"It was one of the best decisions of my life. It's an incredible program."
You will find nobody more enthusiastic about Carlow's MFA program than Tess Barry, '13. That's no small praise, considering the source. Barry was just shortlisted for the Manchester Poetry Prize, one of the most prestigious poetry awards in the world.
"It was so exciting to be there,” says Barry of her visit to Manchester, England, where the award ceremony took place. “The people who run the Manchester Writing School were really cool. Being shortlisted for the Manchester Prize has created opportunities for me as a writer."
Barry was also twice a finalist for North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Prize and Aesthetica's Poetry Award (UK), as well as shortlisted for the 2014 Bridport Poetry Prize, UK. Her poems have been published in the U.S., UK, Ireland and Australia.
Carlow's MFA is mostly low-residency, with two intensive residencies per year--two weeks in Pittsburgh, at Carlow's Oakland campus, and two weeks in Ireland. The Ireland residency usually takes place at Trinity College Dublin, home to such writers as James Joyce and Edna O'Brien (whose son, Carlo Gébler, also a renowned writer, is one of Carlow's Ireland-based mentors).
"The Irish aspect was instrumental to my growth as a poet," says Barry. "There's something about the way poetry is valued in Ireland. The culture is steeped in poetry. I've been back eight times since I graduated."
Each residency allows for the kind of mentoring and apprenticeship that makes for better writers and better writing. The 2015 - 2016 mentors included Jean O'Brien, Joseph Bathanti, Kristin Kovacic, and Jan Beatty. Beatty is head of the creative writing department at Carlow and the guiding force behind another of Carlow's writing initiatives: Madwomen in the Attic, an ongoing series of creative writing workshops open to writers of all kinds. Tess Barry is a longtime Madwoman in the Attic and was brought to the Madwomen and to Carlow's MFA program by Jan Beatty. "She is a brilliant poet and teacher and she's the reason I did an MFA at Carlow."
Barry's involvement with Carlow doesn't end there -- she and other MFA grads have organized a Carlow MFA Alumni Association.
"It's an amazing, diverse community of people," she says. "It's a way of deepening our connections to Carlow and to each other as writers."
Learn more about Carlow's MFA in Creative Writing program.