I found this link on Emily's blog: Thorny Technology: Open Access Causes Problems at the Iowa Writers Workshop.
Here's the first paragraph of the article:
"Emails are circulating among various current and former students from the famed Iowa Writers Workshop expressing concern over the University of Iowa's new "Open Access" policy with regard to theses. These include MFA theses, which, according to our own Workshop grad Edan, might typically consist of a "book-length manuscript... poems, short stories or a novel (either completed or partially completed)." She added, "I turned in a bunch of stories, and I might not have included a couple if I knew they would be made public online...they were experiments more than anything, writing by a student."
Wow. This article mortifies me! The very idea that someone can click on a link online and read my Iowa MFA thesis makes my stomach turn. Why? Vanity. Ego. I'm not being modest when I say my MFA thesis SUCKS. Wanna know how I wrote my MFA thesis. Okay! I got up early in the morning the day BEFORE it was due. I walked over to a computer lap. I set out the poems I thought were finished on the desk around me. I think I had about twenty pages. That left me with about twenty-five pages of poems to WRITE in about 48 hours. Wow, I can't believe I just typed that. Crazy but true. So I proceded to write 25 pages of new poetry! Right on the spot! First thought, best thought! It took me about two hours. After I finished writing, I plugged in all the poems into the proper MFA thesis format, saved it, and took the disk to a print shop to print out the thesis on the proper paper. I turned it in. And suddenly, I had an MFA! Yeah!
Of course, there's an important backstory here. At Iowa I felt marginalized. I felt like an affirmative action case. The poetry I loved was not taught or even respected by my peers or teachers. So I shut down. I stopped going to workshop. I isolated myself. Wrote little. Blah, blah, blah. Old news.
But that damn thesis still exists! I wish I could say the poems I wrote at Iowa were experiments in voice, or the result of me exploring different poetic devices. But no. Iowa didn't give me the space to feel comfortable enough as poet to explore, to take risks. I spent two years at Iowa. I kept only two poems from those two years. Two poems. Of course, I recycled a lot of images and lines from the other poems in the thesis.
I'm not sure I'm saying this correctly. Let me try again.
I'm not against people reading my MFA thesis. I don't even care that 99% of the poems in my thesis suck. I know how valuable it is to read the early work of other writers. When I was a student at Iowa I spent hours reading the theses of past graduates. Rita Dove. Jorie Graham. Michael Dumanis. Etc. It was an enriching reading experience! It was a joy to read the great, the good, and oh-so-bad poems by past graduates.
I'm not against people reading my MFA thesis. There, I said it. And I mean it. I guess my first reaction to this article was colored by the terrible time I had at Iowa. Yes, that's it. When I hear the words "MFA thesis" I don't think of apprentice work. I think of the depressing days I spent in the Workshop. I think of a young poet in a computer lab breaking down in tears as he frantically wrote the last twenty-five pages of his MFA thesis. I think of the horror in his heart. The anger. The promise he made to himself to never write poetry again.