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Poetry – MFA in Writing

Our faculty includes a diverse group of poet/teachers making their mark on contemporary literature. Program Director Kathleen Driskell’s Seed Across Snow was a national bestseller. Kiki Petrosino’s Witch Wife was listed in the New York Times 10 Best Poetry Books of 2017. Greg Pape served as Poet Laureate of Montana. Jeanie Thompson runs the Alabama Writers’ Forum. Debra Kang Dean brings her taiji practice to her poetry and teaching. Every member of our faculty is a dedicated, caring teacher. Visit our faculty page to read more.

A statement by our poetry faculty distills their approach to teaching:

Mentors follow the students’ lead and work with their poems as objectively as possible, not encouraging poets to “write like me” but to flourish in their chosen styles. Faculty stress reading the work aloud, placing the work in context and developing a poetic voice, as well as considerations such as the integrity of the line in open form, stanza formation, use of form or rhyme (if applicable), connections to contemporary poets and others in literary history, and revision.

This approach helps our students and alums launch themselves into the world as practicing, publishing poets. One alum serves as president of the Cave Canem board of directors. One served as Poet Laureate of Kentucky and won a Lannan Literary Award for poetry and an NAACP Image Award. One recently won the Tampa Review Prize for her full-length collection, which is now beautifully published. One alum edited an anthology about the work of W.S. Merwin. Another is a slam poet, educator, youth mentor, and activist.

Alums’ poetry collections have been published by University of Georgia Press, University Press of Kentucky, Milkweed Editions, and many other distinguished presses.

Past visiting poets include

  • U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey (Native Guard)
  • U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner W. S. Merwin (The Shadow of Sirius)
  • Pulitzer Prize winner Claudia Emerson (Late Wife)
  • Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa (Neon Vernacular)
  • Molly Peacock (The Second Blush: Poems)
  • Naomi Shihab Nye (You and Yours)
  • Gregory Orr (River Inside the River: Poems)
  • NAACP Image Award Winner Frank X Walker (Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers)