FUNNY WOMEN #3: Q: “What Will You Do with an MFA in Poetry?”


A: First of all, you can put away your old-school notions about the liberal arts. Back when you grew up, Plato banished poets from his Republic. These days, there is no poet leper colony.

It is true, ________[1], I have no marketable life skills and fewer survivor skills. Very little separates me from infants or the women of VH1’s Rock of Love. But none of that matters. You know why? Because I got dreams, man.

I’ve been lucky: my father has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. My mother counterbalanced this advice with a bit of her own: “Sheera, you need to be able to support yourself and not rely on a man for money.” Do not worry, mom–I will not let strange men give me money; but if a man, any man (seriously, call me) wanted to get me health benefits, I would be OK with that. Perhaps I can rely on you for a flu shot this winter season?

What you don’t seem to understand, naysayers, is that part of what I’m doing with my MFA includes having a job. It is not just any job–it is a job that allows me to use my words to connect with people all over the world.

The cold-calling world has cold called my name, and thus beckoned, I have answered, not rudely but with swift deftness, with raw energy. You see, they need an MFA like me. Can men in India or phone robots flirt with such serviceable indiscrimination? I don’t care if you’re a woman, if your Alabaman accent has hit puree and come out Unglish, or if your company has a policy against surveys and you want me to “go to telemarketer hell”; let’s do this shit.

Like I said, I’ve got big plans. Because while I’m getting nickel and dimed working another gig as a barista in some countercultural coffee haven for former awkward teens, I will also be working on my latest poetry manuscript. Its tentative title is OTHER PEOPLE’S HAPPINESS, because my editor insisted that YOU CAN’T DIE ON YOUR BIRTHDAY is inelegant and statistically inaccurate. Statistics say I’m plenty elegant. Right now I believe my manuscript to be slightly more than halfway complete, but to quote Leonardo da Vinci, “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” so it will take several months before I can, in good conscience, abandon this collection of poems.

Furthermore, I plan to seduce many men (not for their money) under the guidance (perhaps you prefer “distant supervision”) of my aforementioned parents. My parents think I cannot keep a man, so it’s important that I mentally and emotionally cage him, because it is “illegal” to physically do so. You see, in the 1960’s people did not fool around like the young fools do now. Or at least in Israel everybody was too poor for LSD, so they went to playgrounds and courted one another and girls waited by their big ass telephones. My parents say I need to play hard to get even 6 months in. Here is a tentative conversation:

Dude: “Hey, wanna come over?”
Me: (OMG YES!!!!) “No, I’ve gotta wake up to further my cold-calling career.”
Dude: “But I haven’t seen you in 3 weeks.”
Me: “Hey man, chill, and/or get off my nuts.”

So yeah, got goals, even some extra-poetic goals. I am learning French, for one. If my man seduction and phone calling flirtation is to work, I should know the language of tight pants and sexual assault loopholes. This will also help as I try to evade bill collectors. One that note, I plan to save lots of money. This is a foolproof plan, so please do not mention the “Poverty Line” to me. For one, I am getting a sweet tax refund this year. For two, I know someone with a Costco membership. This will give me what my coworker calls “good fuel” for running. I am going to run a half marathon for a cause; I’d like to prove that I’m not actually anemic, despite my pallor and recent blood tests and subscription to The Paris Review.

So, to answer your question, I’ll probably just starve to death. I might blog a little. You’ve heard of that Homeless-to-Harvard phenomenon? It’ll be just like that for me, except in reverse.

[1] Parents’ friends; bartender; manicurist; grocer; Mr. Pillows, my cat; former academic advisers; people with common sense; the masses. . . .


Original art by Miranda Harter.


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Sheera Talpaz is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Creative Writing program, where she received a Hopwood Award in poetry. She earned her BA with Honors in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago and has since returned to the city, where she currently works and maybe writes poems. More from this author →