Here’s a brief excerpt from Roberto Bolaño’s amazing posthumous novel 2666. It concerns a young poet who is hanging around in the hope that an older poet whom he admires will take a look at his poems. The speaker, a woman, is also there to see the famous poet:
His poems weren’t bad. His only problem was that he wrote just like the poet. These things can’t have happened to you, I said, you’re too young to have suffered this much. He made a gesture as if to say that he didn’t care whether I believed him or not. What matters is that it’s well written, he said. No, I told him, you know that isn’t what matters.
While this isn’t an argument against MFA programs (I’m a graduate of one myself), it is an argument against forgetting what all those carefully practiced poetic strategies are for.