A lament for MIT's lost poetry program

By Harriet Staff

The Advanced Poetry Workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was recently cut for financial reasons, according to MIT's student paper The Tech, and at least one student finds the loss part of an alarming trend:

MIT has just chosen a road too-often taken by lesser institutions and desperate, penny-pinching schools — one Frost, that well-loved writer and New England icon, would have despaired to look down for long — the path with no poetic translation. Next semester, if students at this great institution want to work beyond “Intro to Poetry” in honing the most essential tool of language and the longest-surviving written form, they will have to pore through the thin offerings on HowTo.Com, or walk through the cold to another school.

In response to my surprise at this rather embarrassing news, MIT poetry teacher Erica Funkhouser wrote back, “Really. I couldn’t be sorrier.”

As a student of the Graduate Program in Science Writing and a fellow victim of the budget cuts, I couldn’t be more ashamed. Shakespeare would be ashamed. William Carlos Williams, (a practicing physician and world-famous poet), appalled. I can’t imagine what that proto-Renaissance-man, Aristotle, would think.

I scoured the spring catalog for what could have possibly beaten out poetry in MIT’s judgement of what’s more important for a well-rounded student of the world to learn. Cryptic class titles like, “Word Made Digital,” “Communicating with Mobile Technology,” “Writing for Games,” and “Writing for Social Media” were still among the offerings in the Department of Writing and Humanistic Studies.

MIT has just sent a truly depressing message — we believe in Facebook more than we believe in the power of the poem to change, inspire, and remake the world.

Read the rest of Emily Ruppel's post here.

Originally Published: November 9th, 2010