Poets & Writers’ MFA Rankings

September 11, 2011 | 10

This week I linked to one poet’s concerns about the top MFA programs ranked in Poets & Writers. Now, a pretty impressive list of creative writing instructors have some questions for Poets & Writers itself.

works on special projects for The Millions. He lives in Baltimore and he frequents dive bars. His interests can be followed on his Tumblr, Nick Recommends and Twitter, @nemoran3.


  1. I still cannot for the life of me understand why Poets & Writers keeps publishing the shoddy research and writing of Seth Abramson. Every article he writes becomes a lightning rod for controversy and complaint. I don’t think I’ve ever read one positive, supportive response to one of his rankings lists.

  2. Abramson is obviously very dishonest and his work certainly shouldn’t be published by someone like Poets and Writers. But they probably publish it because the controversy and complaints move copies of the magazine.

  3. The Methodology Article is available for FREE online and is 75 pages long (MS Word format, double-spaced) and explains every single aspect of the methodology in detail so exhaustive it’s actually been criticized by AWP for going on TOO long. Poets & Writers is a non-profit magazine which puts the MFA issue online for FREE every single year. What planet do you live on in which those two facts lead you to call the methodology’s author “dishonest” and the magazine itself one which is only interested in “moving copies of the magazine”? That’d be as crazy as me saying that you have the guts to make these specious claims under your real name.

  4. I’ve read Abramson’s discussion of methodology, and that’s exactly why I think he is dishonest and every person I know who has ever interacted with him has felt the same way. Length does not equal honesty though. Who on earth would think that?

  5. But there is certainly a large volume of words out there on the subject and people can read and make their own decisions.

  6. D.,

    Agreed. I’m a poet and professor, and I do not have one writer friend or colleague in my field who doesn’t think the methodology behind these rankings is completely specious and ridiculous. I’ll add that I’ve never seen anyone but Seth publicly defend the methodology behind these rankings, not even someone from Poets & Writers magazine. Sometimes you’ll see applicants posting about how they found these rankings “helpful”, but I’ve actually never seen one of these applicant defend the methodology.

  7. I’ll add that I don’t personally object to the idea of rankings. Like others, I just think they need to be done in a more responsible and logical way. I mean, to not let anyone who has ever attended or taught in an MFA Program participate in the poll seems borderline absurd.

  8. Hey Everyone, I hope that the acceptances keep rolling in this MFA season! I know how exhausting the application process can be and that even writers with exceptional work are not always given the chance to attend the program of their dreams. A friend and I are planning to launch a fiction anthology–Best New American Slush–that will feature the work of MFA applicants that have not been accepted to a program this year. We are hoping to showcase a portion of the great talent that has not yet made into the madness that is the MFA world. If you are interested in submitting, please feel free to check out our page for instructions and further updates.

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