I don't know about anyone else, but I'm getting sick and tired of all the MFA and PhD talk about what school and which degree makes good poetry lately - as if nothing else mattered.
Just for the record, with a good memory and about 20 minutes worth of research, here's a few poets WITHOUT the all-important credentialing that goes on nowdays.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY - ambulance driver
ANNE SEXTON - advanced education consisted of attending Finishing School.
CARL SANDBURG - left school at 13, went back and re-tackled academia at a later date but left before completing a 4 year degree.
HART CRANE - dropped out of high school and took to the sea and the streets.
LANGSTON HUGHES - left college after two semesters and eventually ended up doing a myrid of things - two of which were washing dishes and writing.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLY - expelled from Oxford
EMILY DICKINSON - returned home after one year at Mary Lyon's Mount Holyoke Female Seminary and seldom left home again.
DYLAN THOMAS - left school at 16 to become a reporter.
BOB DYLAN - left college after his first year.
EDGAR ALAN POE - gave up formal education in 1927 at the age of 18 after losing his tuition money due to a gambling problem.
WALT WHITMAN - His mother was barely literate and his father was a carpenter. In 1823 the family moved to Brooklyn, where for six years Whitman attended public schools. It was the only formal education he ever received.
CARL SANDBURG - joined the army during the Spanish American War, spent 2 weeks at West Point, left for another college in Galesburg and then left there without a degree.
ROBERT FROST - attended both Dartmouth and Harvard but never obtained a formal degree from either.
WILLIAM BLAKE - never attended school - was educated at home by his mother.
PABLO NERUDA - gave up his formal studies at the age of 20 to devote himself to writing.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING - self-taught
ROBERT BROWNING - In 1828, at the age of 16, Browning enrolled at the University of London, but he soon left, anxious to read and learn at his own pace.
WILLIAM BLAKE - When he turned fourteen, he apprenticed with an engraver because art school proved too costly. In 1782, he married an illiterate woman named Catherine Boucher. Blake taught her to read and to write, and also instructed her in draftsmanship. Later, she helped him print the illuminated poetry for which he is remembered today.
LORD BYRON - once he inherited the title and property of his great-uncle in 1798, he went to Dulwich, Harrow, where he excelled in swimming, and Cambridge, where he piled up debts and aroused alarm with bisexual love affairs. It's unclear as to whether he actually got a degree in anything or not.
DANTE - studied at home, as was usual for the times.
"Educated poets" seems to be a late 20th century type thing. Maybe that explains why there are so few real poets left, hey what? Perhaps while the universities are busy turning out cookie-cutter-poets - with poet-teachers intent on recreating their poet-students in their own image, poetry is, in fact, dying. It sometimes seems as though no one who claims to be a contemporary poet knows (or wants to know) anything about a life composed of anything other than than the relative safety of academia and academic publishing. I mean, really, publish or perish might be the Sword of Damocles to some - but, trust me, it isn't the worst thing which can befall an individual, yanno?
Perhaps I'm just jealous, but I don't think so. I think I'm just pissed off at the current attitude which seems to imply that if you didn't go to school you have no business trying to write poetry - for that matter, if you didn't get at least a BA you might as well be declared functionally illiterate.
Not so, sayeth the drop-out.
The fact that I couldn't spell Damocles without help is immaterial. That's what the dictionary is for. Last I heard you didn't need a college degree to be capable of using one.