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worried about writing sample-- BUFFALO!

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A few questions here.

SUNY-Buffalo is by far my top choice because of their Poetics program. I applied a few years ago (that was the only school I applied to) and was rejected. I am completely KICKING MYSELF now because I did not, at that time, write to ask why my application was rejected, which would have given me a concrete direction for improvement this time around.

I know my application will definitely be better this time-- I've improved my GRE verbal, got a much clearer focus for my SOP which is pitched directly at the Poetics program (it wasn't last time), and have added one LOR to my crew who will write me a really strong one.

First question, though I fear I already know the answer to this. :(

What if I asked at this point why my first application was rejected? would they still have it on file? and, would I look like a horrific procrastinator? I essentially just want to know whether it was the SOP or the writing sample that was the problem... those are the only two things I could think it would be. GRE was ok (not great), LORS were great, great GPA, etc.

Second, I am worried about my writing sample. Last time I submitted a 22-pg seminar paper that was very well-written and has actually been published, but it is on a theorist who is not well-known and is probably very much ridiculed in some circles (Eric Gans-- anyone heard of him? Anthropoetics? the originary scene of symbolic representation? the end of culture?? very interesting and strange stuff, I don't really believe in it at all but managed to write a paper that Gans himself published in his journal, which is peer-reviewed and everything). Gans himself is not a theorist I'm planning to work with but my essay was about the aesthetic experience, which is very much my area. Is a writing sample on this really unfashionable theorist going to hurt me? I also have another essay I could submit which also centers on aesthetics/poetics (my area), but is about a Victorian novel (not my area-- I plan to focus on modernism). This paper is 13 pages, not long enough for Buffalo (they want 20-30). Its not really my best writing but shows better than the Gans paper how I've been working up to my area of interest, and it doesn't include any unfashionable theorists or anything. My thought as of now is to include both of them, but if the Gans paper was what got me rejected originally, sending it again could be death. I can't really see, though, how I could expand the other paper all that much. Damn it, should have asked them this 2 years ago!!!!

I also had the thought to explicitly state in my SOP that the Gans paper was included to show what I'm capable of in terms of writing style and shouldn't be looked at for content, and that the other paper shows more about my current ways of analyzing and something I could possibly do in my area of interest (though I would be doing that in modernist lit).

any other tips on getting into Buffalo would also be appreciated. I realized recently I am so dead-set on going there, its difficult to even get motivated to apply anywhere else.... but I am going to.

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I'm applying to the Poetics Program, but for the first time, so I suppose we're competition. It's probably my number two, after Penn, but the $$ is probably going to be the big decider if it comes down to it/

I would guess that they wouldn't have the records from two years ago about why you weren't accepted. How were your GREs last time? There's always the chance you didn't reach a cut-off. And submitting the same paper is a bit of a gamble. If it's your strongest writing it shouldn't be a problem--the topic doesn't seem as important. Especially if you're talking about wanting to work with the Tedlocks when you get there. Adcoms always change too--you could have someone like them who's very friendly to Anthropoetics reading your paper. But Buffalo is super friendly to the avant-garde, and it never hurts to feed into that (my writing sample is about Pound, FYI).

I guess making your fit more clear in the SoP would help. Are you really getting into specific people that you want to work with? And saying substantive things about the program?

And then how are your LoRs? I'm putting a bit of faith in my Buffalo application in the fact that One of my LoRs founded the Poetics program and then ran it for twenty years. It's my trump card in the whole app.

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Thanks for the input! My GRE last time was pretty average -- 600 verbal 630 quant. My verbal is better this time but not much-- 163 which is 650 on the old scale, 93rd percentile. This time my math was 19th percentile!!! omg.... I guess I couldn't pull off the guessing thing twice. Analytical writing 5.5 this time, but last time I somehow got a TWO. Don't really know what to say about that. Do you think any of those scores last year could have gotten me disqualified? I've probably been much too cavalier about the GRE through this whole process. I never studied for even one second because I wanted to focus on the other parts of the app.

My LORS should be good-- all 3 of them gave me A+'s on my seminar papers for their classes and two gave me an A+ in the class as well (these kinds of high grades are pretty unheard of at the school where I did my MA, but it is not a high-ranked school or anything). I have one person writing me a letter who didn't last time, and she knows me better than the last letter-writer. (last time I applied before completing my MA). That is so awesome that one of your LORS founded the poetics program!! Jealous! did he/she give you any advice on what the Buffalo adcomm in particular is looking for?

I have the feeling that my SOP is what got me rejected last time-- I did not have a specific focus at all and I sounded like a totally naive and overambitious idiot talking in vague abstractions. I cringe reading it now. This time its much more focused, feasible, and pitched much more convincingly at the poetics department (I kind of realized that when I used to say "aesthetics" i really was talking about "poetics". AAGH!). I'm thinking I will talk a lot about the department in general and the atmosphere there rather than about specific professors-- does that sound ok? last time I made a big deal out of wanting to study with Steve McCaffrey but who knows if we would even get along, right? the thing I'm sure about is that I want to be in the poetics program-- I've had a solid interest in poetics, both from an academic and a creative perspective, since I first started taking English classes and I'm sure now that it won't change. As near as I can tell Buffalo poetics is the only program in the nation where creative pursuits are so intimately combined with academics without there being any formal creative writing requirements to the program. That is the perfect environment for me.

For the writing sample I'm also considering submiting the shorter paper I mentioned earlier along with another 13-pager. Unfortunately though this one is also not on modernism-- its mostly about a film adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray-- which I use as a way to sort of philosophize about how Wilde's poetics necessarily plays out differently in the novel and in film-- because of "the visual" as a category etc. In it I discuss visual metaphors and metaphor itself and translation between media which totally relates to the premises of what I'm pitching in my SOP-- a study of music metaphors in modernist literature as a way into talking about modernist poetics~ but is it a no-go because its mostly about a film adaptation??

What also worries me about sending in my Anthropoetics essay again is that, aside from the obscure and unfashionable topic, I think it sounds sort of incomprehensable to anyone who hasn't read Gans. I mean, the intro immediately jumps into this whole thing about "fundamental human categories" and "the originary scene of symbolic representation"-- you can tell that the writing is good, but it sounds like I'm on my own special planet. I think my other papers are more immediately accessible to people who don't necessarily have a background in the topic I'm writing on.

Sorry this is so long.

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That is really helpful to know, Timshel-- thanks so much for the tip!!

Is it ok to make a big deal about what a good fit the poetics program in general is for me? people were saying in some other threads on here that some schools don't even like you to mention fit explicitly because it should be obvious from your proposed project. Did your professors say anything about talking about fit generally?

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