We get these types of inquiries a lot. A lot a lot. And I think they are particularly fascinating ones, because they call into question what it means to receive an education in writing. As a student who primarily studies creative writing at Bennington, I have a lot of feeeeeeelings (bennington students have so many feelings) about the preconceptions formed around learning to write well, and (as Chekhov preached) from the heart. Just warning you guys this is going to be long. Sorry…but I think this is important!
Firstly, we do not lack a creative writing program; it is simply integrated into our literature program. To be a good writer, you need to learn to read closely and attentively— you want to learn from the best, right? (You know who is the best? Flaubert is the best. Ok getting off topic.) So, most of our creative writing courses are focused around specific texts: for instance, the incredible Brooke Allen is currently teaching a class called Reading and Writing Satire, in which students both (you guessed it) read and write satire in order to further comprehend the style. Because they are all working on projects with similar tones, they gain a greater understanding of how to critique one another’s work. What I find is missing in most general workshop courses is a shared vocabulary, because everybody’s work is coming from a different context. It’s hard to critique a piece when you don’t fundamentally understand the rules of its making.
I took a class with Michael Dumanis last term called Reading and Writing Poetry, and I honestly believe it was one of the most exhilarating, emotionally exhausting, and challenging courses I’ve ever taken at Bennington. I had a lot of experience with poetry, but it totally opened my eyes to the vastness of the medium. (And, now, one of the students in that course has just been accepted as a new member of the Poetry Foundation. Another was chosen to attend the Bucknell Seminar for Young Poets…get it laydayz!)
Due to the nature of the Plan Process, you don’t go into a writing course and simply create work in order to fulfill assignments. You will bring to each class your own interests, and write what is applicable to you. For instance, I’m currently interested in writing about familial relationships, and how illness affects them…so it doesn’t really matter which course I’m taking, because I’m going to apply what I learn to those themes in some way. Bennington’s courses provide an excellent opportunity to expand your writing beyond a voice that is comfortable for you (gotta take risks, yo), as well as get quality one-on-one time with faculty members (who are working writers, might I add…so they know what’s up), as well as your best critics, aka your peers.
If you want to write, you will write. Some people need more of a push to do it, but I truly don’t believe you must attend a straight up seminar. You don’t need to take a poetic workshop over and over again to produce poetry. You just need the impetus to put the pen to the paper — to go out in the world, to observe with a keen and fascinated eye. Many students here write PROLIFICALLY (it’s actually insane…I know somebody who just wrote a thesis for fun) on their own, simply because they feel the passion to do so. And there are resources available, not only to hone and improve work, but also to have work read, which is honestly one of the most important tools you can get from a college campus (particularly if you take interest in playwriting, amirite?).
So, what I’m saying is, it’s good to be a writer at Bennington College. Come on over and we can talk about it more (I’m fairly easy to spot).
If I were interested in the facts, I would be a journalist. But I’m interested in the truth, so I’m a poet.
I may not be in a place to answer that kind of question (considering it is 9 am in the morning), but I know an old dude (and a new lady) who gave it a shot. Why don’t you check out the I-can-only-say-*titillating* contemporary adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, reworked and renewed by Bennington’s latest visiting poet, Mary Jo Bang. You’ll see that, at the end of the day, what matters most is that we’re all going to the same place.
So, which circle of hell would you rather prefer? Cheers!
— Parke ‘15
Silver fox, right?! I just took my first-ever poetry class with him on German poetry - specifically Rilke, Trakl, and Celan - and it was simply splendid. I was initially scared as heck about taking a poetry class, but he’s so approachable and funny and kind and brilliant. When I met him with to discuss my midterm, he was really encouraging, helpful, and overall CHILL (he immediately gave me a crash course on metre, and then we proceeded to bond over our Lamy fountain pens). He’s given me some of the most valuable constructive criticism I’ve ever received. But anywho, you can probably get away with emailing him. He can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org. Definitely mention Plath.
Here are some places that friends and acquaintances of mine have interned for FWT over the past few years:
Now, this is in no way a comprehensive list of English-related FWT positions, but then I suppose further questions would be up to you: what do you want to do? Are you interested in creative writing? Journalism? The English language itself? It might be that you don’t know yet; and that’s the beauty of FWT. It’s a really great way to learn more about yourself, and figure out just what it is that ‘English’ means to you.
Lemme just preface that I am not a poetry student, and I’m barely a Lit student, but the answer is yes.
If you are interested in writing poetry, I should say that the entire Literature program’s philosophy regarding creative writing is that good writers are great readers. So if you’re interested in writing anything at Bennington, be prepared to read a lot before and while you’re writing.
However, if you’re interested in studying the reading and writing of poetry, that is certainly possible, and you will have plenty of opportunities to write creatively within your poetry classes.
I should also mention that a good bit of poetry comes up in literature classes. For example in my Lit Diaries and Journals class we read Byron’s journals and to better understand them, read quite of bit of his poetry, and in my Lit of Innocence class last spring, we read quite of bit of William Blake and Louise Glück among others.
It’s my own fault for not knowing. But. I did not know. I did not know that MARY OLIVER taught here. From 1993-2001! I wish I met her. And her dog. -Riley