Sunday, September 27, 2009

MFA Readings

by Emily May Anderson

(Apologies in advance for any spelling and grammar errors, or a general lack of sense. I only slept for three hours.)

I’m wondering if anyone else has had an MFA reading yet. Here at Penn State, the first one of the school year was last night. For some (probably sadistic) reason, the readers for the first two readings of the year are always the first-year students, and I got to read last night along with a first year fiction writer and a first year CNF writer. It was a lot of fun! I was nervous, but in a good way, and everyone was very supportive. There was a surprisingly good turnout considering that the weather was disgusting – cold and rainy – and the reading was held at the same time as the big Iowa game. A few of the 2nd and 3rd year MFAs went to the game instead of the reading, and the general consensus among the rest of us was that it was really not okay for them to do that, but there are no “rules” about it; it’s more just a social convention. However, a lot of MA/PhD students came out, especially our fellow first years, and I really appreciated that. I kept hugging people later and saying I was so glad they were there.

An explanation of the hugging, and a corollary to the lack of rules, has to do with the very informal nature of the readings here. They are organized by MFA students, held in a really cool campus building,
in this crazy basement room with red carpeted walls (couldn't find a good picture of the room, sorry), and there is beer. Rather a lot of beer actually. No faculty members attend, only students. The introductions are very funny. The beginning of the intro my friend Daniel, a 2nd year MFA, wrote: “Various theories have been offered regarding the origins of Emily May Anderson. One story states that Dylan Thomas, king of the gods, awoke one morning with a splitting headache, and asked William Carlos Williams to strike him with a hammer. Williams did so, and Emily emerged from Thomas’s head, fully formed and carrying the notebook of wisdom and the pen of truth.” And it goes on in that vein.

So, yeah, the MFA reading series is surprisingly informal (at BG, where I did my undergrad, they’re very different) and intoxication is encouraged. Most of us went to a bar after the reading and then there was more socializing after that, hence my three hours of sleep, and my probable lack of sense here. It was a great experience though, and I look forward to the next reading.

Questions to the other MFAs: have you read yet? how do you feel about reading? and how formal or informal are MFA readings in your program?


  1. Wow, sounds like fun! That sucks that the 2nd and 3rd years didn't come out.

    Our MFA reading series started the 2nd week of classes. I don't read until 10/20. We hold it in a local bar/restaurant. One poet and one fiction writer read each week. Just students, no faculty, and it's in a bar so liquor is plentiful lol.

    I like reading because I like sharing my stuff lol.

  2. JayTee - MOST of the 2nd and 3rd year MFAs did come to the reading, or at least a good chunk of them. There were just a couple people who opted to freeze their asses off and watch Penn State lose ;)

  3. Wow, we haven't had any readings. Apparently, the first years don't hold readings, but we're hoping to change that. Last year, the students held a reading at a coffee shop. I hope we can get our act together and have a reading. Seems only fair, right?

    Congrats on your reading! It sounds like a lot of fun, and I would imagine the atmosphere of a red carpeted room would be quite swanky ;)

  4. that is very different from what i have heard at other programs but still sounds like great fun!

  5. Are the other readings you've heard of more formal, Jessie? I'm not sure which I prefer, but the reading here was fantastic!

    Whitney - I hope you can get something organized. Readings are such fun!

  6. We don't have formal readings. We have an MFA open mic on campus. I have class the night it's held. :-( I'm hoping to attend it next semester. Glad your reading went so well and props to whoever came up with your introduction, very clever.


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