Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The Day You Get Your MFA in Poetry

Today, you get your MFA in poetry. Today all your hard work and determination and binge-drinking and late nights crying over the thesaurus have finally paid off. Today the world is your seafood dish of choice.

Today your parents will call you long-distance to tell you congratulations, and that you've always been their favorite child. “An MFA in poetry — we couldn't be prouder,” they'll say. “It's too bad your brother didn't follow your example, instead of frittering away his time in medical school.”

Today, the girl who picked on you in junior high will send you a message on Facebook. “hey just saw u got ur mfa in poetry. wanted to say sorry i was so mean, u don't have greasy hair i just said that because i was jealous. ur the person i always wanted to b. ps i am wastin my life in a dead end job and havent had sex in like a year.”

Today, if you tell the Starbucks barista that you got your MFA in poetry, she'll give you half price on the tall beverage of your choice.

Today your ex-girlfriend will call you. Yes, the ex-girlfriend who moved to Alaska to get back together with her ex-boyfriend (well, her ex-ex, now-current boyfriend) because “the whole gay thing was just a phase.”

“I heard you got your MFA,” she'll say, in her sultriest tone. “In poetry.”

“I did,” you'll agree.

“That's so hot,” she'll murmur. “I've always wanted to sleep with someone who had her MFA in poetry. All my boyfriend has is a stupid MBA in non-profit management.”

“Bummer,” you'll say.

“So I was thinking we should get back together,” she'll say. “I've learned some super crazy new tricks to do with my tongue.”

“No thanks,” you'll reply casually. “I'm deeply in love with someone who's much hotter and funnier than you, and also has way bigger boobs.” You'll hear her deep sigh of remorse and self-recrimination as you hang up the phone, and feel a faint pang at having broken her heart. But what can you do? Your life is about to become one long string of beautiful women throwing themselves at you, and you'll have to learn to turn them down without feeling guilty. That's just the way it goes when you have an MFA in poetry.

Today you will be offered the job of your dreams. Don't say yes right away, because while you're on the phone with them, you'll get a call from another organization offering you the same job but for like three times as much. Tell them you'll do it if they'll throw in a helicopter. It will be in your backyard by five o'clock this afternoon. You can make those sorts of demands now — after all, you have an MFA in poetry.

Today, your agent (did you forget that you had an agent? Look again — her business card is on your refrigerator among the menus from your three favorite Thai delivery places) has been on the phone since six a.m. mediating the bidding war over your manuscript. “They're going fucking wild,” she'll text you, which will confuse you for a minute if you've forgotten that you have an agent and don't recognize her number. “They're willing to pay anything. Poetry is such a seller's market right now.”

“I know,” you'll text her back. “That's why I got my MFA. It was an investment in my future.”

Today you can eat as much ice cream as you want and you'll never feel nauseous or have a sugar crash. You have your MFA in poetry; you're not going to let something as trivial as your metabolism slow you down!

Today all your financial problems are over. Today you are loved and appreciated by everyone you encounter. Today the ice in your drink will not melt too fast. Today you can wear button-down shirts and they won't gap over your boobs. Today your teeth are looking really white. Today there is no weird smell in your car. Today everyone laughs at your jokes. Today your friends and family are throwing you a surprise party, and there will be cake, and anyone who uses the word “less” when they mean “fewer” will be asked to leave immediately.

For a moment, you may stop and wonder whether this is even fair — whether you deserve to be so happy and carefree. But then you'll remember: of course you do. Because you have an MFA in poetry.

Lindsay Miller also writes this column.

57 Comments / Post A Comment


1. Congratulations on your MFA in poetry!

2. This made me lauuuuugh and laugh.

3. "Poetry is such a seller's market right now." SO. GOOD.


It's really interesting and... engaging, wanna know that!@y


All of these things are true! Congratulations!


This is perfection. I wish that had happened when I got my Masters in Art History and Museum Studies Certificate.


I enjoyed this, but it did not tell me how the author feels about dating and/or referring to trans men.



We know how she feels about the ones who say “less” when they mean “fewer.”


I am dying, dying



Also I strongly suspect med school costs more than an MFA in poetry, so you may well be 'winning' for the moment in comparison to the brother.


You left out that, now that you have your MFA, no one will ever again ask you, "So you're going to teach poetry, right?"


"Today you can wear button-down shirts and they won't gap over your boobs."

If all it takes is an MFA in Poetry to make this a reality, then sign me the FUCK up.

[PS - Congratulations on getting your Masters! You are a rockstar.]


@wee_ramekin Today you can wear button-down shirts and they won't gap over your boobs is when I knew this was FARCE.

Also, yay, Poetry MFA MOFO.


"Today your friends and family are throwing you a surprise party, and there will be cake, and anyone who uses the word “less” when they mean “fewer” will be asked to leave immediately."

God, I wish this was true. My husband has an MFA in poetry, so I can definitely say the rest of it is true. Every word, especially the job offers.

Congratulations on your MFA!


@Cavendish Come to my parties! I have a large, highly educated bouncer for exactly that purpose.


MFA = Mother Fucking Awesome.



YOU WIN - these benefits sound much more amazing and wondrous than those of a MS in Plant Biology and Conservation, maybe it's not too late for me to reconsider a career switch? I could specialize in plant-based haiku?



Juniper bushes
They have berries to make gin
Come on, let's get drunk


creeping liverwort
your thick green thallus mother
to all leafy plants


cherry blossoms are
overrated except for
tumbling flow'r beetles


datura trumpet
white moon blossom, you made me
fucking lose my mind



Aloe vera; used
To dilute sheep's semen for
IVF. Really, what?



Cacti? Cactuses?
Who knows what the plural is?
I need: MFA.


coconut water
apocryphally used as
IV fluid; gross.



True story, the first haiku my brother ever wrote in 5th grade was this:

Beautiful eyeballs
Rolling under cherry tree
The eyeballs see you


@frigwiggin traditional japanese imagery meets emerson's transparent eyeball! love!


Don't worry, spiders,
I keep house

—Issa (Hass translation)


The hosta's on fire
Over there, under the stairs
Someone, put it out


the fern is dried to
a brown crisp; did you forget
to water my plants?

Tower of Babble

The watering can
sprung a leak; oh too cruel fate!
Destiny hates ferns.


Best to watch out, Spiders
A Clean Person may lurk here
We must go make beds



An MS? Congrats!
But conservation? Yeah, right -
you're all about weed.


This is hilarious and excellent. AND ALL THE TRUTH. (Tell it slant, amirite?)
Don't you ever cry over that thesaurus again.


I can't believe I decided not to pursue an MFA in poetry. Congratulations!


I've had exactly one poem published, and the writing/editing/submitting/rejection/depression cycle is BRUTAL. You poets are some brave and strong souls.


@Emby words of truth, man. All it took for me was writing one stupid little article for a magazine to spiral into total panic territory. I gained a new respect for people who are capable of writing and being published without wanting to gut themselves.


It's brutal, but then it becomes something you do daily, without much emotion, like brushing your teeth. (Or is it more like dentistry? Except you pull your own tooth and send it to a dentist, who sadly rejects it and recommends you try a different dentist?)


@atipofthehat And that different dentist misunderstands what you were trying to do and judges you for not having blinged up the tooth first?


Congratulations! I recommend Steve's Salty Caramel for the ice cream portion of your day, because it makes all other ice cream want to give up and go home.


So are you going to teach?


I bet this is also true for getting an MFA in Modern Literary Studies. Dammit, I shoulda listened to that TA!


I wonder if my day will be similar when I get my MFA in Art...

Oh, squiggles

I will be getting a BFA in Art soon...will there be a similar occurrence I should look forward to?


@Awesomely Nonfunctional Yes.

Oh, squiggles

@totallyunoriginal Hooray!

(and now just seeing your similar comment above mine, combined with your username is funny)


@Awesomely Nonfunctional @totallyunoriginal and the combination of both of your usernames is likely why my BFA in art has not lived up to any of this

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Well! Now that I know you have an MFA in mothereffin' poetry, please, indulge me while I attempt to seduce you; I don't know how funny or hot I am, but I've got a great rack. Take that, Alaska!


sudden but inevitable betrayal

Congrats, Lindsay!!! This was almost exactly my experience when I got my MFA in fiction, too. I have literally never had to defend my choice to anyone!

Reginal T. Squirge

A year? Is that a long time? What's a long time? How long is too long? Is it true that if you don't use it, you lose it? Asking for a friend.

Cat named Virtute

Wooooooo, congratulations! Amazing, both your Master's and this.


Congratulations Lindsay! You always make my internet life so rich!



I can't wait until I get my MFA in poetry and am as cool and rich and famous as you!

Elizabeth Switaj@twitter

The day I got my MFA in poetry (well, poetics), I'd already moved to another country (Japan) and was living a glamorous life sharing a flat with a deviously cruel woman and an unstable woman who would eventually be driven over the edge by the other roommate (but we were all friends then), and teaching at an English conversation school (think the fast-food equivalent of education).

I wish I had known about the Starbucks thing. I'd have tried it out at the one in the mall where my school was located.


"Today your friends and family are throwing you a surprise party, and there will be cake, and anyone who uses the word “less” when they mean “fewer” will be asked to leave immediately."

My kind of party!


As someone who ALSO just got her MFA in poetry, let me offer you a hearty congratulations...and this pillow to cry into. (It's okay, we can brave the slush piles together!)

Azalp Yerbua@twitter

Your MFA in poetry is beauty to behold,
It will help you make a fortune, and support you when you're old.
You can write a sonnet, pen a song, appear above the fold,
And will give you lots of things to do until you are paroled.


this is
rather fab

a golden smile fleets
onto my face
as i

of course,
for 'tis the 'pin


Yay for poetry!


"anyone who uses the word 'less' when they mean 'fewer' will be asked to leave immediately" made me want to CHEER OUT LOUD.

A sincere congratulations on your MFA in poetry!

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account