Brown doesn't charge for their MFA. It's the one program I know of that
doesn't treat poetry as a cash cow.
To this I respond (I was hoping someone would say this) that the program is not free. It still costs the university (for example, to pay for the classrooms and instructors, to pay visiting professors, speakers, etc.) lots of money. And to my understanding, not every student automatically receives a tuition waiver, and some have to work in trade for the degree. Regardless of who is paying, the program still costs about $100 per hour of classroom instruction per student. Whether the student pays that money or the university does or some trust or some loan supplies the 60 large, it still takes a slew of capital to attend. And that much capital in association with poetry is difficult but perhaps convenient for anyone to ignore. Poetry is in deep contact with money perhaps at any university, particularly at an Ivy League school like Brown where the dollar figures are highest. Students inevitably forge permanent associations between money (Greenberg?) and poetry or rationalize it away (Mlinko). Either you'll walk away with the feeling that money is somehow necessary for poetry (e.g., you're in debt 40k for the degree and need to get a teaching job to pay it off), or that money has nothing to do with poetry (your trust fund or the University quietly covered the bill). Neither position is correct.
An important point is that the relationship between poetry and money, often chosen by individual poets, is real and does have consequences.
I don't want to sound mean-spirited about Mlinko or Greenberg personally. I like what both of them have done in so many ways, I like them on a personal level. The public nature of their argument, the similarities in their writing, and the apparent wide gulf between their opinions is what attracted me to this topic.
Also, Jordan writes on his equanimity blog (http://equanimity.blogspot.com):
It's definitely how a poem feels as opposed to what it does, tho I empathize with the urge to figure out how what it does leads to how it feels, especially when it runs amok into rules-mania.
To this I say that "doing" and "feeling" should not be held in opposition. A poem making someone feel x is a poem doing something, though of course no one can perfectly map any set of linguistic expressions to any set of human emotions. It's a matter of getting in the ballpark, however, and that's the "magic" of poetry, that if a good poem contains a lament, it's going to encourage a sort of feeling of lamentation within the reader. It's not a function, a 1-to-1 thing, but it can get close. In writing about injustice in a poem, for example, one hopefully writes a poem that does something: it hopefully makes the reader feel that some injustice has been done, and that it feels awful. But what is most important to a poem is how it's read, which encompasses the diversity of what it does to different people and how it makes different people feel. A good poem is powerful enough...ahh, never mind. I have no idea what makes a poem good. I just have a certain feeling about it when I read it. That Dickinsonian chill in the spine.
I should alsdo not fail to thank Jordan for his loving attention. So thanks Jordan.