On Poetry and Culture Shock

Is it possible to teach Creative Writing?

This post belongs both in this category and in Culture Shock, but anyway.

In some American Universities, it is possible to study Creative Writing as a degree, sometimes as a minor, or as an MFA (Master in Fine Arts) program. I first knew about that through the opinion of an English Literature professor in Spain; he said that those programs teach people how to write according to rules. He made it sound like a terribly uncreative process.

There is an MFA program here at Cornell. I attended the final reading a couple days ago, where five people read fragments of their novels (or very short stories), and four people read poems. I only really enjoyed one poet (I won't give names in case any of the others ever reads this), and all the fiction writers were enjoyable. They didn't sound like bestsellers writers at all. Misty Urban has published a short story abou a little boy dying of cancer, told from the point of view of his very unlikeable mother, how commercial is that?

I have no idea of what people do in a creative writing group. I can imagine that from the outside they look as if they try to fit all writers into one mould, and that individual styles are sacrificed to some abstract notion of "this is what works". But you know what? nearly all amateurs writers I have read, either poets or storytellers (and believe me, I've read dozens) don't have a personal, unmistakable style. And besides, programs of creative writing are not an evil invention of American universities: historically, poets have got together in coteries, groups,clubs, associations, "schools". There is nothing wrong with commenting on each other's mistakes.

And besides, writing is a craft like any other. In my home university, Fine Arts is a degree (in visual arts: painting, scultpture, that sort of thing), and no one thinks that prevents the artists from finding their own voice. Why not the same for word-artists?

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