The Curriculum

The MFA in Poetry with an Emphasis in Versecraft curriculum begins with the basics and moves systematically through the full range of verse technique in English. What that means is we start with meter (Anglo-Saxon strong stress, ballad meter, stress-based imitations of classical forms, blank verse, triple meters, free verse, etc.) then move to stanza forms (couplets, terza rima, quatrains, ottava rima…), received lyrical forms (sonnet, haiku, ballade, sestina, triolet, pantoum, ghazal…) and then into lyrical genres (elegy, aubade, pastoral, serenade, ode, and scores of others).

At every stage, we read classical and contemporary poems in all the forms and genres, scan them, study history and criticism, and then, of course, students write and scan their own work. In subsequent courses we take up verse satire, verse drama, verse narrative, and all sorts of related issues such as the art of the book review, the history of the English language and of English prosody, poetry pedagogy, translation, poetry in performance and more. While the weekly exercises are meant to be low-stakes affairs — to encourage students to experiment and to learn — the goal in the end is to produce an original book-length original manuscript, and of course, to begin (or continue) to publish.

The curriculum is rigorous and challenging and quite unusual in the way we approach poetic study — which is primarily by studying the work of the masters and then writing in the same form — the goal being to give each student the skill and background to make his or her own work shine, whether it is sonnets, satire, or a free-verse soliloquy.

Students who complete the program will also be required to demonstrate their readiness to participate fully in the literary world through public speaking and relevant prose (book reviews, metrical analysis, historical investigation, etc.). This concentration requires passing a comprehensive exam on formal poetry and poetics as well as second-year reading competency in a foreign language.

The MFA Concentration in Poetry requires 60 credits:
CRWR 600     Summer Orientation 3 credits
CRWR 631     Scansion Immersion 2 credits
CRWR 632     Public Performance 2 credits
CRWR 633     Poetry and Music 2 credits
CRWR 636 Metrical Traditions  & Versification I 6 credits View the Syllabus
CRWR 637 History of the English Language  and Teaching Poetry 6 credits
CRWR 641 Metrical Traditions  & Versification II 6 credits
CRWR 642     Poetry Book Reviewing and Translation 6 credits
CRWR 646*   Narrative Forms in Poetry 6 credits
CRWR 647* The Satirical Tradition and Dramatic Verse 6 credits
CRWR 651     Advanced Poetry Genres in Particular Forms 6 credits
CRWR 652     Rhyme 6 credits
CRWR 694     Thesis 3 credits
*In place of either CRWR 646 or CRWR 647, choose one of the following:
CRWR 606     What Do You Know (about Fiction)? 6 credits
CRWR 607     The Truth and a Good Story: Research for the Fiction Writer 6 credits
CRWR 665     The Narrative in Picture Form 6 credits
CRWR 667     Screenwriting Genre 6 credits

View descriptions of all courses>>

If you have questions about the MFA Poetry Concentration or the Symposium on Poetry Criticism, email David J. Rothman at

General questions about the MFA program, or the concentrations in genre fiction or screenwriting, should be directed to the Creative Writing Program Director, Mark Todd, at