The MFA program's concentration in poetry is a three-year, individualized apprenticeship to the art of poetry within a supportive community of writers. We welcome and encourage a variety of aesthetics, experimentation, and active engagement with poetic history. While schedules of coursework are individual, each poet in the program participates in three key courses:
- First year, Forms of Poetry
- Second year, "Poetry Planet," a research seminar that prepares students for the MFA Exam, taken at the end of the second year
- By the third year, all poets participate in the Advanced Workshop, which focuses on the whole of a student’s evolving thesis.
Our diverse curriculum includes writing workshops, literature seminars, and special topics courses such as seminars in the book arts, hybrid forms, the poetic sequence, translation, writing after reading, and the prose poem.
The MFA Exam is an important benchmark in the poetry program. Students are expected to sit for the exam in the summer between their second and third year of study. For poetry students, sitting for the exam is the chance to develop ideas and demonstrate knowledge of the genre after much preparation and consideration, and before taking on thesis studies. In preparation for their exam, poetry students should download Preparing for the MFA Exam. A list of sample exam questions is available, too.
The program's culminating experience is the MFA Thesis. The thesis affords all students the chance to assemble a book-length manuscript of poems, stories or essays, or a novel or a portion of a novel-length work. From the academic perspective, the thesis demonstrates whether a student has learned the conventions of their genre and is capable of original creative work. While most thesis projects require additional refinement, it is the hope of the faculty that talented writers will not cease creative efforts upon graduation and that the thesis project will be an avenue for on-going meaningful work.
An MFA student typically embarks on a thesis project at the start of the third year. The most successful projects are conceptualized long before this point, however. Ideally, a student has begun to generate material during the second year, and we advise all students to make full use of the summer before thesis hours even begin.
The thesis preparation and writing process, including registering for ENGH 799 Thesis Hours, is explained in the MFA handbook.