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 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 (ENCW) 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 (ENPW 4910/4920), 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 to complete:

  • the pre-requisite to the English major (one ENLT course with a grade of “C” or two 3000-level English courses averaging a “B”)

As well as 30 hours of upper-level course work in English, including:

  • ENGL 3810 and 3820 (or ENGL 3830 & ENGL 3810)
  • 12 hours of upper-level poetry writing courses or independent studies (3000-level or above) (one of these workshops may be in literary prose writing)
  • Two (2) Poetry Writing Area Program seminars (Poetry Program Poetics, ENPW 4820)* on various topics of interest to students of poetry writing (restricted to students in the Area Program) (students may take more than 2 of these classes if they wish)
  • One (1) pre-1800-level course in English at the 3000-level or above (ENMD, ENRN, ENEC, including any Shakespeare course)
  • 3 hours of coursework in English at the 4000-level or above (non-ENPW or ENCW rubric)

A prosody or other poetic forms class, when offered, is also recommended.

*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 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," 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.

The Capstone Course (ENPW 4910/4920): Area Program in Poetry Writing students are encouraged to participate in a capstone course in the fourth year, an exciting, year-long investigation of student-directed, shared texts that allow students to read widely and across disciplines in areas of individual aesthetic interest, culminating in 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.

How to Apply: Applications for rising third-year majors interested in the poetry writing area program are due to the director, Lisa Russ Spaar, in March. 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. Applications are available from Professor Spaar and in Bryan Hall 236.

For Further Information: Contact Program Director Lisa Russ Spaar in Bryan Hall 407, or by phone at 434-924-6625, or by e-mail at LRS9E@virginia.edu. Application forms may also be found in Bryan 236.

You can download the APPW application here. Deadline is March 23, 2015.