Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Letter to an MFA Student by Joshua Henkin

I came across a series of guest posts by Joshua Henkin, author of Swimming Across the Hudson and the recent novel Matrimony, over at The Elegant Variation (scroll down to the post titled "Reflections on Leonard Michaels" and read up). As a guest blogger, Henkin talks about his new book, discusses some basic MFA concerns, and tells a funny story about Leonard Michaels' obsession with the word "smidgen."

Henkin studied with Michaels at Berkeley.

"This was in the days before the Internet, and Lenny had in his office various dictionaries and textbooks, all of them lined up, it seemed, for the sole purpose of determining how to spell smidgen. It seemed to me obvious how to spell smidgen--exactly the way I'm spelling it now. But Lenny was convinced it worked better as smigeon--like pigeon. On and on he went for what seemed like weeks."

Anyhow, the point is, earlier this summer, he posted "Letter to an MFA Student" at M.J. Rose's blog Buzz, Balls and Hype. I haven't quite gotten through all of it (it's three parts: 1, 2, 3), and I haven't yet processed everything, but I suppose it's worth reading, as it's a sort of record of what Henkin has observed so far during his time as an instructor in the MFA programs at Sarah Lawrence and Brooklyn College. He's also got a recent, lengthy article in the latest issue of Poets&Writers titled "In Defense of MFA Programs," which might be an interesting read as well?

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