At Spalding, poetry students are exposed to a range of contemporary poetry, from new formalism to free, open forms to language poetry or experimental poetry, though not necessarily in any systematic order. 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. Reading a wide range of poets—both ancient and modern—helps students understand the depth of language in all human experience and how they may choose to write meaningful poetry in the twenty-first century.

Faculty stress reading the work aloud, placing the work in context, and developing a poetic voice, as well as such considerations as the integrity of the line in open form, stanza formation, use of form and/or rhyme (if applicable), connections to contemporary poets and others in literary history, and revision. Our prize-winning poetry faculty includes excellent teachers who actively publish and give readings and lectures at conferences, universities, and other important venues across the world. Faculty members have served as poets laureate for Montana and Kentucky.

Spalding poetry alums and students are among the most active, creative, and vibrant participants in the national and international poetry scene. Their achievements are vast: Their literary prizes include the Lannan Literary Award, Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, NAACP Image Award in Literature, and the Nightboat Poetry Prize; their poems have appeared in the best literary magazines; their full-length collections have been published by the top presses. They serve as editors of literary journals and founders of literary arts organizations. They teach at major universities. Alumnus Frank X Walker was named Kentucky Poet Laureate 2013-14.

Past visiting poets include U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner W. S. Merwin, Pulitzer Prize winners Claudia Emerson and Yusef Komunyakaa, and eminent poets Molly Peacock, Naomi Shihab Nye, Gregory Orr, and Frank X Walker.

All Spalding MFA students may opt to spend a residency or an entire semester studying a second area of concentration as a way to enrich their craft and expand their understanding of aesthetics.