Alumni Spotlight | Robert McDowell (Writing '76)

Robert McDowellWas there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?
Faculty: Richard Eberhart, William Jay Smith and Andrew Sarris for their erudition, generosity, kindness and high standards both in and out of the workshop.
Peers: Linda Corrente (deceased), Adele Slaughter, Katha Pollitt, Elizabeth Wray, Jorie Pepper for their critiques and encouragement.  
How did attending the School of the Arts impact your work and career as an artist?
It got me to New York for two years and introduced me to a cornucopia of writers and editors and literary people I might not have met otherwise. I think with fondness of James Baldwin, Frank MacShane, Norman Mailer, James Dickey, Paula Dietz and Frederick Morgan of The Hudson Review, and Ezra Pound's daughter. Thanks to Columbia University, I also discovered a love of opera and availed myself of many two-dollar tickets to the Met and the New York City Opera.
What were the most pressing social/political issues on the minds of the students when you were here?
Civil Rights. Women's Rights, recovery from the Nixon regime, greater representation of women across the spectrum of writing and publishing.
If you could revisit any piece you created during your time at the School of the Arts, which would it be? Why?

Oh, of course it would have to be my final manuscript of poetry. How different it might be! Or might have been. The experience at the School of the Arts was so rich, diverse and non-stop in its engagement and impact. I adored every moment and was sorry to reach the end of the road.
What was your favorite or most memorable class while at the School of the Arts?
My favorite workshop would have to be the one taught by Richard Eberhart. He was such a sensitive, positive and generous reader of every student's work. He told terrific stories, and he and his wife, Betty, were completely open and available to us. Great examples!

About Robert McDowell
Robert McDowell is the author, co-author, editor and translator of 15 books and 4 e-books of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction from publishers such as Free Press/Simon & Schuster, New Directions, the University of Pittsburgh Press, Penguin Eastern European Classics, University of Michigan Press, Salmon Publishing (Ireland), and many others. He co-founded Story Line Press and served as its publisher and editor for twenty-two years, during which he selected, edited and guided into print 300 volumes of poetry, fiction, criticism, creative non-fiction, drama and writers' guides. He created The Rural Readers Project and was co-founder (with Louis Simpson and Frederick Morgan) of the annual Poets' Prize. He co-created (with Liam Rector) the original blueprint for the current MFA Program at Bennington College and taught at the University of Southern Indiana, UC Santa Cruz and Bennington. He is also a workshop and retreat leader, public speaker, fund development specialist and activist for women's rights and literacy. His work has appeared in many journals and anthologies including The New Criterion, The Hudson Review, NER/BLQ, Sewanee Review, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry and London Magazine, among others. He was a two-year Woolrich Fellow at Columbia University's School of the Arts.
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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.