Poetry writing combines the interests of the poetry faculty (some of whom write formal poetry and some of whom write in open forms) and the interests of the students. Ultimately, students are exposed to a range of contemporary poetry writing today: from new formalism to free, open forms to language poetry or experimental poetry, though not necessarily in any systematic order. Mentors follow the lead of the students and work with their poems as objectively as possible both in workshop and during the semester not encouraging poets to “write like me” but to be the best they can in their chosen styles. But mentors may also make assignments if a student seems limited to a too narrowly focused style. For instance, a beginning semester student may welcome assignments as a way of breaking out of a particular mode of writing and stretching oneself. Reading a wide range of poets—both ancient and modern—helps poetry writing students understand the depth of language in all human experience and how they may choose to write poetry in the twenty-first century that is meaningful to them and also connects with an audience.

Workshops leaders stress reading the work aloud, placing the work in context, development of a poetic voice, the integrity of the line in open form, stanza formation, use of form and/or rhyme (if applicable), making connections to contemporary poets and others in literary history, and suggestions for revisions. It is understood that there will be different styles and tastes so tolerance for a diversity of poetry is paramount in the workshop and the mentor/student relationship. During the semester, as mentors learn students’ strength and interests, they will direct students toward particular poets from whom they can learn. The single poem as a discreet work of art is usually the focus in workshop, but during the semester students may be urged to group poems in sequence, work with a series of poems take a framework such as the persona poem, linked formal poems, or narrative verse.

Our prize-winning poetry faculty includes great teachers who actively publish and regularly give readings and lectures at conferences, universities, and other important venues across the world. Their work has been awarded numerous prizes. Our poetry faculty members have broken new ground by creating one-woman shows and graphic poetry.  One helped create the innovative literary program Poetry in Motion. One helped to found the important Alabama Writer’s Forum. Two have served as poet laureates for Montana and Kentucky.

Complete faculty information

Alumni in Poetry

Yes, we are proud of our caring poetry faculty—but we are just as proud of our poetry graduates! Our Spalding MFA poetry alumni have helped create an inspiring, rich, and well-respected poetry program.

Our Spalding poetry graduates are among the most active, creative, and vibrant participants in our national (and international) poetry scene.

  • Our poetry students and alumni have been awarded many important literary prizes including the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, NAACP Image Award in Literature, the Nightboat Poetry Prize, Quercus Review Poetry Series Annual Book Award, the Powder Horn Prize, New Letters Readers’ Award for Poetry, The Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Competition, the James Hearst Poetry Prize for the North American Review, the George Scarbrough Award for Poetry, the AWP Intro Poetry Award, and the Lillian Smith Book Award. Alumni Frank X Walker was named Kentucky Poet Laureate 2013-15.
  • Our poetry students and graduates have published hundreds of poems in many of the best literary magazines including Poetry, the North American Review, Ploughshares, Boulevard, Pleiades, Copper Nickel, Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, The Louisville Review, New Letters, Southern Poetry Review, American Letters and Commentary, The Kenyon Review, Salamander, Harvard Review, AGNI, Shenandoah, New Millennium Writings, Barrow Street, The Dos Passos Review, Dark Sky, Public Republic, Modern Haiku, Raritan, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review.

  • Spalding poetry students and alumni have published full-length collections of poems with great presses including the University of Georgia Press, Finishing Line, Steel Toes, University Press of Kentucky, Sage Hill Press, Word Press, Wordcraft of Oregon, Word Farm, Accents Publishing, Pecan Gove, Fractal Edge Press, Fakel Express, Broadstone Books, Otter Bay, Punkin House Press, Wind Publishing, Yellow Flag Press, Typecast, and Old Cove Press.
  • Spalding poetry students and graduates have also been featured in Best American Poetry, Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, Poetry Daily, and Verse Daily.
  • Spalding poets  have won many grants for their writing, including awards from the Lannan Foundation, the New York State Council on Arts, the Kentucky Arts Council, Sewanee, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, West Chester Poetry Conference, Caldera Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Maryland State Arts Council, and Fishtrap.
  • And our poetry students and graduates believe in giving back to the literary arts in big ways! Poetry alumni serve as editors for River Styx, The Florida Review, BloodLotus, WordFarm, Accents, and Pluck! Poetry grads have founded literary arts organizations including InKY, Inc, Poetry Factory, the NC Writers Network, and Writing for a Change. Many serve on boards including The Georgia Writers’ Association and Literary Louisville. They teach writing as K-12 teachers, university faculty, visiting writers, and artists in residence across the country at institutions including Washington University, St. Louis, Indiana University Southeast, the University of Alabama, East Georgia State, Centre College, Transylvania University, Indiana Wesleyan, University of New Hampshire, American University in Bulgaria, Lesley University, Valparaiso University, Piedmont Technical College, Community College of Philadelphia, University of Central Florida, The Carnegie Center, and the North Rim of Grand Canyon Center for Great Plains Studies.

Contact us:

MFA Office: (502) 873-4400 or (800) 896-8941, ext. 4400

FAX: (502) 992-2409

MFA in Writing
Spalding University
851 South Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40203

last updated 07-09-14