Hope Is a Feathered Thing
                   Fiction by Robert Miltner

Dear Ms. Dickinson:
      Thank you for your interest in the adjunct position teaching poetry in our
MFA program.  We had an exceptionally strong pool of applicants for the
position, and I must regretfully inform you that your experience and credentials
were not a good match for our needs at this time; therefore, the search
committee will not be contacting you for an interview.
      Do know that your lack of teaching experience was not an obstacle; many
of our faculty, in fact, were recent MFA graduates who had not taught prior to
joining our program.  Most of our other candidates, however, had at least one
book with a major publisher, won several major contests, received NEA or state
art grants, or attended a number of the prestigious summer workshops which are
available for those who like to “get away” in order to write.  In your case, only a
handful of regionally limited magazine publications, while commendable in their
own right, were not strong enough for us to continue considering your
application. Your writing sample—of a hand-sewn packet of poems—while
certainly artistic, was not what we were looking for.    
      In order to expand your potential for future publications, you might consider
enrolling in a class at a local community college or in a non-credit workshop at
your local library.  At the very least, I recommend a grammar and punctuation
review class.
      Enclosed is a brochure for our Summer Institute.  Our instructors are
degreed and well-published authors with excellent media contacts, and a
number of successful literary agents will be available to review your manuscripts
to discuss movie and action-figure rights.  Plan to attend and develop a
marketing plan for your poems!  Limited partial scholarships are available,
provided your application is accompanied by letters of reference from at least
three former poetry teachers.
      Thank you for your interest in our MFA program.  Good luck with your
future poetic pursuits.  
      Sincerely yours,
      MFA Program Director


Robert Miltner, associate professor of English at Kent State University
Stark, teaches in the Northeast Ohio MFA Consortium; he is the editor for
The Raymond Carver Review.  His fiction has appeared in journals such as
Hamilton Stone Review, The Mochila Review, The Mystic River Review,
Rockford Review, Stray Dog, and The Vincent Brothers Review.  Miltner
is the author of a dozen poetry chapbooks, including
Against the Simple,
which won a Wick Award; his most recent chapbook is
Fellow Traveler
from Pudding House.

On “Hope Is a Feathered Thing”:    
Given the rise of credentials for teaching creative writing at colleges in
this country, I wondered what it would be like for someone like Emily
Dickinson or Walt Whitman to get a teaching post without MFAs or
books from major publishers, i.e., the usual minimums listed when such
jobs are posted.  The hidden “conflict” then is between raw talent and
initiative and what Donald Hall calls the “McPoems” of the MFA
programs, which in turn suggests the idea of “McPoets.”  The conflict
is also between University poets and community poets, as one often sees
in the cities in which we live (though the Poets’ and Writers’ League of
Greater Cleveland does a wonderful job of shrinking the distance and
creating collaboration).  Once I discovered the epistolary form, the
piece started to write itself.  But what was of concern to me was how
easily the letter wrote itself, and what it suggests about the literary
“industry”—are we pushing the next Emily out?

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 2, Number 2
(Fall 2007)

Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.