Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Latest Humiliation

For several years in the 1990s, I attended a small, rather exclusive writing workshop with the poet Philip Schultz. Recently, having decided to apply for an MFA program (in Creative Writing) at a university here in Connecticut, I wrote to Phil to ask for a letter of recommendation. Here is his reply:


The truth is I only vaguely remember you and not your work at all. It’s been too long and too many students since.

I can’t honestly recommend work I don’t know and I can’t look at anything because I’m having a hard time keeping up with my students’ work, let alone my other obligations. You’re writing me because of the prize, you and many others, I understand it and don’t mind at all, but the prize isn’t going to get you into a school that wouldn’t otherwise want you. You need a letter from someone familiar with your recent work. I also just wrote for one of my students to the same place and that would work against you.

I wish you luck. If your work is strong enough it’ll take you there. And beyond.



The "prize" Phil refers to is the Pulitzer, which he was awarded last month, & which has burnished his reputation. I'm amused that he assumes I approached him because of that, when I would have done so anyway. He is the only obvious choice I have as a reference for a creative writing degree. That he doesn't remember me, I suppose, is understandable, if unnerving (I wish I didn't remember all the checks I made out to him). Ah well. The life of a writer is just a long series of humiliations.


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