reposted from Bhanu Kapil’s blog
You taught on another coast, it’s true.
We once shared a shower. Well, you came downstairs and used the downstairs shower on the occasion we shared a dorm.
Your brother showed up out of the blue, and we all welcomed him and shared our snacks.
You were at the Vermont residency for one semester, before returning to the other coast, where the other MFA residency takes place, staggered.
You wrote an article trashing the Goddard MFA the other day which, to my horror, was retweeted by one of my literary heroes, Hari Kunzru!!!!! Basically, anyone who writes a novel without flinching is my literary hero. I analyze the confidence of fiction writers; it’s like a hobby. I compare it with my inability to write normal books.
I just want to say that my general feeling is that you have missed a chance.
Of some kind.
Although I understand your point about universities being secular institutions — necessarily non-religious — I find your general characterization of — Goddard — almost incomprehensible.
Goddard is one of the most extraordinary and magical places I have ever taught in — full disclosure, my regular job is at a Buddhist-inspired university in Boulder, Colorado. And even with that ultra-cool, progressive job with fearless, engaged students — Goddard dazzles me every time. I have been on family leave — and each time the moment of the residency comes around, I feel an ache not to be there!
Some examples of the EXTREMELY AMAZING THINGS THAT HAPPEN CASUALLY AT GODDARD AND NOWHERE ELSE:
To walk with Rachel Pollack in the woods, snow way up past your shins. Discussing the divine feminine in Greek and Hindu mythology.
|Rachel Pollack about to say something brilliant.|
To speak across the feral and a kind of French with Douglas Martin, translating a poem all night.
In fact, your brother was sitting on the sofa as we were doing that — translating — vivified — and he said he was so happy.
To be in that space.
That was so alive, with writers “actually writing.”
Your brother said that!
Rebecca Brown giving a talk on Frankenstein. Darcey Steinke reading aloud — from Mary Shelley — facing the woods in winter — in the snow — as we set the pink flares alight.
The day Lynda Barry……LYNDA BARRY….came for an overnight, one day event and asked if she could stay for the entire residency because she loved it so much. She loved Goddard. We set her up in the clock-house opposite the cafeteria. The students stopped in at all hours to hang out with her in her studio. And talk.
An ovation one night for her talk on creativity.
On what it means to draw a line.
Again and again.
Her invitation to draw “the unthinkable.”
And thus to write.
To write it.
To write what you could not write.
And never wrote.
How Goddard is the ONLY PLACE I have ever been that one’s colleagues come up to you after your reading, and respond — or meet you — fully — in some way. Or are curious about what you have just read. There’s a bloody queue!!!!!!!
I am thinking most of all tonight about the Goddard MFA students I have worked with at the intersection of gender violence, cartography, body/life and hybrid forms.
Not just the book.
But the book to come.
Kristen Stone, Kristen Nelson, Jill Magi, Brianna Johnson, Seven, Donnelle McGee….I need to inhibit this list, actually. Before I have begun it. Because it will go on for a long time and I do not wish to exclude anyone by forgetting or omitting their names.
Google the names above to the kinds of things these writers are now doing/curating/being/writing in the world.
There is a larger conversation you want to have about what an MFA is for.
And it’s an interesting conversation.
But clearly you were done.
And clearly you took the opportunity to speak in degrading ways about some of your former students.
But it is not done to be so awful and ungenerous about other human beings — your former students — whom you address.
As if to say: “You are shit.”
I did not know those students.
But I do know my own former students.
And I know Goddard.
And I think you should apologize.
To your former students.
The ones you wrote such devastating things about. Things that fall, for me, into the category of academic mobbing.
And carry on with your life as a fiction writer, which by all accounts is super great.
I myself have been impressed by your brilliant confidence as a writer.
And thought about it.
You seemed so nice!
Therefore: Please apologize.
If possible. If you can.
And continue on.
This venom towards students….
I cannot abide or stand.
You might not remember me.
I am a middle-aged Indian housewife (failed housewife) who has taught part-time at Goddard for many years.
We shared chips and salsa and discussed Salman Rushdie!
I am so upset that you would tear down a writer in the time before writing or approaching the writing to come.
To summarize, please apologize to your former students — perhaps on Twitter.
If you do, I will honor you and defend your right to free speech — of course! — about whether or not MFA programs are the correct path to a life as a writer.
I will re-tweet you. (Just joined Twitter. It’s going okay. I am focusing on post-colonial tweets and what it means to squat over fiction in the Fiction Hut.)
Ryan, please consider the suffering your words have caused.
To people without your particular.
Place in life.
That is all. I should go and have some tea now.
I can’t imagine you are reading this, actually.
Okay, who is reading this?
Dear Seventeen Readers in Bhutan AND any former Goddard students:
Goddard students, you changed my life.
I send you much love — and calibrated joy — re-looped through the Plainfield hollow — at this late hour!
If you have read all the way through, you know Bhanu gave us permission to post this in its entirety, which means you haven’t yet found her blog. Go to it. It’s a wild and wonderful world. http://jackkerouacispunjabi.blogspot.com/