Columbia College Poetry Dispatch: Faculty Relationships

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I went to a Big Ten school for my undergraduate education. More specifically, I went to Michigan. Michigan is a big school (not too much bigger than Columbia, actually, but with many more students on campus and not commuting). One of the things I learned about going to a big school is that you have to go get your education. You can have a world class education at a big school like Michigan, but you have to be self-motivated.

Graduate school is the same, obviously. If you’re applying to graduate school and don’t realize that, you may want to reconsider your options. But it’s more than that: graduate school isn’t just about being self-motivated so much as it’s about your relationships.

Professors harp on this all the time: if you don’t connect with the faculty at a graduate program then that program almost certainly isn’t for you. Close interaction with them is what’s going to take you forward, not the reading assignments.

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One of the great things about Columbia’s program is the accessibility of the professors and the wide variety of writing philosophies among the faculty. Recently I visited two of my professors to ask them about their writing process, specifically as it pertains to revision, something I have been struggling with lately.

The first professor I talked to explained his process of files, numbered and dated drafts, when he revisits poems, when he knows it’s done, etc. He is a polisher: he accepts his first draft will usually be mediocre and will need serious work before he’s happy with it.

The second professor said revision is a myth, that all she does is cut, and that if somethings needs to be revisited it will be in the natural course of things so long as you continue to write and are open to what you want to write.

This might be frustrating if you’re looking for someone to tell you what to do, but if that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to reconsider. Graduate school is about an environment for your own growth with teachers to help you along. I really enjoyed both conversations and have taken a great deal from each. I look forward to continuing to grow in this program.

If you end up coming here, you will immediately know who the two professors in this story are. You’ll probably like them.