MFA Dispatch: The Pulitzer Prizes

Last week, the Pulitzer Prize winners were announced. I have never followed the prizes, though I’ve bought books because they are labeled Pulitzer Prize winners. But last week, one of my classmates, Gregory Pardlo, won the prize for Poetry and the news came to me through a department-wide email blast.

I thought, “Whoa.”


I had a workshop with him last semester and followed him on Instagram. I had almost gone to his book launch – I’d RSVP’d and told his wife via Paperless Post that I’d be bringing a plus one. Not Tom, but a friend from college who’d written tons of poetry herself and who planned to visit me in New York that weekend.

But I deferred our plans to my guest.

“We can go to this book party,” I emailed a few days before her visit, “Or we can do whatever.”

“I’m open,” she said.

I mulled it over, but also gave her time to consider the options. A few days later she wrote, “Let’s get brunch at the Spotted Pig instead.” Her boyfriend had said it was one of the best meals he’d ever had.

“Sounds good,” I wrote back, “I like books. But I like brunch too.”

It was a good brunch.

A weeks later, the Prizes were announced. The day after the announcement, I had my workshop.

“So,” my professor said, “One of your classmates just won the Pulitzer. How you guys feeling?”

“It was for poetry,” a classmate said quickly.

“Yeah, it’s awesome. I’m happy for him,” said another.

Then after a minute, “But honestly, if it had been for nonfiction, I might feel a little shitty.”

“Yeah,” we all agreed.

A few of us started to share the MFA equivalent of a celebrity sighting story. Most of us had had a class or two with him. In workshop, he wrote a lot about being black and also, being aware that he wrote a lot about being black. I thought that was alright.

“Well,” I said, “I almost went to his book party but I went to brunch instead.”

My classmates looked at me, nodding in recognition. Apparently a handful of us had been invited but few, if any of us, had gone. We all went to brunch or other places that seemed more immediately appealing than a poetry book launch. At least this is what I read on our expressions. But I could have been wrong. I might have been the only person invited that did not go and now instead of saying, “I went to Gregory Pardlo’s book party,” I can say, “Well, there is some really good french toast at the Spotted Pig.”

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