The MFA Rankings Wars

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Last week in my Poetic Lives Online column, I wrote a little about the immediate reaction to the Poets & Writers MFA program rankings. Well, it’s blown up a bit more in the last week, with the Association of Writing Programs weighing in on the matter. Seth Abramson, speaking for himself, responds quite capably here. Abramson has also posted a set of links to reactions by MFA programs to the rankings at the MFA Handbook blog, and John Fox has weighed in as well.

I expect this is going to continue for a while, seeing as both Poets & Writers and the AWP have turf to protect, and since Abramson is an attorney as well as a poet who has never been shy about defending himself no matter who is coming after him (a trait I admire, I want to add). And I would recommend to everyone involved in the debate to resist the urge to delete comments, as happened at the Best American Poetry blog, even if you honestly think they’re abusive. If they are, the people who read the comments will pick up on that and judge the commenter accordingly. When you delete comments, you cede any authority you might have had in the debate–you come off as thin-skinned and unable to handle criticism. Whether that’s fair or not is beside the point. I’ll be keeping an eye on this as it continues to develop.


Brian Spears's first collection of poetry, A Witness in Exile, is now available through Louisiana Literature Press, and at his personal website. He is the Poetry Editor for The Rumpus, and teaches poetry at Drake University. More from this author →