1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

The Area Program in Poetry Writing

Program Director - Professor Lisa Russ Spaar, lrs9e@virginia.edu

This area program of the Department of English allows talented undergraduate writers to pursue serious study of the craft of poetry writing and poetics within the context of the English major. The Area Program in Poetry Writing (APPW) encourages its participants to shape an interdisciplinary curriculum that nurtures and inspires each student’s particular work and developing aesthetic.  Many of our students double major or minor in another discipline that relates to their poetic projects and inclinations.

In addition to taking upper-level English literature courses, students in the APPW will take at least 12 hours of upper-level poetry writing courses (3000, 4000, and 5000-level) and two 3-hour seminars (ENPW 4820) designed especially for poets in the Program.   In the fourth year, students are encouraged to engage in a capstone class, a two-semester project which culminates in the creation of a manuscript of original poetry.

The Poetry Writing Area Program is a two-year course of study.  The Program is small and admission is competitive.  Students apply in the spring semester of their second year.  After the student is admitted, she or he must declare a major in English, though the requirements for the Poetry Writing program differ from the requirements for a standard major.

Committed to the conviction that close reading and creative writing are inextricably and essentially linked, the program requires its students, in addition to fulfilling the pre-requisite for the major, to complete 30 hours of upper-level course work in English:

Take 30 credits of courses in English.  These must include:

1.  ENGL 3830 and either ENGL 3810 or 3820.

2.  12 hours of upper-division (3000-level or above) poetry writing courses or independent studies.

3.  Two Poetry Writing Area Program seminars (ENPW 4820).

4.  One course in literature published before 1800 at the 3000-level or above.

5.  Three hours of coursework in literature at the 4000-level or above.

When offered, a prosody or other poetic forms class is also recommended.

APPW students are not required but encouraged to participated in a year-long Capstone Course (ENPW 4910/4920) in the fourth year, which results in the creation of a collection of original poems.  Students may elect to apply, as well, to take part in the Distinguished Majors Program, a scholarly project that is separate from the APPW.

*The Poetry Writing Seminars (Poetry Program Poetics): These ENPW 4820 seminars are readings courses for poets, designed to foster intimate experiences of texts, creative work, reciprocal conversation about and discovery of mutual interests, enlargement of students understanding of language and its capacities, and collegial community among students in the poetry writing program.  Topics, which are often interdisciplinary and cross-genre in nature,  might include The Poetic Sequence in Contemporary American Poetry, Ecstatic Poetry,  Dramatic Monologue: The Mask in Verse, Negative Capability and its Heirs, Terrorizing and Creating Reality: Language & the Surrealist Poets, Order and Disorder: The Lyric Impulse, Brilliant Corners: Jazz & Poetry, Poetry and the World, "Poetic Form," or Poets Prose.   Or these seminars might focus on a particular poet or poets.  These seminars are offered to APPW students each semester; the APPW student is required to take two while matriculating in the Program, and may take more than two if he or she wishes.  These courses are open to non-APPW students on a space-available basis and at the discretion of the instructor.

The Capstone Course (ENPW 4910/4920):  Area Program in Poetry Writing students are not required but encouraged to participate in a capstone course in the fourth year, a year-long investigation of student-directed, shared texts that allows students to read widely and across disciplines in areas of individual aesthetic interest, to think beyond the individual, discrete poem, and to consider more consciously the development of their own work over time. The year-long endeavor results in a creative project, the creation of a collection of original poems.  The course is completed over the course of two semesters, with a group seminar in the fall, and a combination of independent work and peer manuscript reading meetings in the spring.

Note:  APPW students may elect to apply, as well, to take part in the Distinguished Majors Program of the Department of English, a scholarly project that is separate from the APPW.  Interested students will inquire about and apply to the DM program in the spring of their third year.

How to Apply to the APPW: Applications for rising third-year majors interested in the poetry writing area program are due to Director Lisa Russ Spaar (hard copy, in her faculty mailbox in Bryan Hall) by the deadline, determined each spring.   To apply, students must complete the required application form, accompanied by no more than ten pages of original poetry, a one- to two-page personal statement,  and one letter of recommendation from a professor who knows well the student’s work and potential for success in a small, focused program of study.  Students should include a local telephone number and e-mail address with their submissions.  All materials should be submitted in duplicate, except for the recommendation letter.

For Further Information: Contact Program Director Lisa Russ Spaar in Bryan Hall 403, or by phone at 434-924-6625, or by e-mail at LRS9E@virginia.edu.  Application forms may also be found in Bryan 236.