Fall 2008 syllabi are now finished, and ready to be copied. It's the perfect time to contemplate the following: is it possible to really teach creative writing?
On creative writing search committees we have asked job candidates a version of this question. I have spent a lot of time thinking of what my answer would've been, if I had been on the other side of the speakerphone.
It's different when you teach English composition, or literature, to some degree. Whether folks are talented essayists or critics, if they put in enough effort they can (hopefully) produce a decent research paper or analysis. But with creative writing there seems to be a mysterious extra component, and I'm not talking about adorable folders with puppies on them. Though I'm sure those help.
I guess what I'm saying is that even though most students can learn the poetic terms and try their hand at the craft, there's some point where inspiration and talent become necessities. And not every writer has both of those at the right time.
I do, however, believe in the value of poetry writing classes for honing critical thinking, and for helping students see the world in a different way. Some of my best undergrad creative writers have been computer science majors, or biology majors, or engineers. When I first started teaching creative writing, I wanted every single student to go on to an MFA. Looking back, that was pretty silly. But I do think that every student would benefit from at least a semester of writing poetry.
How do you feel about this issue? Can you teach creative writing? Can you teach creative writing? Can you teach creative writing?