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Why Poets Should Find Jobs Outside Academia

By Craig Santos Perez

a few weeks ago i had lunch with a group of seven writers. six of us had mfa degrees. one did not but had published enough books to currently teach in an mfa program. she wore her non-mfa status as a badge of honor. she sneered at those who wasted their money & time earning mfas and snickered at the delusions of her students.

she clearly did not like teaching and said several times “i’m a writer” and would rather be writing than teaching. she recited the typical spiel about the mfa racket, the academic cash cow, “you cant teach writing,” the fraudulent promises…all couched in a smug “but it pays the bills” etc.

i am soooooo sick of….

people like this. and it was so refreshing to read rigoberto’s recent post. imagine: a talented writer who actually loves teaching and working with students! for me, i entered academia because i wanted to learn–of course–but also because i love teaching (having been an educator for almost 10 years now). my recent trip to my homeland renewed my love of teaching having engaged with almost 400 high school and college students within the span of 5 days.

i also like rigoberto’s twist of interpreting the phrase we hear so often in the negative: “too many.” unfortunately, what the academic poetry world doesnt have enough of are talented poets who are also talented (and caring) educators. what there are too many of are talented poets who despise teaching and would rather be doing anything else besides teaching–yet they apply to and actually get teaching jobs and all too readily exploit the system “to get paid”–ultimately hurting the students.

this is why i so much appreciated sina’s posts the past months highlighting non-academic jobs that sustain many poets’ lives. i think we need more of these kinds of features so that poets who hate teaching WILL BE ENCOURAGED TO DO SOMETHING ELSE WITH THEIR LIVES. and i look forward to the day when there are too many talented poet/educators so that those talented poets who are untalented uncaring educators are forced to find other jobs.


Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 by Craig Santos Perez.