Legitimate Dangers Deathmatch III: This Time It’s Personal

This past week Stephanie and I read work by two interesting poets: G. C. Waldrep and Suji Kwock Kim. Our discussion was spirited and we drew the following win conclusions:

Me: G. C. Waldrep (in an upset!)
Her: Suji Kwock Kim

For me, there wasn’t much question. While I was sure I would love Suji’s work more than G. C.’s, I was shocked to discover the opposite. I really enjoyed Waldrep’s two prose poems, “O Canada!” and “The Miracles of Saint Sebastian” and felt Kim’s works were good, but not as good. Admittedly, though, I was confounded by Waldrep’s lined poems and didn’t find them too appealing; however, the success of the other two was enough for me to award victory.

I was very put off by Kim’s talking onion poem, but Stephanie was supportive of it, and our length discussion of Kim’s work softened my initial disappointment of it. Kim’s work, to me, was definitely interesting and compelling, but these selections just didn’t hit the mark for me. Like Trethewey of last week, I feel like in order to really get a grasp of her work, I’d need to read Notes from the Divided Country in its entirely, and I do plan to do so.

On another note, I did a little statistical work while waiting to meet with Stephanie and I, in true Dan Brown fashion, unearthed the following tidbits:

Of the 85 poets in the anthology who list (or clearly imply) the institution granting their MFA degree, the most common response is the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

You have a 1 in 3 chance of randomly selecting an Iowa graduate’s work when you pick up this anthology.

The next most common institutions were Columbia and UMass, both with 8 graduates represented. Even combined, that’s still ten less than the number of Iowa grads.

Among other “top” MFA institutions, only Johns Hopkins, Houston, the New School are represented by one graduate. NYU has two representatives. University of Utah and USC have 0 graduates represented. (And these “top” institutions here are most based on rumor and speculation since there is no clear ranking published since 1997.)

Of low-residency programs, Warren Wilson and Vermont College show up with 2 and 1 grads respectively. Brown rounds out the Ivy leage with 2 grads, and other regional favorites include Florida International, Syracuse U, Indiana, UCs Davis and Irvine, Oregon, Pitt, Washington U of St Louis, and Michigan, all with 1-3 grads each (but mostly 1 grad).

Public institions outweigh private instituions by a ratio of nearly 3:1, due in large part, I think, to the overwhelming number of Iowa & UMass grads (34 grads total).

So what does this all mean? Beats me! I just crunch the numbers. Anyone care to weigh in?

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