to tens of thousands of dollars in debt and will need to find their own place within the Empire if they ever hope to buy their lives back by paying it down. Maine at the turn of the century had still not come close to recovering from NAFTA (and still hasn’t, nine years later) and as a young faculty member I was very aware that my students were paying a lot of money for a piece of paper that would offer them no guarantees, aside from the guarantee of long term debt. My colleagues who were blithely assigning hundreds of dollars worth of obscure textbooks about such things as the “oppression of gender construction” were not contributing to anybody’s liberation.

      But most dismaying of all to me was that my own participation in this system was predicated on the fact that I was a poet. Not “in spite of” the fact that I was a poet, but “because.” The story of how poetry writing became its own academic discipline, something that one can even earn graduate degrees in, is the story of the rise of the Academic-Industrial Complex itself. The college creative writing programs had their beginnings after World War Two, when schools everywhere expanded on the influx of G.I. Bill money. They exploded in the 60’s and 70’s, swelled by the waves of baby boomer students. Post-baby boom they continued to grow, as career-driven, entrepreneurial MFAers sold the concept of the “creative writing major” to college administrators desperate to maintain expansion, as the ideal method for retaining students too lazy or dim to even bullshit their way through a traditional English major.

      To a great many MFA credentialed poets, there is nothing at all wrong with this—quite the contrary, it has been a great blessing. They claim that the academy has provided the space for contemporary poetry to flourish, providing “the best” poets generous institutional support and freeing them from the mundane burden of earning their daily bread. They apparently believe that the finest poetry is produced by well-fed lap dogs, rather than by hungry wolves. That the world of academic poetry in every sense resembles a grand Amway-style Ponzi scheme seems not to trouble them.

  42. Marc

      I would complain too every one if I dropped 12K a semester for the “privilege” of time to write, because that’s all an MFA really is: time.

      Though for that kind of money I’d at least expect a flying unicorn to do an in-class reading .

  43. Sasha Fletcher

      Andrew, Columbia costs twice that and the same thing happens. I was in a rut over break and didn’t write a goddam thing worth talking about after basically the most productive 4 month stretch of my life. People want to be there or they don’t. In all honesty, if people are shelling out that much and this much money for something they don’t actually seem to care that much about, then let them live with that. If you haven’t yet hit the period where it’s more important to yr writing to not write than it is to write, then I don’t know. For me this comes in cycles. Maybe yr lucky and don’t have to deal with that and can always be working all the time. I don’t see what the minimal tuition assistance has to do with anything unless it’s to point at that these people are either going through a dry spell and should be scorned for that or they actually are not as dedicated as you feel you are and should be scorned for that. Which is yknow not to say I don’t get pissed at people who don’t comment on any poems in workshop and don’t write comments on my poems and generally just do not participate in any way. But mostly I just get confused about that. I guess what I am trying to say here is that: welcome to the creative writing MFA and also pretty much every single job or experience in life you will probably ever have.

  44. zusya

      hah @ “Amway-style Ponzi scheme” and “Academic-Industrial Complex”, this guy really wears his military experience on his sleeves.

      though to me, as institutionally flawed as the MFA path may be, it’s still (mostly) a funded opportunity for enterprising, upcoming writers to set aside 2-3 years to just write as much as they can, hopefully helping each other along the way. it most certainly isn’t, however, a golden ticket.

  45. c2k

      Speaks, really, to the latent sentiment of the original post: we’re paying $12K/semester (!) to the New School and what do we get for it, and what are we paying for….it’s almost an aggrieved consumer’s attitude, perhaps rightly so.

  46. c2k

      Caveat Emptier

      Once, in Greenwich Village,
      I dreamed of becoming a poe-et.
      Got myself the degree.
      $150 a month for cable
      and never anything on.

  47. Occupation: Writer & the Myth of the Writer: Two Semi-Related Ideas Smashed into One Post | HTMLGIANT

      […] over Andrew’s post about his experience at New School’s MFA, I’ve been considering why I decided to become a […]

  48. Mike Meginnis

      Yeah, this is pretty much my experience. Lots of people need to be forced to write or at least to finish anything. I write way, way more when school is out, though still an amount I’m mostly happy with when it’s in.

  49. c2k

      Right. I don’t think we can separate the two points, as most people cannot shrug off the degree of expenditure or debt accumulation we’re talking about – thinking about it systematically rather than from an individual’s point of view. The point (as I understand it) of Mr. Weatherhead’s post (great name for a poet btw) is not that his classmates were unproductive during break, it is that they were unproductive and they pay “~$12,000 per semester” with “minimal tuition assistance”. It’s about the dough and what they’re getting for their dough (at X.X% interest).

  50. Roxane

      I teach writing (professional, technical, creative).

  51. c2k

      Students, in general, do not think about tuition and getting the most educational value for their money. It is a question of maturity.

      This seems to be accurate; reality. Of course, by the time a student has matured so has his or her debt.

  52. c2k

      So at Columbia, after all is said and done and written, you’re in the hole for $100K, or more (plus interest)?

  53. James Yeh

      Pretty much everything Sasha said. As another person who went to Columbia (though for Fiction, not Poetry), mostly, it’s just confusing that some people would not bust their ass after paying such a large sum of money. It’s also sad and ultimately kind of absurd. But that’s just the way it is, and so many things are. Be thankful you’re not one of them (which is why you’re on here, which is why you’re, as you say, “consumed by poetry”). In a way, would you even want them to all be as consumed as you? Is there even room for all of them? All of us? Think about it. Twenty-five students a year times, say, two hundred plus MFA programs. Give or take a couple thousand, you still have a more than a couple thousand. That’s how many of us there are.
      I feel you on your feelings of resentment, horror, and the like, but to be honest, posting like this seems like a sure way to make things worse, at least for you. This isn’t to say you’re feelings or impressions are wrong. But what I’m thinking about is the workshop dynamic as well as the larger social dynamic. Because once one of these people finds this post, how do you think they’re going to feel? And who’s the first person they’re going to tell? As Sasha said, welcome to pretty much every experience in your life. Also, how many times have you been later proven wrong by something, or pleasantly surprised? I feel like my first impressions are almost always negative, even though they often express something I still find, in certain ways, to be true, these impressions, had I voiced them at the time, would have caused me an unbearable amount of anxiety, stress, and embarrassment. And then all the backpedaling one has to do because, deep down, if you’re like me, you just want these people to like you, or if not like you, then at least get you, and your writing…

      Not gonna lie: I’d be bugging out over this post right now.

  54. R Fleisher

      Yes, especially on this site. These comments are rather mild compared to very specific/personal conversations shared by instructors/Html-gianters. Mr. Garni is absolutely correct. When you apply for full-time jobs your blog posts will come back to bite you! Plus–in my experience–vacation is not a vacation for many graduate students. They have a job or jobs, they have families and the usual holiday difficulties–Andrew seems to take it for granted that everyone sat all day on the couch watching JERSEY SHORE. Maybe not.

  55. Sasha Fletcher

      no offense dude, and maybe this is just me, but the way i work comes in cycles and said cycles have less than nothing to do with the academic year. sometimes you need to write and sometimes you just need to absorb information.
      additionally, the idea that you have to write because you’re paying money for the privilege [which is just waiting for sean lovelace to tell us how we’re all idiots for paying for an mfa [us being me and sean this is not a dig at you and everyone this is not a dig at sean]] seems to me like a thing designed to pressure people into producing work regardless of whether or not they are excited about what they are doing. and i’m sure some people see this as good, but i don’t.
      i guess i don’t get why someone who is now even more fucked [feeling non-productive compounded by massive debt] should be ridiculed.for being so fucked. and maybe i read this wrong. maybe this is not ridicule. and i’m sure i’m blowing my load all over this right now, and for that i’m sorry.

  56. zusya

      i imagine the trick is getting students to combine all three.

  57. Blake Butler

      Fuck feelings

  58. Student

      Brooklyn College’s MFA program costs $3k per semester and everyone there is completely consumed by poetry and literature. It is also possible that Andrew James Weatherhead is the only person in his MFA program who is completely consumed by poetry and literature.

  59. Peter Jurmu

      Workshops introduce a need to explain yourself analogous to joining a condo association that doesn’t mow your lawn. The sentences that leave your mouth when you feel compelled to justify are often the most shameful stupidities or lies you can utter. The people who had been writing over the break probably weren’t saying anything, or they were saying things equally as stupid-sounding about their probably boring lives. Or they had written over break, and told everyone about this great new story, which came to them while they were thinking about their dead high school buddy during a headstand in a paint jug (he was nuts, man), etc., and were even more insufferable than people who make excuses when no one but the concept of the institution had made accusations. That isn’t to say people (writers) not shunting their income toward MFAs, either because they already have theirs or because they never wanted one, don’t make excuses–they just aren’t one of fifteen people arranged around a table in a room with buzzing fluorescent lighting talking about writing-on-break like it’s snowboarding. Block it out, or call everyone you meet on the mindlessness of classroom chit-chat.

  60. James Yeh

      what’s this in reference to?

  61. c2k

      Well, not a dude, and looking at it from a macro level. Not “you have to write because you’re paying money for the privilege” but you’ve paid your money so what do you get for it in the end – like a consumer. (The sentiment of the original post is that of a dissatisfied consumer, or fellow customer.)

      What does someone who gets a Columbia MFA expect upon graduation? A New School MFA? An [any college] MFA? Publication, return on investment (ROI), glory, fame, self-improvement? These are questions for the individual student. On the larger question, however, in general, I’m in accord with the Seekins essay.

  62. Whatisinevidence

      “I guess I had that coming for believing A.I. would age well.”

      Is your tweet about Allen Iverson? I hope it is. I wonder how he’s doing in Turkey.

  63. Robert Alan Wendeborn


  64. Shane Jones

      I liked this post a lot. Andrew says some real shit very simply stated and people tell him he was wrong to post it, that they’d be freaking out if they were him, that this post will come back to bite him when he’s looking for jobs? Seriously? Fuck you people and the guilt trip garbage.

  65. stephen

      I feel wonderful today

  66. stephen
  67. James Yeh

      Really? This view seems a little simplistic. I liked Andrew’s post too, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also see the can of craziness and complication he’s opened up by posting it.

      I don’t think he’s in the “wrong” persay to post it–I think it’s way more complex than that, though, I would say he’s “violated” a kind of unwritten workshop code, namely the idea of “trust,” the same kind of trust you’d want in any group of people you get together with to talk about what it is you, ostensibly, give the shit most about, your art, and because of that, Andrew now has to deal with whatever consequences, both positive and negative. Maybe it’ll lead to everyone in the workshop feeling better and proud he spoke up and shook things up and everyone will have a more open and engaged — perhaps even consuming — experience. Or maybe it’ll lead to an implosion, but not an immediate one, the kind of slow implosion that lasts for a semester and costs $12K.

      At any rate, I’ll go one step further. I actually think he should be freaking out a little, that that’s a sign of a piece of writing’s power and impact, both internally and externally. If something you do doesn’t have the capacity to freak you out, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

  68. Sejones85

      You lost me at “I would say he’s ‘violated’ a kind of unwritten workshop code”

  69. stephen

      I like Andrew Weatherhead. Sweet guy.

  70. James Yeh

      You don’t think being able to trust someone is important if they’re going to be reading and critiquing your work for the next four months?

  71. James Yeh

      You don’t think being able to trust someone is important if they’re going to be reading and critiquing your work for the next four months?

  72. stephen
  73. James Yeh

      One can only hope AJW’s post leads to a Folk Implosion.

  74. stephen
  75. Shane Jones

      It would be more important to have a workshop filled with people who didn’t say the things Andrew posted.

  76. James Yeh

      Well, it would be even more important to have a workshop filled with people who not only didn’t say the things Andrew posted, but also people who didn’t post them on a widely-trafficked blog.

      Who hasn’t, at one point, said stupid, embarrassing shit?

      My main point is that it seems reasonable to imagine a post like this contributing to an environment of hostility, competition, inadequacy, anger, jealousy, pettiness, etc. all of which would have a negative impact on this poetry workshop in particular, which is, after all, what Andrew is paying $12K to attend.

      Nobody’s saying don’t stir the shit when there’s shit to be stirred. But, damn, it just seems like a bad investment, especially since that’s one of the first things that gets talked about, how much it costs.

      Also, crucifying folks on their first day seems a little rash.

      Wait a few years. They’ll crucify themselves.

  77. Shane Jones

      I hear you.

  78. James Yeh


  79. Michael Copperman

      Sounds to me like Blake’s saying, if you hurt the sensitive feelings of others in your poetry workshop who appeared to not have written or who affected a stance of, ‘I didn’t do much at all over break’ instead of being all ‘urgency, urgency, urgency, I just wrote a novel in free verse from the point of view of the verses themselves’, so what? So they can get over it. So they can secretly hate Mr. Weatherhead, and make his name into a verb: to Weatherhead, as in, to write publicly about workshop in a way that casts aspersions on the work ethic of your peers. I have to say, I sort of agree with the idea that they can cry, they can write blogs in response, they can talk to Mr. Weatherhead and get their feelings out, they can appreciate their moment of publicity. He’s not making friends, and perhaps being unwise, and the comments of people speculating about the culture of writers, the mfa, the level of engagement and all that are interesting, but it strikes me that there’s a lot of piling it on him here. Why would anyone assume that somehow HE’S a rich asshole who sat around writing his navel-gazing poems while his peers must have been working all break to pay their bills, especially when they’re all in the same program?

      As a complete aside, if you’re paying for an MFA or even if you’re not, you’re probably fucked, as it finally is a vanity degree in itself. What you gain from it– dedicated time, craft, peers, if you’re really lucky, a mentor, and perhaps a few polished pieces of work that exceed the fact of their own developmental purpose– may be intrinsically valuable, may even help you become a better writer, but it ain’t going to pay the bills.

  80. Anonymous

      James, I appreciate the rational feedback/discussion. I fully considered the pros and cons of this post, and its possible lasting effects before I hit “publish.” I sat there looking at it and thinking about it for a long time. My thinking on “the sanctity of the workshop” is this: I did not name names, the class roster is not public, and, unless someone from this workshop chooses to speak up about it, there is no way to identify who said what. I don’t even remember who said what. I’m not trying to call out any one person or criticize any one individual. I wouldn’t have posted this if it weren’t over half the class. And I would never think about putting someone else’s work on here — that’s totally off limits. The point I am trying make is this: I’m in a writing program where the majority of the students don’t seem to be writing very much. And I’m upset about it. Say what you want about “this is just student talk” or “maybe their being self-deprecating” — the impression I’m getting is that people just aren’t writing.

      I would love to be in a class where everyone is as “consumed” as I am, as self-aggrandizing as that sounds.

      I’m definitely not comfortable with this post either, but I’m 100% confident in it. It says exactly what I think it has to say. Had I read this when I was considering or preparing for an MFA program, it would have changed my thinking — not necessarily for or against, but definitely what to expect.

  81. James Yeh

      Well said, Michael.

      I like the idea of using someone’s name as a verb, “to Weatherhead” something, “Weatherheading.”

      I also agree: some of the projections cast his way (that he’s rich and writing “navel-gazing” poems) seem unfair/rash/based on things that seem like a bit of a leap from the initial post and his subsequent responses.

      My main point about feelings is what I wrote earlier in this thread — people can feel hurt and could, in some ways, in many ways, give a fuck.

      But they’re still the people he’s going to paying $12K to, among other things, receive the opinions of, once a week, for three hours, for the next few months. It’s reasonable to think you might, for the time being, want to keep your disgust with them a little closer to the vest, simply out of self-interest, if anything else.

  82. James Yeh

      And that’s why I like this post.

      I also like how you differentiate being uncomfortable with something while still being confident in it.

      I also like how you didn’t name names and noted that to myself, privately, when I first read the post.

      I think you have a right to be upset with the other people in the class, as their laziness detracts from the seriousness with which you pursue your own work. It calls it into question, makes it grotesque, absurd. “And these are my peers?” Donne’s no dummy. These non-writing people in a writing program are like mirrors to our darkest doubts.

      But yeah, I liked this post and much of the conversation that’s been generated by it. Thanks.

  83. Sasha Fletcher

      i don’t know what people expect. i don’t expect much? i expect to have learned things i otherwise could not have learned on my own [or that would have taken me much longer than 2 years to figure out] and to be a better poet than i was when i came in. this has all happened. i expect a piece of paper that qualifies me to apply for a teaching job. i don’t know what other people expect though. also, i expect a mountain of debt. from this. not, yknow, generally from the mfa.

  84. Sasha Fletcher

      i don’t know what people expect. i don’t expect much? i expect to have learned things i otherwise could not have learned on my own [or that would have taken me much longer than 2 years to figure out] and to be a better poet than i was when i came in. this has all happened. i expect a piece of paper that qualifies me to apply for a teaching job. i don’t know what other people expect though. also, i expect a mountain of debt. from this. not, yknow, generally from the mfa.

  85. Michael Copperman

      No, I agree, he’s not making friends, and probably is already suffering from poster’s regret. But as someone who has sometimes run his mouth off in the comment strings of html and said far more ill-considered things than Andrew just did, it seems to me he ought to be given the benefit of the doubt here. That said, these are his colleagues who he’ll need to live with. That said, though, looking back at the scrum of the mfa, with its petty jealousies and competitions, and that self-important sense that the mfa was the world (as if having a story saluted in workshop, or being ‘the best’ in an mfa cohort actually means a damn thing), I can’t say I was any more careful than Andrew with my opinions and assumptions. Being in an mfa is a necessarily solipsistic and self-centered time: only I care about literature! Only I really read deeply and fully and obsessively and cry over books with tears that are code that reveal the truthfulllest truth that is there! Only I have the talent and persistence to become god’s gift to poetry or prose! You sort of need that, you know? I agree that probably a lot of what was said by his peers was posturing or trying not to be that !!!! guy, but who knows– and who’s to say that Weatherhead isn’t, perhaps, the ONE. After all, here he’s in his first year of the MFA, and he’s heating up the comment strings of the giant.

  86. Anonymous

      This entire thread convinced me not to go to awp this year. Thank you for saving me some cash.

  87. Jerimee

      i was on Strike (i wrote no new material) during winter break, which consisted of editing a 24-page poem. i have a fellowship. i’ve never heard anyone here complain abt not writing enough, but i have heard mention of anxieties re: (paraphrasing) not writing well enough / not meeting one’s own quality standards, or another anxiety abt trying a personally new approach to writing poetry (honing one’s craft?) – which may just be me. go AndrewLeaks.

  88. deadgod

      I don’t keep up on that sort of thing anymore.

      [nine years later] The [etc.] is certainly more vitriolic than anything I would produce on the subject now.

      His braggadocio about having evolved above all this trashy hurly-burly is priceless.

  89. Daniel

      HTML Giant contributor creed: When in doubt, create a generic MFA post.

  90. Sean

      ha ha

  91. c2k

      Imagine what the first version of his essay would have been like if he had paid for his MFA?

  92. c2k

      Thanks. Good luck to you, Sasha Fletcher.

  93. Sasha Fletcher

      hey thanks! and to you!

  94. Amy Lawless

      Oh I’m sure he’s great.

  95. Nicholas Liu

      Pretty sure zusya knows who Tao is. Fairly sure s/he’s suggesting that Tao’s thinking of getting a teaching position somewhere. Somewhat sure s/he finds the idea amusing.

  96. Nicholas Liu

      Pretty sure zusya knows who Tao is. Fairly sure s/he’s suggesting that Tao’s thinking of getting a teaching position somewhere. Somewhat sure s/he finds the idea amusing.

  97. shaun gannon


  98. shaun gannon

      who cares

  99. blueberries mcbunnyfrog


  100. beardobees

      Many years ago, I taught fiction workshops at a small college. The most important advice I offered my students: Go where they give you money.

      An MFA offers little or no career advancement; in fact, you may like a well-trained ape rise a little higher in the pay scale by staying in the workforce rather than taking the time off for an MFA.

      Coming out on the other side of the degree with tons of debt is just going to make it all the more difficult to continue writing when you do have to go back out there and support yourself with the extra burden of paying off student loans.

      My wife and I both have MFAs, hers in painting, mine in fiction. I took the route I advised my students to take, and she took out loans, which we, many years after receiving degrees, are still paying off.

  101. deadgod


      So gossip, which, this thread alerts (and only by word-of-mouf), has, astoundingly, made its way into the Academy of Fine Ideas – mirabile dictu — gossip has been po’ leased o – w – t ?

      (Probably, Andrew, a post about dereliction would have been a more fruitful conversation-starter than your coldly grumpy dictagraph of ‘man, I’m soooo lazy’. But then you’d have lost the rich comedy of being told that ‘there isn’t a right or wrong way to be a writer, but this is the “w””r””o””n””g” way to post a blogicle’.)

  102. deadgod

      – “like” a subpoena?

  103. c2k


  104. Sean

      A cease and desist gives you street cred

  105. Gossip, Part 4 « BIG OTHER
  106. Guestagain

      $12K per semester? really? and you still can’t learn talent. what a racket.

  107. Guestagain

      $12K per semester? really? and you still can’t learn talent. what a racket.

  108. zusya

      that’s what she said

  109. Jordan


  110. mimi

      and “c2k” – a verb meaning:

      to “cast(ing) projections… (that he’s rich and writing “navel-gazing” poems) (that) seem unfair/rash/based on things that seem like a bit of a leap from the initial post and his subsequent responses”