Letter from the Director, Spring 2011
Recently (actually, just minutes ago), I received a link from a student who is also a friend. The link took me to a website that listed the top 100 MFA programs (Fiction) in the country, including ours which fell, well, let us say, at a modest position in the tally. I responded to explain to my friend that these lists are more about money than prestige, more about available funding than quality of teaching. But such "grades" always sting a little, even if unfounded.
I say unfounded because, truly, our program is more vibrant than ever. Case in point. Last weekend I traveled to Boston to watch AU MFA professor emeritus Kermit Moyer accept the Winship Prize for his The Chester Chronicles, awarded by PEN/Hemingway to the best novel written about New England or by a New England author. Named at the same ceremony was the PEN/Hemingway First Book Award, for which Danielle Evans' Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self was an Honorable Mention.
That Friday evening I attended a party to honor the awardees at the Beacon Press offices. Set atop the hearth were six books—the Winship winners in poetry and fiction along with the winning Hemingway book and its runners up. These books represented some of the best fiction being written today. Two AU professors were represented there. I'd say that's a pretty good measure of what we've been, a pretty good measure of where we're going.
When I look back at the events and achievements of the past semester, I see a program that is vibrantly keeping a community alive despite the distractions of a large city. In January our faculty delivered its annual reading. The immense closeness we share for each other and which the audience shared with us was palpable in the room. The event is recorded here:
Further, CAS funded the production of a wonderful video highlighting our strengths and accomplishments, available here:
In February, Folio sponsored an off-site reading at AWP (in conjunction with Mark Cugini's Big Lucks), and two readings at the conference featured our faculty. Each of us on faculty participated in numerous other events from panel discussions to off-site readings (at the Copper Nickel event, Kyle Dargan and I read together). Later in the semester fiction writer Amy Bloom came to wow our students with a moving and inspiring reading and talk, and in late March poet Jericho Brown taught (or tried to teach me) how to "squall" in our question/answer session. Jericho's reading was equally marvelous. The turnouts for these events, as well as for the Literary Lunchtime in the Library series, healthily represented a large portion of our program, which now contains more than 60 students.
As I go down the list of graduates leaving us I am shocked by the range of talents, the gifts, that embody this collection of names. The faculty is deeply proud to have been your teachers. You're our colleagues now. Bravo, we say, and shine on.