Thursday, December 6, 2007

Adventures of the Letter "I" (a nod to Louis Simpson)

The poet Louis Simpson has a book titled Adventures of the Letter "I"; furthermore, the title alone makes a much needed critical comment: One should never confuse poetry with autobiography.

Of course, some poets utilize autobiographical elements within their works; however, as a teacher of creative writing, I routinely remind students that they should never assume that the speakers in poems are the authors themselves, regardless of whether the bards are established practitioners or their novice peers.

As one of my old mentors used to rhetorically ask, "Why be yourself in a poem when you can be someone really interesting?" Far too many of us think we live fascinating lives; thankfully, we have written testaments of the power of the human imagination that make our humdrum lives more intense and spiritual because various authors went beyond themselves: they created metaselves that sustain generations of readers like the breathable air.

Therefore, I quickly learned as a student that creative writing was my challenge and new love, not re-creative writing. According to Shakespeare, the poet's task is to "give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name." I can recall the first time I wrote something that came out of that "airy nothing" at the tail end of a semester of trite, expected doggerel (humankind is bad, nature is good; she did me wrong and now I'm sad; I took drugs and saw God, etc.). I discovered my subject matter with each successive line; I relinquished the anal-retentive aspect of my education and decided to trust my mentor's advice: I let each poem's voice find me.

And that was quite the opposite of what many urge ("Find your own voice...") in workshops and coffee bars. For I realized that my "own voice" needed to come to me and not vice versa; the imagination, if I gave in to the kind of "total immersion" Elizabeth Bishop believed in, would provide me with both the subject matter and the delight of each new destination. (I've begun to ask waiters and waitresses to "surprise me" with the chef's newest dish or specialty--such requests have yet to displease my tastebuds.)

To have an open palette, whether it's food or metrical feet, means that I'll also be open to revision: I don't take the first draft of anything I write as the gospel. Rather, I find revision to be as intense a joy--and a mystery--as I do foreplay: I'm not interested in quick self-gratification, both in writing and in loving. Therefore, I take my time. Rilke suggests that one should live "a whole life for the sake of a single line." No one will ever accuse me of being prolific when it comes to publishing poetry, and I've yet to find one poet who's valued because of his or her prodigious output. To go back to Elizabeth Bishop, she published approximately 100 poems during her lifetime, which is far less than what some contemporary poets have published even before they reach middle-age (and history tells us they will likely never be Bishop's equals).

When Robert Frost noted that only "old, musty things" should be looked at in workshops, he understood how critically blind authors can be when it comes to their latest creations--or re-creations: "No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." Yes, I know that Frost was a racist and an egomaniac. But he also wrote "Directive," a poem that illustrates with each turn the speaker's--not Frost's autobiographical self--unplanned journey through wonder and sorrow: "Drink and be whole again beyond confusion."

Each poem's numerous drafts are chances for the "I" to discover wholeness beyond confusion.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Few Poems from Braille for the Heart

My chapbook Braille for the Heart (Momotombo Press) is now available for $10. All proceeds will fund scholarships for students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Pilsen, IL, to attend a creative writing camp at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Checks should be made out to "University of Notre Dame" and sent to the following Washington, D.C. address:

Francisco Aragon
Institute for Latino Studies/Notre Dame
1608 Rhode Island Ave. Suite 348
Washington, D.C. 20036

* * * * *

California Sonnets: Elegance

Elegance has its lightning too, its jagged
dance that ebbs late in the evening, slightly
vexed by a high-heeled partner and her unrepentant
smoke, her waxed legs ascending like heat.
All night I've wanted to unlock some lost
octave that frets about this and that, mostly
that: the guitar's tightly wound chords
my fingers would register and release. But
this middle-aged campaign for elegance
doesn't pirouette like wind in the orchards;
only the frogs start up in the canal's
orchestra pit. What's left is this stunned
self-portrait, irregular and estranged,
a fifty year old man anxious to tango.

--Robert Vasquez
(from Braille for the Heart)

* * * * *

The Myth of the Happy Family: Yield

Driving back to the L.A. basin,
I see cloud-softened lightning
sluice down to the black

Sierras, and I think of Henry
Vaughan who forever sought out
behind such stony

clouds a 17th-century God,
his haypaths ribboned with belled
roses and poppies,

whereas my asphalt lane divides the
dairies between Goshen and
Kingsburg. Here the dammed

Kings River must give way to cow stench
and burnt ions filling each
car's air vents. Vaughan, un-

like his champion George Herbert, could
never scribble alive a
holy being who dined

and courted you; Vaughan could only "look
and call," the divine hand a
peripheral blur

at best, adrenalin stammering
his heart. Nevertheless, the
rock-faced countryside,

down to the least soybean and wheatflake,
could make Vaughan yield--just as I
have tonight along

US 99, my blinkers on
to scare off help, for I've no
flat to change or plug,

just a dairyman a half-acre
away who closes down the
stanchion lights shed by

shed, his milked guernseys briefly arc-lit
as they all mill and call in
the barn-dark tableau.

--Robert Vasquez
(from Braille for the Heart)

* * * * *

California Sonnets: Discharged

Discharged like smoke or sadness in bars,
I walk the day's remedial structure, terse
as a scrawled fragment, the neighborhoods
planned and proscribed. Mary, you always
asked, "Will you miss me when I'm gone?"
And here's my daily reply, the measured
pain muted with pastels (not obvious
like the rap-swelled Chevys that thump
in my chest thirty feet away)--vacant
as an echoing chamber. Soon the birds
intervene, scoring the Visalia sky.
I'll walk until the sparrows tire and roost,
until the vacuumed harbor of space lists
with stars stalled--like me--in a blue bay.

--Robert Vasquez
(from Braille for the Heart)

Author's note: The Myth of the Happy Family poems are syllabic; the stanzas consist of twenty-one syllables: nine in the first lines, seven in the second lines, and five in the third lines. California Sonnets are neither rhymed nor metered; the poems' main title stems from a review of Charles Wright's poetry: The critic couldn't understand why Wright utilized a certain kind of lineation in his work and surmised that it must be a "California thing."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Response to a Question

I received an email from a fellow college professor (anonymous--and that's fine with me) who, in response to my previous blog article ("One Way to Diversify Academe"), asked me the following question: "Is racial or ethnic diversity necessary in academe? All of my former professors were white, most of them men, and as a professor I've been able to help diverse students in their academic aspirations as English majors. They leave my classrooms with a definite appreciation for and knowledge of English and American literature." S/he added, "Although our department doesn't have any faculty members of Hispanic heritage, our students neither complain about the lack of racial diversity among their professors nor do they exhibit any signs of under-preparedness in their studies."

Of course, I take such a question seriously; I don't want to assume that all academics routinely agree that diversity is indeed a vital aspect within any educational institution or as part of anyone's educational background.

But, I must admit that the question itself resonates as an alarm: The professor's cold rationalization is an example of what happens when people don't have diverse teachers.

To illustrate why diversity is critical in anyone's education, I often ask my students (in a course that focuses on institutional racism and social class) the following question: "What would happen if all of your teachers were men?"

Not surprisingly, the female students regardless of color are quick to respond: "Women wouldn't have any role models in the teaching profession." "Women would have an advantage over men when it comes to discussing feminist issues because they've lived their lives as women; feminism would be women's daily reality, not just theory." "In such a world, male professors would favor and promote literature and research written by other men." "Male teachers wouldn't be very sensitive to female concerns and issues--their concerns would be developed, encouraged, and controlled by a male-dominated profession."

And when other students try to minimize such comments, those students are almost always males. Obviously, some males take such comments personally, as if they were being criticized, even though their peers are merely noting what they think would be the effects of an all-male professoriate.

But when I then ask the same female and male students to answer a similar question but change "men" to "white," many of those who are white quickly fall silent. Yet, when I suggest that their previous comments could just as easily apply to people of color (that they too would have few role models, that they too might have certain advantages over whites when discussing issues of race and ethnicity, that they too could be victims of insensitive professors and their curriculums), even some of the women who balked at their male counterparts' objections try to minimize similar consequences: "But...."

I ask the students to examine why they have certain objections: Where do they come from? What's the point of such objections? What, if anything, do they think they've accomplished by voicing these objections? Do they feel better about themselves? Do they feel threatened? And who do they think they're ultimately helping when they minimize possible negative consequences that stem from racial and ethnic differences and concerns?

To help students become more sensitive to institutional racism, I utilize the HBO film White Man's Burden. Writer/director Desmond Nakano literally reverses the power structure in America: Caucasian Americans live in the "inner city" and inhabit mostly menial occupations; in contrast, African Americans live in the affluent suburbs and own or control most private businesses and public institutions. Although the characters are to a degree ethnographic stereotypes, their segregated circumstances amply define the problems that face both the disenfranchised and the empowered. (The students must examine and analyze four situations/conditions/phenomena in the film that illustrate institutional racism.)

In conjunction with the film, I utilize Paul Kivel's text Uprooting Racism (New Society Publishers). Kivel's subtitle (How White People Can Work for Racial Justice) often bothers students initially; however, once they read his text, most students understand Kivel's point: Whites control most, if not all, of America's institutions, public and private; therefore, those in power should always be the focus if we want to change the status quo rather than look to--and unconvincingly blame--those not in power.

Consequently, I too must look to the anonymous professor and ask, "What's gained by keeping academe a segregated realm?" And, more importantly, "Are you truly educated if you only see the world through white lenses?"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

One Way to Diversify Academe

Many of us who teach for a living have sat on hiring committees; moreover, the vast majority of those hiring committees were--and will continue to be in the near future--staffed primarily by whites and not people of color. In English departments and creative writing programs, the overwhelming majority of hiring committees are not diverse in the most basic definition of that term: racial diversity. Of course, some of us have witnessed colleagues who've tried to redefine diversity to rationalize the makeup of such committees: "Well, we do have two women on this committee," or "I'm from Poland, and Bill is gay."

And the results from these countless hiring procedures are often the same: No persons of color are hired.

Some might argue that the candidate pools aren't diverse enough, but this argument appears to be an invalid one: the number of people of color who apply for academic positions indeed increases each year.

Others suggest that the "best qualified" candidates just happen to be whites, though this too has one major flaw: Why did many of us, regardless of race, have to study with mediocre white professors at the community college, state college, university, and post-graduate levels?

This isn't to say that some of us didn't have some excellent professors. For example, I was fortunate to study with Philip Levine (he's in a class by himself--he was my one great teacher, and I know that greatness is a rarity in any discipline). Additionally, I studied with some exemplary English professors: Peter Everwine, Eugene Zumwalt, John McDermott, and Andrew Simmons at California State University at Fresno; Michael Ryan, James McMichael, T.R. Hummer, Renee Hubert, Myron Simon, and John Hollowell at the University of California at Irvine; Kenneth Fields and W.S. DiPiero at Stanford University. (I also had the pleasure of informally auditing courses taught by Marjorie Perloff and the late Gilbert Sorrentino at "the farm," in addition to studying with visiting professors Derek Walcott, the late Thom Gunn, and the late Joseph Brodsky.)

But, like many others, I also had to put up with far too many mediocre professors (approximately 75% of my former professors fit that description I'm sorry to say). For example, one of my former professors in American literature would have been happy lecturing to a brick wall--the students were that inconsequential (he could have easily been on videotape, for the students had no reason to be in the classroom with him or with each other). Another professor of 17th century poetry never uttered one syllable of verse during the entire quarter (his love for his own exegesis didn't require him to recite one line from Donne, Jonson, or Vaughan); to this day I suspect he doesn't like to read poetry even in silence. I could go on and on.

My mediocre professors had one thing in common: They were all white. Moreover, they were likely screened and interviewed by all-white committees and forwarded to and hired by nearly all-white English departments. (I'm not arguing that professors of color can't be mediocre too;
if anything, more diversity within the teaching ranks will prove that no one group has a lock on mediocrity nor on excellence.)

Furthermore, far too many mediocre English professors, past and present, live fairly segregated personal lives. Think, dear reader, of the people with whom you regularly dine, the people you'll query when you want to view a film, the people you cajole to join you on a seven-day cruise through the Carribbean or help you withstand a twelve-hour flight to the promised land of a ten-day stay on the Yucatan peninsula. Think of the voluntary relationships you foster and cultivate even when you live hundreds or thousands of miles from each other: Are any of them friendships with people of color if you're white?

In contrast, are most of your contacts with people of color forced because of employment or other involuntary circumstances? For example, most professors are forced to interact with students of color (which makes me wonder if some whites who enjoy online instruction do so to avoid such in-person contact).

Are your contacts with people of color forced because they're your neighbors? Do they attend the same church or local political club?

How open are we to voluntary differences, not forced differences, in our personal lives? If we answer this question truthfully, we can probably put a finger on the reason for the lack of diversity in academe: The majority of people who hire others often live fairly segregated personal lives. No wonder they hire others like themselves: their business lives are merely extensions of their personal lives. (Wouldn't we be guilty of wishful ignorance if we ignore the personal lives of those on hiring committees? If one responds, "We do have a black person in our department," that would only be evidence of tokenism, not true diversity.)

Therefore, every public educational institution should ask potential hiring committee members to list at least three voluntary relationships with people who come from different racial backgrounds than their own. (Thus, I would be asked to present names of non-Latinos who could vouch for my ability to create voluntary relationships with them.) If those eager to sit on hiring committees can't produce such referees, that might be reason enough to disqualify them from such participation, especially if their educational institutions routinely hail themselves as "AA/EOE" employers. Seriously, does anyone expect people who voluntarily segregate their personal lives to promote--and prove via hirings--true racial and ethnic diversity in their business lives? We need to screen potential interviewers before they screen and question job appplicants.

Would such a requirement to sit on hiring committees spur us to reevaluate our personal lives and voluntary relationships? I would hope so if only for our own sakes--and for the sakes of our students.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Does "American Author" Mean?

When my book At the Rainbow was published, I was curious as to how I would be "cataloged" by the Library of Congress (their "Cataloging-in-Publication Data" gives libraries certain information, such as both Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal numbers for storage and shelving purposes, among other things). I'm listed under "1. Mexican Americans--California--Poetry."

But when I look at a book written by Galway Kinnell, The Book of Nightmares (a book I'm quite taken with and have read many times), I don't find any mention by the Library of Congress of his ethnic ancestry (Irish?) or even of the state in which he resides (Vermont back then?). And on days when I'm not too lazy and go into the nearest library and search through their electronic card catalog, I can find Kinnell's texts on the shelves next to other American authors. But why aren't white authors given ethnic identities to go along with their American citizenship? Wouldn't such information be just as important to the Library of Congress as my ethnic ancestry and state of residence?

I decided to look in a local library's electronic card catalog for my book under "American poets" in general: It doesn't exist. When I conducted another search under "Mexican American" poets or "California" poetry, my book eventually came up on the computer screen.

Now, don't jump to conclusions: I'm not embarrassed by my Mexican ancestry (though I am bothered by the fact that I've lost my North American/Aztec ancestors' indigenous language and dialects: Spanish, like English, has European roots; it's the language of my European ancestors, those who used miscegenation as a means of conquest and erasure; I can only imagine my Aztec ancestors' cosmic yearnings that spurred them to create magnificent temples and pyramids, the construction of which still baffles a multitude of Ph.D. holders; the Mel Gibson version of Aztlan with its video game-schlock of human sacrifices doesn't bother me as much as Bush's allegiance to the altar of oil and multinational greed). Rather, I'm concerned by what's meant and reinforced when we identify certain authors with just one adjective: American.

Institutional racism has many facets, one of which is evident whenever we refer to someone as an "American" author; literally, we're referring to an author's citizenship, but we're also reinforcing a communal nod: He or she is a white author; he or she fits the norm of what we imagine when we say the word American. In contrast, when we refer to Rita Dove as an African-American poet, we're also noting a difference, one that's important to the Library of Congress and every other major institution in the United States: She does not fit the norm of what we imagine when we say the word American.

In other words, an American author might not threaten or challenge the white reader in the same way that a so-called ethnic author might via his or her subject matter, cultural references, or bilingual/multilingual/dialectical use of language(s). (I use the word might because not all poets and writers of color are alike, just as not all white authors are alike.) The term American says, "He or she is one of us," and this adjectival connotation has far-reaching implications beyond simply allaying readers' fears or fulfilling their expectations.

For example, the vast majority of literary journals and magazines, from the biannuals at various universities to the monthly magazines out of Boston and New York, publish mostly American (meaning white) authors; indeed, most journals and magazines have mostly American (meaning white) editorial boards. In our most populated metropolitan city, with well over a million people of color living within its limits, one would be hardpressed to find an author of color in that city's most well-known magazine (it's title refers to an inhabitant of that city). Of course, one might argue, "People of color aren't the magazine's main readers." Yet, I read that magazine (it's in our campus library), and I know of many writers of color who peruse its pages--some buy copies at their favorite bookstore or even subscribe!

Essentially, the lone adjective American can be a blessing for those whose ethnographic adjectives aren't deemed necessary anymore: "Why, he's an American author!" Anglo-Saxons aren't afraid of the Irish anymore; those of German ancestry no longer have to live in Germantown; Swedes are accepted and at home in the Sunbelt as they are in Minnesota.

But being an author of color can be a hindrance when he or she tries to enter the "American" literary world. When I was sending out At the Rainbow to various publishers, a reader for one San Francisco Bay area publisher wrote back to me that I should "get rid of the white angst" in my poetry. You can imagine my angst when I read her comments, for I never thought that only whites suffered from angst. More importantly, she had a business concern: How could they "market" me? My poems weren't filled with ethnographic markers or identifiers that she expected from a Chicano. I didn't write about being in prison (I've never been arrested, and I suspect that many of you haven't been arrested either); I didn't write about slaving under a hot sun and picking grapes (even though I worked in agricultural and factory settings until my late twenties, I've never had a desire to write about or romanticize such tiresome realms--probably because I worked in various low-paying jobs for well over a decade, something I wouldn't wish upon anyone--and poets like Soto and Levine have expertly and thoroughly mined those veins); I didn't sprinkle Spanish words in my poetry (although my mother and father are fluent in Spanish, they talked to me only in English during my childhood: They didn't want me to have the same problems that my older, Spanish-speaking siblings had when they entered the English-only classrooms and schools of west Fresno; moreover, that part of town was--and still is--populated mainly by African Americans: I was more comfortable saying to my friends "Blood, check this out" instead of "Ese vato"). I didn't fit her stereotype of a Chicano poet. And I'm sure some editors, judges, publishers, and academicians are just as puzzled today by my work as that woman was in the mid 1990s.

Let me come back to the beginning: What does "American author" mean? With talk of the United States building a fence on our southern border and shipping mostly Mexican people back to Mexico (even though much of the southwestern United States is their ancestral homeland, for Aztlan extended to present day Utah), we haven't travelled very far down the road of enlightenment when it comes to institutional racism, which should never be confused with personal prejudice. When I read most journals or magazines, I'm always struck by the lack of ethnic diversity among the authors (one or two poets or writers of color doesn't define diversity, only tokenism), which is all the more maddening to me: I know that many people of color hold graduate degrees in creative writing and have manuscripts that attest to their hard-earned skills and merits as poets and writers. When I look at the latest winners of countless literary awards, I'm puzzled as to why people of color rarely win (though one look at the judges or the makeup of the committees hastens me to make a quick judgment of my own--fallibility is as common as sunshine).

Hence, we need to reconsider what's meant when we use certain terms like American: Who are we including, and who are we excluding? What subject matter informs such terms, and what subject matter isn't even considered?

In the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ, Willem Dafoe's Jesus corrects another man who protests Mary Magdalene's presence at a wedding: "What do you think heaven's like? It's a wedding; God is the groom, and man is the bride, and everyone's invited." If we use the term American a decade from now, let's hope everyone in America is included.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Recognizing Creative Writing as an Academic Discipline in California Community Colleges

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) has before it a petition to add creative writing to the state-wide Disciplines List. The ASCCC will vote on this petition in April at their Spring 2007 Plenary session. This action is 65 years overdue.

According to D. W. Fenza, executive director of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) which is officially sponsoring the petition, graduate degrees in creative writing have existed since 1942 when Paul Engle started the Iowa Writers' Workshop; soon, other institutions developed similar programs: "In 1946, Elliot Coleman founded the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. In 1947, Stanford University and the University of Denver both launched graduate creative writing programs. In 1948, Baxter Hathaway founded the creative writing program at Cornell University" (Fenza).

By 1984, over 150 graduate creative writing programs flourished in the United States; currently, over 300 programs offer graduate degrees and over 100 offer undergraduate degrees in creative writing (Fenza). The Writer's Chronicle routinely reports that more than 20,000 individuals have earned M.A., M.F.A., or Ph.D. degrees in creative writing in the last two decades. Obviously, creative writing as a distinct discipline has been a reality at hundreds of educational institutions. More importantly, California Community Colleges (CCC) should officially recognize this fact too, for they have done so with other disciplines in the past.

Before English as a Second Language (ESL) and journalism were added to the CCC Disciplines List, courses in those disciplines could be taught by any community college professor with a graduate degree in English. Fortunately for students and faculty, the ASCCC corrected this flaw by recognizing both ESL and journalism as disciplines in their own right; hence, ESL and journalism instructors must possess as a minimum requirement graduate degrees in their respective disciplines "or the equivalent" (for state law gives individuals the right to apply for equivalency in any discipline).

In contrast, English as a discipline in the CCC system currently includes literature, composition, and reading--and creative writing since it's not officially recognized via the Disciplines List. As a result, almost any California community college professor with a graduate degree in English literature or composition can teach creative writing courses even though he or she might not possess any substantial training in creative writing. How can this current situation benefit students?

One could argue, "Aren't ESL, journalism, composition, and creative writing courses the same? After all, don't these students compose?" However, the student compositions in these unique disciplines have different purposes and outcomes: ESL students learn English reading and writing skills as non-native speakers and writers of English; journalism students aim to inform the public by reporting on various facts and events considered newsworthy; English composition students write expository essays controlled by thesis statements and/or research material and utilize non-fiction prose; creative writing students create poetry, fiction, and/or drama. In essence, each discipline requires instructors specifically trained to help students achieve those different purposes and outcomes.

Others could posit, "Shouldn't all English degree holders know enough about literature to teach poetry and fiction writing courses? Don't English majors learn everything related to literature, including creative writing?" By analogy, degree holders in diverse disciplines should ask themselves a similar question: "Shouldn't all nursing degree holders know enough about x-ray technology to teach such courses? Don't nursing majors learn everything related to health care, including radiology?" Hopefully, the absurdity of the latter question will help one understand the flaw in the former question. Students who wish to become radiology technicians must study with experts in radiology who are licensed and recognized by the state, just as prospective nursing students must study with nurses even though radiology technicians and nurses often work on the same patients. The same can be said analogously about English department faculty members: We work with the same students, but we often have different tasks and goals.

And for many decades potential English graduate students have had to make conscious decisions: "Should I choose the literature, composition, or creative writing option in graduate school?" If some complain, "The university I attended didn't have a creative writing program," such individuals must have lived rather academically sheltered lives: For some reason they didn't peruse the various college catalogues in reference libraries; they didn't ask creative writing professors about graduate creative writing programs; they didn't seek guidance from counselors regarding graduate-level creative writing options--in short, they didn't care enough about creative writing to do some simple research.

In California, many CSU and UC campuses offer--and some have been doing so for decades--graduate degrees in creative writing: CSU Chico, CSU Fresno, CSU Long Beach, CSU Los Angeles, CSU Northridge, CSU Sacramento, San Diego SU, San Francisco SU, San Jose SU, Sonoma SU, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UC San Diego (M.F.A. starting in 2007-08). Of course, several private institutions in California do likewise, including Antioch University (LA), the California College of the Arts, the California Institute of the Arts, Loyola-Marymount University, Mills College, New College of California, Otis College of Art and Design, St. Mary's College, the University of San Francisco, and the University of Southern California.

Still, some might say, "I took a few creative writing classes in college; I even published a couple of poems in my college's undergraduate magazine. I have what it takes to teach creative writing." Again, change the discipline to another: "I took a few painting classes in college; I even had a couple of paintings in my college's student art gallery. I have what it takes to teach painting courses." Nevertheless, if one takes the time to study the various graduate degree requirements in any practitioner-based discipline, one should immediately notice that taking "a few classes" doesn't give one the kind or level of expertise that others achieve when they finally earn such graduate degrees. And publishing "a few poems," often in questionable venues, doesn't make one an accomplished writer. With the advent of the internet combined with vanity presses, people have no problem finding outlets for their works regardless of their skill levels; such non-juried outlets often depend financially on the uninformed and the untrained.

If this petition is successful, California's community college students would have a state-wide assurance that their English professors would possess as a minimum requirement graduate degrees specifically in creative writing (M.A., M.F.A., or Ph.D. "or the equivalent") if they teach such specialized workshops. Of course, these creative writing professors will continue to teach other courses in composition and literature within their respective English departments like their counterparts in the CSU and UC systems.

And those who don't possess graduate degrees in creative writing but have demonstated expertise in the discipline via substantial publications, literary awards and honors, and/or extensive creative writing coursework should have no problem securing equivalency.

Consequently, no community college, large or small, would need to hire any full-time creative writing instructors: Such graduate degree holders already meet the state's minimum qualifications to be hired as English instructors provided they also hold B.A. degrees in English. And probably every community college already employs full- and/or part-time English instructors who currently possess graduate degrees in creative writing (they would be "grandfathered" into the new discipline). Given the large number of graduate degree holders in creative writing, community colleges won't have any problems staffing their creative writing sections with current or future faculty members.

Please support this effort to add creative writing to the state-wide Disciplines List for California Community Colleges by emailing the Academic Senate before April 2007 via the following address: And please contact your local community college's representatives to the Academic Senate and urge them to vote for this petition. Tuition-paying community college students minimally deserve appropriately degreed creative writing instructors and nothing less.

Works Cited
Fenza, D. W. "Creative Writing & Its Discontents." The Writer's Chronicle. March/April 2000. October 26, 2006.