Éire and Back: MFA takes students far afield.

"When I die Dublin will be written in my heart." - James Joyce

Brandon Fury and Karla Lamb, MFA students in class

A good Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program helps students hone their craft as writers. It creates a space where writers explore their own interiors, finding new places in themselves that they might never have visited. Carlow’s MFA program turns this inward journey outward and offers them the opportunity to visit the birthplace of so much important English-language literature: Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

In fact, an MFA student at Carlow visits Ireland twice during the two-year program. These visits are not just for sight-seeing and draughts of Guinness, but for an intense, working residency assisted by Irish mentors whose perspective and assistance simply can’t be replicated stateside.

It was this traveling residency that attracted current Poetry MFA students Karla Lamb and Brandon Fury to Carlow, but it wasn’t the only factor. Carlow is widely known for its small classes and personal approach to education, and the MFA program is a shining example.

“The one-on-one work really helped,” says Fury. “You can see the change between my first semester and now.”

Lamb agrees: “I wouldn’t be as successful a writer without it.”

MFA ireland talk
photo by Karla Lamb

One faculty member in particular was a major piece of the MFA puzzle for both Lamb and Fury when choosing which school’s program to join: renowned poet and head of the creative writing department, Jan Beatty.

“I came to Carlow because I knew she was here,” says Fury.

The respect goes both ways, too, as Beatty will not hesitate to tell you: “The students in Carlow's MFA program are inspiring in their commitment to writing---they want to live the writer's life, to breath inside the work. They're ready to put it all on the line for the love of words, and that's a beautiful thing. I'm honored to work with them.”

The fourth leg for Lamb and Fury starts in June, when they go back to Dublin for the 11 days of their final residency. By their own admission, they will emerge from Carlow better writers than they were before, and maybe a little reluctant to leave.

“I think it’s a great program. It changed my life. I think it can change others,” says Fury, smiling. “I love it here.”

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