MFArch Madness

Top 10 MFA Programs 2011-2012

After all of the various measurements have been taken here over the past few weeks, I’m happy to post the top 10 MFA in Creative Writing Program schools for the academic year 2011-2012. Sorry everybody has already applied, but use this for next year I guess.

TOP 10 Creative Writing MFA Programs 2011 2012

1. University of Houston

2. University of Alabama

3. Sarah Lawrence

4. San Diego State University

5. The New School

6. Washington University in St. Louis

7. University of Nevada – Las Vegas

8. University of North Carolina – Wilmington

9. New York University

10. Purdue University


(And way down at number 18 is the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Just work on your A-Game, guys, and I’m sure you can get it done next year. After all, there’s like 100 students in your program at any given time, so it shouldn’t be tough to work through this setback.)


Well, it all comes down to the University of Houston and the University of Alabama, the Cougars Vs. the Crimson Tide. They’re both great MFA programs, obviously, so let’s get to the battle! This one is decided, democratically, by my Facebook friends. I’ll refrain from voting, because obviously I’d pick Houston, duh.

After four hours of voting, Houston takes it, 11-1!

The University Of Houston Is The Top MFA Program 2011-2012!


Yowza! For this penultimate round I thought I’d compare the number of contributors each program had in a specific journal, say, all the issues of NANO Fiction since I joined up. Buy our new issue!

















GAME 1: San Diego State Vs. Houston

Looks like Houston has had 8 contributors in NANO Fiction since issue 2.2, and San Diego State has had zero. Rats for them!

Houston advances!










Game 2: Alabama Vs. Sarah Lawrence

This matchup is a bit closer, since Sarah Lawrence has had one contributor since NANO 2.2, but Alabama beats them out with four contributors in the past two issues alone.

Alabama wins!

Here’s the bracket but I bet you could figure it out!

Round 4

Exclamation point! We’re getting closer and closer to finding out who the top MFA Program 2011 is. Today the rounds are determined by the number of alums or professors who have won the National Poetry Series at each of the schools in the past quarter century. Two creative writing programs enter, one creative writing program leaves.

Game 1: UNLV Vs. San Diego State

Going back 25 years the only person with any connection to either school I found who won the NPS is Sandra Alcosser, the founder of the MFA at SDSU, who won in 1998 with her book Except By Nature.

San Diego State advances to the Fiendish Four!




Game 2: Alabama Vs. UNC Wilmington

I had high hopes for Alabama, a program that produces a lot of terrific writing. However, they only had one person in the past 25 years vaguely related to the NPS, with Karen Volkman teaching there for one year. UNC Wilmington had zero, though, in the past quarter century.

Alabama is in the Frightful Four!



Game 3: The New School Vs. Sarah Lawrence

I had to dig pretty far back to find anything from these schools, which is weird because so many grads of both programs publish so frequently. The only thing I found for either is Marie Howe’s NPS win in 1988 for The Good Thief, and she presently teaches at Sarah Lawrence.

Sarah Lawrence advances to Fickle Four!




Game 4: Houston Vs. Wash U. St. Louis

Wash U., the first program I got a rejection from way back in the day, had no faculty or alums with National Poetry Series wins. Houston, on the other hand, had 8 in the past 25 years, the most recent being Lauren Berry for her collection The Lifting Dress.

Houston advances to Flamboyant Four!



The best thing about this round is I’m almost finished with this and can get back to posting poetry audio.  Bracket!

Round 3

Cold weather causes depression, right, and depression makes better writers? No. This round, whatever city’s average high is closer to 72 degrees will advance!

Game 1: UNLV Vs. Montana

Las Vegas clocks in at an average high of 79.9 degrees, but it’s a dry heat! Missoula’s high is 56.7. Vegas!

UNLV advances.

Game 2: Alabama Vs. LSU

Two southern schools – WHAT WILL HAPPEN? Tuscaloosa has an average high of 76, whereas Baton Rouge has an average high of 77.

Alabama advances in a nailbiter.

Game 3: NYU Vs. Sarah Lawrence

These cities are close, obviously, so this will be close. New York has an average high of 61.7, and Bronxville has an average high of 63.5.

Sarah Lawrence eliminates NYU

Game 4: Wash U. St. Louis Vs. Purdue

Agh, I’m so bored of this, but I have terrible OCD and need to finish! St. Louis has an average high of 65.7, and Lafayette, Indiana has an average high of 62 so NO DICE PURDUE!

Wash U. St. Louis advances!

Game 5: New Mexico Vs. San Diego State

Albuquerque’s high averages at 70.4, whereas San Diego’s high is around 70.8.  Yikes!

San Diego State advances to Egregious Eight!

Game 6: Florida State Vs. UNC Wilmington

Tallanasty has a high around 79.5, and Wilmington clocks in at 74. Ah, nuts! There goes my alma mater.

UNC Wilmington eliminates FSU.

Game 7: New School Vs. New Hampshire

New York, as mentioned above, has an average high of 61.7, and Durham, NH, has an average temperature of 58.7.

New School advances.

Game 8: Houston Vs. Minnesota

Houston, where I presently reside, has an average high of 79.7, and St. Paul has an average high of 55.5.

Houston wins because it’s not (that) miserable here!

Here’s the updated chart etc.! We’ll get through this together, don’t worry.

Round 2 Day 2: Last 8 Games Of Round

Sorry I took so long between these – I had about 1000 papers to grade. Anyway, this round I’m going by the maxim that longer is better. Whichever school has the longest most recent literary journal will advance!

Game 1: Oregon State Vs. New Mexico

Oregon State has Prism, which is not run by the MFA program, but I guess it will still count. The latest issue is available in electronic and print versions, and clocks in at 44 pages. New Mexico has Blue Mesa Review, and while the don’t list their page count, they do have more contributors than the latest issue of Prism. So I bet it’s longer?

New Mexico advances to Suffering Sixteen (that’s the writing version of  the Sweet Sixteen).



Game 2: Florida State Vs. Vanderbilt

Florida State has the long established Southeast Review, and they’re going up against the rookie journal Nashville Review, which looks terrific I might say. Since NR is online, I guess we’ll do it by contributors again. The latest issue of the Nash has 27 contributors, whereas the latest issue of SER has 35 contributors. Also if we were to do it by which journal had rejected me the most the results would have been the same.’

Florida State eliminates Vanderbilt.



Game 3: Rutgers-Newark Vs. New Hampshire

Don’t get me wrong – I like a skinny journal. I edit NANO Fiction, for god’s sake (BUY OUR NEWEST ISSUE LOLZ). But don’t you have a better chance of reading something good from a long journal? New Hampshire has the journal Barnstorm, and I thought Rutgers-Newark had StoryQuarterly, but apparently that’s Rutgers-Camden. Rutgers-Newark has nothing! Rats! That’s too slim a journal.

New Hampshire eliminates Rutgers-Newark. Also Barnstorm doesn’t have a cover image I could post so I just found a picture of the old Atari game of that same name.

Game 4: Minnesota Vs. Indiana

Part of me wants Minnesota to be eliminated here because I keep forgetting how to spell it. Well, it’s dislocate vs. The Indiana Review. dislocate’s latest print issue had 208 pages, and IR’s latest issue had 154 pages. Close guys!

Minnesota eliminates Indiana.



Game 5: Arizona Vs. San Diego State

San Diego State boasts Poetry International, which just published a behemoth 400 page double issue. Likewise, Arizona publishes The Sonora Review,  which doesn’t mention how many pages it is, but I have to imagine that it is not greater than 400. Oh well for them!

San Diego State eliminates Arizona.


Game 6: UNC Wilmington Vs. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech’s journal, New River, is online, so we’ll do it by contributors again. The latest New River has 4 contributors, whereas the latest ecotone has basically a million.

UNC Wilmington eliminates Virginia Tech.




Game 7: Pittsburgh Vs. The New School

Pittsburgh has the online journal Hot Metal Bridge, which wins for coolest name. Just kidding, I know that’s not what this round is about. Next time perhaps? They had 12 contributors most recently. The New School has the journal LIT, which most recently had 26 contributors.

New School advances to Sorrowful Sixteen.


Game 8: Iowa Vs. Houston

The latest issue of the Iowa Review, out of Iowa, had 16 contributors, and the latest issue of Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts had 57 contributors.

Houston eliminates Iowa. Upset!



Check the big bracket below for who made the Sad Sixteen!

Round 2 Day 1: First 8 Games Of Round

Like I said, I’m making this go faster! So, na! Anyway, today’s 8 matchups will be determined by whichever school’s state spends the most on art per capita, as determined by this chart I found. (If you click on it it will try to print for some reason.) Surprise number 1: Texas is not last place! Huh, who knew?

Game 1: Texas Vs. UNLV

Well, Texas might not be last place as far as arts spending per capita goes, but it’s lower than Nevada. The state of Nevada spent 42 cents per person on the arts in entire year of 2010, whereas the state of Texas spent 32 cents per person. Dunno why Governor Perry is so intent on cutting spending for the arts when we each paid last year the same amount that we could probably find between the sofa cushions, but whatevs! NO NEW TAXES!

UNLV eliminates Texas.

Game 2: Virginia Vs. Alabama

A lot of these matchups, in case you couldn’t tell, are pretty pointless. I think today’s criterion is important, though, because there’s a strong chance that you will stick around your MFA’s city for a couple years after you finish, and it is better for an artist to live in a state that actually cares a bit about the arts.

The state of Virginia is more generous to its arts than Texas and Nevada, spending 57 cents per person all last year. Alabama, though, spent 99 cents per person. How generous! That’s like every citizen to the 99 Cent Store and buying the one item (no tax)! I would have thought Alabama would have spent much less, but that’s because everything I know about Alabama I learned from the Neil Young song of the same name.

Alabama eliminates Virginia.

Game 3: Brown Vs. Sarah Lawrence

I’m sure these two Yankee states probably spend beaucoup bucks on their arts, and yes, they “do.” I quoted that to emphasize that I don’t think any state really spends that much on the arts in case you couldn’t tell. Rhode Island spent $1.89 per citizen on the arts last year, or the equivalent of buying them each, what, four and a half stamps? New York, however, basically bought each citizen the equivalent of one of those things of gum you can keep in your cupholder, spending $2.67 per citizen on the arts in 2010.

Sarah Lawrence eliminates Brown.

Game 4 : Purdue Vs. Michigan

So in the midwest, at least with these industrial states, I feel like the citizenry would like to spend money on the arts, but is just incapable of doing so. Indiana last year spend 48 cents per citizen on the arts, which is like buying each Indianan one of those cheap bags of generic candy with the red paper top. Michigan, on the other hand, only spent 14 cents per citizen, tied for second last, which might buy you in on one hand of cards if you’re playing with six year olds.

Purdue eliminates Michigan.

Game 5: Arizona State Vs. Montana

Politicians like to throw a lot of “millions” at us to make us cringe, but I think it’s always important to remember that there are “millions” of us as well. I can’t imagine any American would turn down donating one dollar or more to the arts, if asked in those terms. Arizona last year spent 15 cents per citizen on the arts, the equivalent of a cup of coffee for every citizen (in older movies). Montana on the other hand spent a comparatively generous 48 cents per citizen, which could buy each Montanan a Twix if it’s on sale.

Montana eliminates Arizona State

Game 6: LSU Vs. UNC Greensboro

Louisiana spent, compared to the rest of the South, a lot of money on the arts last year, at $1.26 per citizen, the equivalent of sending everybody in the state a personal bag of off brand potato chips from the cheap grocery store. North Carolina, on the other hand, spent 94 cents per citizen, the equivalent of buying every citizen a quarter gallon of gasoline.

LSU eliminates UNC Greensboro.

Game 7: Boston University Vs. NYU

As mentioned earlier, New York spent $2.67 per citizen last year on the arts, which could have bought each person a small thing of blueberries if they’re on sale. (Sorry I keep mentioning food, I’m kind of hungry.) Massachusetts, however, spent just $1.49 per Massachusettsian on the art, which means they could have rented each citizen one movie for one night from Blockbuster back when they actually existed.

NYU eliminates Boston University

Game 8: Wash U. St. Louis Vs. Illinois

Missouri last year spent the 7th most per citizen on the arts of any US state/territory, with $2.30 per citizen, or a dual pack of paper towels. Illinois only spent 59 cents per citizen, which I think is like buying every citizen three bananas? I don’t know, it’s tough to keep thinking of things that cost less than a dollar.

Wash U. eliminates Illinois.

Notes and Updated Bracket

I know it’s facile to criticize states for cutting the arts when each citizen contributes so little to arts spending. They have “budgets” that need to be met, and nobody likes to imagine a world where taxes might be like ten dollars higher per year. I mean, ten bucks! That’s like a whole thing of fancy grocery store sushi! (Still hungry)

Click on this thing.


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