"You’re not getting an MFA to get funded by an MFA program, nor to have a good teaching load, nor to move somewhere with an ideal cost of living. You’re getting an MFA to have your writing taken seriously by serious writers who you respect."
The quote above comes from an article called LETTER TO AN MFA APPLICANT by Samuel Amadon.
Mr. Amadon's article can be found in its entirety here:
Let's put Mr. Amadon's raves about the Columbia University School of the Arts writer's program (and its great expense--and, to him, great rewards) to one side of the table. (Also, let's pass over his putdown of the Poets and Writers magazine's "ranking" of schools with MFA programs too).
And I'm now going to say something filled with poetic incorrectness in this age of Mass Artistic Conformity.
You don't really need to spend all that money to enter an MFA program to be taken seriously as a poet.
If you want to learn valuable lessons about writing and personal style from great poets, either buy their real (or digital) chapbooks/Real Books or check them out of your nearest public library.
Better yet, search out a copy of the book ECSTATIC OCCASIONS, EXPEDIENT FORMS if you wish to acquire the knowledge about rhyme, meter and different variations of poetic form.
If you wish to receive praise or criticism from poets you admire, then make contact with them at readings. See if they'll accept copies of your poems or DIY/small press chapbooks for appraisal/feedback. Some of them may be helpful/encouraging and others may turn out to be hurtful, obnoxious, self-important jerks wanting no one on the road to success but themselves. Take everything with a grain of salt; be joyful in the realization that you haven't paid the equivalent of $250.00/hour to have your strengths and weaknesses as a poet analyzed--you've essentially received it for free.
And keep writing, submitting and networking (although there will be times when poets all around you will say that an MFA is a must and climb into the academic machine like the Sneetches wanting a tummy star in the Dr. Seuss fable).
That way, a large chunk of your hard-earned money hasn't disappeared in case you need it for emergency reasons.
Last of all, please don't be afraid to thank me.