Seth Abramson

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Seth Abramson
Born October 31, 1976
Concord, Massachusetts
Occupation Poet
Nationality American
Education Master of Fine Arts, Juris Doctor

Seth Abramson (born October 31, 1976) is an American poet, editor, literary critic, and freelance journalist associated with metamodernism.[1][2]


Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is currently a doctoral student in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[3]

Publishers Weekly notes that Abramson has "picked up a very large following as a blogger and commentator, covering poetry, politics, and higher education, and generating a controversial, U.S. News-style ranking of graduate programs in writing."[4] In recommending Northerners, the poet's second collection of poetry, the magazine called Abramson "serious and ambitious...uncommonly interested in general statements, in hard questions, and harder answers, about how to live." Colorado Review called the collection "alternately expansive and deeply personal...of crystalline beauty and complexity," terming Abramson "a major American voice."[5] Notre Dame Review echoed the sentiment, calling Abramson "a powerful voice."[6] Don Share, Senior Editor for Poetry, has said of Abramson's "What I Have," awarded the 2008 J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize by Poetry, "the poem absorbs certain details but doesn't fasten upon them the way poets are tempted to do; it's not adjectival, it's not descriptive, it's not painting a kind of canvas with scenery on it, and yet those details are really fascinating."[7]

A former public defender and commentator for Air America Radio, Abramson currently reviews contemporary poetry for The Huffington Post and is a regular columnist for Indiewire.[8][9][10][11] Abramson's Indiewire column focuses on films, television programs, and video games informed by metamodernism, described there as "a cultural paradigm that uses both fragmentary and contradictory data to produce new forms of coherence."[12][13][14]

The Best American Experimental Writing Series[edit]

In October 2012, Omnidawn announced that it would begin publishing, in 2014, an annual anthology of innovative verse entitled Best American Experimental Writing. Abramson and the poet Jesse Damiani were named Series Co-Editors.[15][16] Shortly thereafter, Cole Swensen was named the first Guest Editor for the series. In April 2014, Wesleyan University Press picked up the series, and announced that Douglas Kearney would be the Guest Editor for Best American Experimental Writing 2015.[17]

The MFA Research Project[edit]

Abramson authors The MFA Research Project (MRP), a website that publishes indexes of creative writing Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs based on surveys and hard-data research.[18] Indexes appearing on the MRP include ordered listings of program popularity, funding, selectivity, fellowship placement, job placement, student-faculty ratio, application cost, application response times, application and curriculum requirements, and foundation dates. The MRP also publishes surveys of current MFA applicants, and of various creative writing programs. Writing for The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry Since 1945 (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Hank Lazer described Abramson's project as "a daring and data-rich endeavor."[19] The Missouri Review observed that Abramson, along with novelist Tom Kealey, "had done a tremendous amount of work to peel back the layers of MFA programs and get applicants to make informed decisions."[20]

Starting in 2009, Poets & Writers adopted data compiled by the MRP on full-residency creative writing MFA programs for its annual MFA issue.[21][22] Poets & Writers expanded its annual MFA data chart to include low-residency MFA programs, and creative writing doctoral programs.[23][24]

Beginning in August 2012, Poets & Writers has published MRP data in the form of an alphabetized "MFA Index"; previously, the magazine's annual data chart was referred to as a "ranking." In 2011, The Chronicle of Higher Education termed the Poets & Writers national assessment methodology "comprehensive" and "the only MFA ranking regime." [25][26] Writing in 2010 for Boulevard and The Huffington Post, novelist and poet Anis Shivani noted the "great brouhaha" caused by "a journeyman's attempt to rank MFA programs...according to input from potential apprentices as opposed to evaluations by journeymen and masters themselves."[27][28] In 2009, noted poet and literary critic Ron Silliman claimed Abramson's research and writing on MFA programs was part of a larger sea change in American poetics; according to Silliman, "Abramson's take [on poetry in American life] is new and different. And important....[he believes] we are moving away from poetry as a literature--let alone as a canon--toward poetry as a practice..." [29]

In September 2011, an open letter signed by nearly two hundred professors from undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs was published, calling the then-rankings "specious" and terming their then-methodology "unethical" and "quite misleading."[30] A week later, Poets & Writers responded to the open letter, asserting that it had "adhere[d] to the highest journalistic standards...Our ethical obligation is to be transparent to our readers about the source of the rankings and how they were derived, which we have done consistently and without reservation."[31] Of Abramson, the rankings' primary researcher, the magazine's Editorial Director Mary Gannon said, "[he] has been collecting data about applicants' preferences and about MFA programs for five years, and we stand behind his integrity."[31]


On May 25, 2014, Abramson remixed the audio of the last YouTube video posted by Elliot Rodger as "Last Words for Elliot Rodger."[32] A prefatory note was appended to the remix, stating that Abramson "condemned in the strongest terms both the words and the actions of Elliot Rodger," and that the remix was a metamodern attempt to reclaim Rodger's language as a "vehicle for amity and compassion....[and] to turn on their heads those words of hatred Elliot Rodger left behind him."[32] It received mixed reviews. While The Los Angeles Review of Books called the poem a "virtuoso formal accomplishment" and "quite moving,"[33] Jason Diamond of Flavorwire dismissed it as "a sad and failed attempt at making some kind of statement."[34] Writing for VIDA, poet Laura Mullen opined that Abramson's remix "merely mimics the glossy, insubstantial output of the media machine," and constituted "a hasty scooping up of something the moment it was posted online"; writing for HTMLGiant, poet Donald Dunbar called the remix "life-affirming," and noted approvingly its attempt to be "a message of comfort, understanding, and love."[35][36] In Litragger, poet and Stegner Fellow Corey Van Landingham criticized the negative response to the poem on social media, calling it evidence of "a hazardous trend in contemporary poetry toward impulsive responses...[and] reactions, grounded in the pretense of leftism, that in fact funnel themselves into a quite conservative position in regard to art and culture."[37]

On May 30, 2014, Omnidawn, publisher of Best American Experimental Writing 2014, indicated in a statement that it was "dismayed, disheartened, [and] distressed" by the remix, and that "[Abramson's] actions in this matter are not in alignment with our principles."[38] On June 11, 2014, Abramson published a poem entitled "Art Breaks the Sound Barrier," in which Omnidawn's words were remixed to form a statement in support of experimental writing.[39]






Selected Poems[edit]


  1. ^ Author website,
  2. ^ Author biography, The Huffington Post.
  3. ^ Author biography, AGNI.
  4. ^ Review of Northerners, Publishers Weekly (May 2011).
  5. ^ Northerners] (review), Colorado Review
  6. ^ "From Ruin to Rebirth," Notre Dame Review
  7. ^ "You're Always Moving Toward Silence," Poetry (March 2009 Poetry Foundation Podcast).
  8. ^ "Living on LIPP," The Harvard Law Record (September 22, 2005).
  9. ^ The New Hampshire Review (Masthead).
  10. ^ "July 2012 Contemporary Poetry Reviews, The Huffington Post
  11. ^ "A New Press Play Column: Seth Abramson's 'Metamericana'", Indiewire (January 31, 2014)
  12. ^ "Metamericana: Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty Is Exactly That," Indiewire (February 28, 2014)
  13. ^ "On American Metamodernism," The Huffington Post (February 7, 2014)
  14. ^ "Talks on Metamodernism with Seth Abramson," As It Ought to Be (March 12, 2014)
  15. ^ "Best American Experimental Writing Anthology Announced," The Poetry Foundation (November 12, 2012).
  16. ^ "Announcing Omnidawn's New Annual Anthology, Best American Experimental Writing," Omnidawn (November 7, 2012).
  17. ^ "Best American Experimental Writing: Guidelines for Submitting," Wesleyan University Press (April 17, 2014).
  18. ^ The MFA Research Project
  19. ^ "American Poetry and Its Institutions," The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry Since 1945 (February 8, 2013)
  20. ^ "The MFA Degree: A Bad Decision?", The Missouri Review (August 29, 2011)
  21. ^ "2010 MFA Rankings: The Top 50," Poets & Writers. Archived 9 April 2010 at WebCite
  22. ^ "The Top 50 MFA Programs," Poets & Writers.
  23. ^ "2011 MFA Rankings: The Top Fifty," Poets & Writers.
  24. ^ "2011 MFA Rankings: The Top Ten Low-Residency Programs," Poets & Writers.
  25. ^ "What Defines a Successful Post-M.F.A. Career?", The Chronicle of Higher Education (November 3, 2011)
  26. ^ "M.F.A. Application-Season Etiquette," The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  27. ^ "The MFA/Creative Writing System Is An Undemocratic, Medieval Guild System That Represses Good Writing," Boulevard.
  28. ^ "Creative Writing Programs: Is The MFA System Corrupt And Undemocratic?," The Huffington Post.
  29. ^ "The Most Underappreciated Profession," Ron Silliman (August 12, 2009).
  30. ^ Stoeffel, Kat (8 September 2011). "Creative Writing Profs Dispute Their Ranking–No, the Entire Notion of Ranking!". The New York Observer. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  31. ^ a b "Poets & Writers Responds to Open Letter". Poets & Writers. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  32. ^ a b
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ "Abramson - Thievery". The University of Akron Press. Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  41. ^ "Abramson - Northerners". New Issues Press. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  42. ^ "Prizes". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  43. ^ "The Creative Writing MFA Handbook". Continuum Books. Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^