It saddens me to report that, with the departure of the founder, and with the site’s editorial, maintenance, and technical needs having grown beyond the capabilities for a new all-volunteer team to take it on, the excellent poetry social networking website Read Write Poem will close its doors May 1st. It has been a pleasure writing a series of poetry advice column editorials for the site, and getting to know its thousand-plus smart, sensitive, poetry-loving members.
While my first two pieces, on how to learn from rejection and how to be a poet every day, will remain archived on the site, my latest response to a member question, originally slated for mid-May, will now no longer show up on the site. So, in honor of the first day of the last month of this remarkable community’s existence, in honor of the first day of National Poetry Month, and in honor of Read Write Poem member Julie’s question, I am publishing my final column in this series here, on my own website.
At work, when I interview candidates for an open position, I always ask what it was like at their previous job. I am amazed at how many interviewees animatedly complain. It is a warning sign to me that, if I hire them, they will likely soon be doing the same about my company. And so, though it seems Socratic, I am compelled to respond, whenever fellow writers ask me if they ought to do an MFA, with more questions, such as: How is it going in your current writing workshops? What is the conversation like between you and your trusted peers, when they give you feedback? Who are your current mentors (including those you learn from solely through their published work)? What are you working on improving about your writing life? Whom do you emulate? What do you absolutely know you still need to learn?
Learning to write well is, to me, a lifelong process of self-education. Just as I consider myself responsible for looking after my health, and enlist medical professionals to that end, likewise I am the one in charge of educating myself as a writer. My attitude, therefore, played a critical part in making my MFA two of the most rich and fulfilling years of my writerly life so far.