MFA program celebrates 10th Anniversary

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Queens College opened the Godwin-Ternbach Museum for the MFA in Creating Writing and Literary translations 10th anniversary on Nov. 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with readings from alumni.

The event was held by alumni John Rice, and Nicole Cooley, director and professor of the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation. 17 alumni read their poetry, plays, and works of both fiction and non-fiction. The evening started off with a musical performance by professors of the English Department, Richard Schotter and Roger Sedarat, who played guitar and banjo.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since we opened the door to our program,” Cooley said. “Tonight is about our fantastic MFA students and we can not think of a better way to celebrate our program than to have our alumni read their work.”

John Rice is a 2009 graduate and said the event planning started in June. He read his poem titled, “Family Vacations: Pantoum,” which was based on vacations his father would take him and his family to, where they visited old civil war sites.

“I’m proud to here today,” Rice said. “The MFA program helped me accelerate years ahead of where I would be if I never enrolled in the program.”

The MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College was founded in 2007 and partners with the Poetry Society of America, The Flea Theater and the campus ESL Program.

Students can earn degrees in poetry, literary translation, prose and playwriting. Classes offered in the Spring 2018 include English 755 (2030): Playwriting Workshop, English 759 (2032) : Thesis Workshop, English 760: Multi-Genre Craft Class: Risk, Play and Deep Revision, and English 757 (2013): Nonfiction Workshop: Documenting the Real.

“There is also a great community within the program where I have met many lifelong friends,” Rice added.

Author and alumni of the program, Yvette Heyliger, read from her book, “What a Piece of Work Is Man!,” a collection of plays focusing on woman’s perspective and issues that include drama and history.

Alumni Michael Alpiner read his poems “Father out To Sea” and “Capricious,” both about his father’s passing, out of a 26 page collection he has been working on.

“It was great to be back and see people I started the MFA program with and inspiring to be back in the company of my professors,” Alpiner said.

Leila Ortiz graduated from the MFA program in 2015 and read her poem titled “Fear,” which was about last year’s presidential election. She is the is author of the chapbook “Girl Life” (2016).

“It was nice being with the Queens community,” Ortiz said. “This programs connects people with one another. I think the way Nicole Cooley structures the program allows people to have conversations with each other, not to be competitive but to be collaborative.”

A potluck concluded the event, where alumni shared food such as brownies, fruit, cheese and macaroni salad.

Stephen Acevdeo, one of the performers and part of the graduate of the 2014 class, said it was his first time being back to Queens College since he graduated and that “it still felt like a family being in the presence of the former MFA students.”


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