Poetry Course Sequence

This page outlines the sequence of courses each student must take to fulfill the requirements for the degree. To see the catalogue description of each course, go to "Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft HOME" and click on the tab titled "Courses," or click directly here.

The Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Western uses a low-residency format that requires:

1) on-campus intensive seminars and workshops for two weeks during three consecutive summers;

2) a plan of non-residency study requiring four academic semesters, during each of which students work both with peers and one-to-one with writing faculty mentors.

The graduate program insists on a high degree of commitment and excellence from candidates, all of whom must maintain a 3.0 GPA to complete the program. A minimum grade of B- in each course applied to a degree program is also required. Summer residency courses within concentrations are front-loaded -- that is, these courses require students to prepare for the intensive residency experience by completing pre-assigned reading lists as well as preparing advanced assignments to maximize the time for discussion and qualitative analysis during the course of studies on campus.

In the first and second summer residencies, candidates also complete one credit each summer of CRWR 600, learning or updating online tools mastery, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with non-residency mentors. Third-summer candidates earn one credit attending and participating in critiques and readings for cohorts attending their first and second summers. All students also attend and participate in Writing the Rockies, a summer creative writing conference hosted on campus during each residency.

MFA candidates may elect to study two concentrations by increasing the duration of their program to six semesters and a fourth summer residency. MA candidates may continue into the MFA program at the discretion of the admissions committee.

The non-residency component of each concentration involves both intensive coursework online, including reading and writing assignments and interactive work on discussion boards, along with faculty advising. Students spend a minimum of 25-30 hours per week on writing assignments. Students also participate weekly in threaded synchronous and asynchronous online voice and discussion boards during each term with other students and mentors. Students earn 12 credits each semester for this work (six credits for each mentored course topic).

The Poetry Concentration

"Writing in a new form every week challenges my growth as a poet, and immersion into the history of form and innovation constantly renews my sensibilities about what a poem is - and does." -- Laura Stuckey, MFA '13

Students come to Western with something to say. The curriculum of our MFA poetry concentration helps poets master how to say it.

Verse is not only a way of saying something; it is also a way of doing something that prose cannot. That is why, in this program, students study the greatest possible range of how to do these things, from meters to stanzas, sonnet to ghazal, aubade to serenade, verse drama to verse satire.

As a Poetry Concentration student, you will master a wide range of poetic forms and techniques, while also acquiring historical and analytical knowledge. You will develop a wide range of skills in composing poetic language, practicing multiple forms and techniques. You will study how to participate fully in the literary world, from taking a summer intensive public speaking to practicing the writing of  relevant prose, such as poetry book reviews. And, finally, you will learn how to live as a poet, how to turn your passion for language and your love of these forms into your career.

Poetry with a Focus on Versecraft

The concentration in Poetry with a Focus on Versecraft requires that students achieve demonstrable mastery of a wide range of poetic forms and techniques along with acquiring historical and analytical knowledge about them. 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 versecraft and poetics as well as sufficient reading competency in a foreign language, aided by a dictionary, to translate foreign-language poetry into English.

The MFA Concentration in Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft requires the following 60 credits:

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation (taken three times with different emphasis each summer)

1 Credit

CRWR 631  Scansion Immersion

2 Credits

CRWR 632  Public Performance

2 Credits

CRWR 633  Poetry and Music

2 Credits

CRWR 636  Metrical Traditions and Versification I

6 Credits

CRWR 638  History of English Language; Studies in Translation

6 Credits

CRWR 641  Metrical Traditions and Versification II

6 Credits

CRWR 643  Historical Foundations of English Prosody

6 Credits

CRWR 646  Narrative Poetry

6 Credits

CRWR 647  Dramatic Poetry and Satiric Verse

6 Credits

CRWR 653  Poetry Book Reviewing; Poetry, Literacy, Pedagogy

6 Credits

One of the following three out-of-concentration courses during the second Fall term:
CRWR 609  Genre Studies I – Romance and Mystery Fiction I

6 Credits

CRWR 610  Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey

6 Credits

CRWR 665  Screenwriting Genre

6 Credits

And:
CRWR 694  Capstone

6 Credits

Poetry as a Second Area of Emphasis

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows:

CRWR 600  Summer Orientation

1 Credits

One of the following two summer residency courses:
CRWR 632  Public Performance

2 Credits

CRWR 633  Poetry and Music

2 Credits

And;
CRWR 636  Metrical Traditions and Versification I

6 Credits

CRWR 641  Metrical Traditions and Versification II

6 Credits

CRWR 646  Narrative Poetry

6 Credits

CRWR 647  Dramatic Poetry and Satiric Verse

6 Credits

CRWR 694  Capstone

3 Credits

Poetry with Emphasis on Versecraft Course Sequence

The Concentration in Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft requires that students achieve demonstrable mastery of a wide range of poetic forms and techniques along with acquiring historical and analytical knowledge about them. Students also learn to apply strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative writing. 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 versecraft and poetics as well as sufficient reading competency in a foreign language, aided by a dictionary, to translate foreign-language poetry into English.

SUMMER I

CRWR 600 – Summer Orientation (1 credit, to be repeated with different emphasis twice)

Focus on learning mastery of online tools, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with professors during ​first summer; focus on attending presentations and participating in workshop sessions during second summer; and focus on presenting student thesis as well as attending and participating in other readings during third summer. Must be repeated three times for credit. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 631 – Scansion Immersion (2 credits)

Intensive review of prosody – how to make meter and rhythm work in the poetic line as well as how to discern that structure in the works of others. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

FALL I

CRWR 636 – Metrical Traditions and Versification I (6 credits)

Focuses on tracing the development of the metrical tradition in English poetry from the beginning to the present. Students read poems in all the major forms (Anglo-Saxon Strong Stress Meter, the ballad, classical imitations, blank verse, the sonnet, iambic tetrameter, etc.) along with historical and theoretical commentary. Students also model such forms and scan their own work and that of others. Students will also trace the development of theories of versification and prosody in English. Students read a wide range of works, many of them by poets, in which they describe their craft and that of others, and they compare theories of and approaches to metrical poetry. In this course students are expected to produce a wide range of short essays on various traditions of versification, along with at least one substantial research paper. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 638 – History of English Language/Studies in Translation (6 credits)

A two-pronged study, first of the historical development and evolution of English, and second, work to understand translating poetry, studying and comparing translations, reading theories of translation and attempting translations. Prerequisites: Proof of second-year, or its equivalent, of reading competency in a foreign language, and admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

SPRING I

CRWR 641 – Metrical Traditions and Versification II (6 credits)

Advanced topics in metrical composition, e.g. stanza forms, longer forms and sequences, narrative forms, nonce forms (including free verse forms). Students not only practice the forms, but read and scan them along with delving into the history, criticism and theory. The course also selects several major traditions in verse theory and explores them in depth, e.g., linguistic theories of verse; structuralist theories; relations between verse and music; attempt to imitate classical forms in modern languages; etc. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 643 – Historical Foundations of English Prosody (6 credits)

Exploration of the historical sources of meter, rhythm and rhyme in the English renaissance, including study of their ​linguistic origins and the critical arguments that led to the foundation of poetic traditions in early modern England.. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

SUMMER II

CRWR 600 – Summer Orientation (1 credit)

Focus on learning mastery of online tools, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with professors during ​first summer; focus on attending presentations and participating in workshop sessions during second summer; and focus on presenting student thesis as well as attending and participating in other readings during third summer. Must be repeated three times for credit. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 632 – Public Performance (2 credits)

Public speaking as it applies to the performance of poetry, delivery of lectures, and participation in panels, understanding ​of the craft of using their voices and their physical presence to deliver creative, critical and pedagogical work orally to the public, and how to participate in conversations with the greatest possible skill and grace. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

FALL II

CRWR 646 – Narrative Poetry (6 credits)

Examination, analysis, study, and writing in the narrative genres and modes of poetry, from the ballad to the epic and ​novel in verse. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

One of the following out-of-concentration courses:

CRWR 609 – Genre Studies I: Romance and Mystery Fiction (6 Credits; required when there are fewer than four out-of-concentration students who choose the Genre Fiction option)

The primary genre reading course for the first semester of the program. Students study a wide variety of ​​subgenres, including romantic suspense, historical romance, detective fiction, and thrillers, among others, to build a detailed understanding of the specific tropes and hallmarks of each subgenre and how to apply them to their own work. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 610 – Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey (6 Credits; required when there are four or more out-of-concentration students who choose the Genre Fiction option)

A broad genre fiction writing and reading survey course for out-of-concentration students, surveying romance, ​​mystery, speculative fiction, westerns, and young adult category work. Students focus primarily on understanding genre tropes and writing exercises that illuminate them. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 665 – Screenwriting Genre (6 credits)

Challenges students to write filmic stories in three distinct genre categories, forcing a growth and flexibility to create ​meaning across a spectrum of setting, time, and circumstance. Dialogue is permitted but is de-emphasized in favor of a more visual narrative. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

SPRING II

CRWR 647 – Verse Satire / Verse Drama (6 credits)

Examination, analysis, discussion, and writing in all the modes of comic verse, including all the modes of satire ​(Menippean, Horatian, parodic), to verse-based comic approaches such as light verse, doggerel, children’s verse, and more. Additionally, an exploration of dramatic techniques of verse from ancient Greece through the Renaissance, and to modern writers such as T. S. Eliot and up to the present. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 653 – Poetry Book Reviewing / Poetry, Literacy, Pedagogy (6 credits)

Close analysis of the best reviews and criticism of the past and present, and practice in writing similar pieces. Second half ​​of the course focuses on a wide range of techniques and materials available to teachers of poetry. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

SUMMER III

CRWR 600 – Summer Orientation (1 credit)

Focus on learning mastery of online tools, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with professors during ​first summer; focus on attending presentations and participating in workshop sessions during second summer; and focus on presenting student thesis as well as attending and participating in other readings during third summer. Must be repeated three times for credit. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 633 – Poetry and Music (2 credits)

Exploration of some of the complex relations between these two arts, from theoretical discussion to the practical aspects ​​of writing everything from song lyrics to choral odes to opera libretti. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 694 – Capstone (3 credits)

Culmination of the degree. In consultation with an adviser and subject to the requirements within each concentration, ​​the student completes a thesis of publishable quality, suitable for public reading, and for thesis binding. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

Poetry as a Second Concentration Poetry Course Sequence

Students must earn 30 credits in the concentration as follows:

FALL III

CRWR 636 – Metrical Traditions and Versification I (6 credits)

Focuses on tracing the development of the metrical tradition in English poetry from the beginning to the present. ​Students read poems in all the major forms (Anglo-Saxon Strong Stress Meter, the ballad, classical imitations, blank verse, the sonnet, iambic tetrameter, etc.) along with historical and theoretical commentary. Students also model such forms and scan their own work and that of others. Students will also trace the development of theories of versification and prosody in English. Students read a wide range of works, many of them by poets, in which they describe their craft and that of others, and they compare theories of and approaches to metrical poetry. In this course students are expected to produce a wide range of short essays on various traditions of versification, along with at least one substantial research paper. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 646 – Narrative Poetry (6 credits)

Examination, analysis, study, and writing in the narrative genres and modes of poetry, from the ballad to the epic and novel in verse. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

SPRING III

CRWR 641 – Metrical Traditions and Versification II (6 credits)

Advanced topics in metrical composition, e.g. stanza forms, longer forms and sequences, narrative forms, nonce forms ​(including free verse forms). Students not only practice the forms, but read and scan them along with delving into the history, criticism and theory. The course also selects several major traditions in verse theory and explores them in depth, e.g., linguistic theories of verse; structuralist theories; relations between verse and music; attempt to imitate classical forms in modern languages; etc. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 647 – Verse Satire / Verse Drama (6 credits)​

Examination, analysis, discussion, and writing in all the modes of comic verse, including all the modes of satire ​(Menippean, Horatian, parodic), to verse-based comic approaches such as light verse, doggerel, children’s verse, and more. Additionally, an exploration of dramatic techniques of verse from ancient Greece through the Renaissance, and to modern writers such as T. S. Eliot and up to the present. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

SUMMER IV

CRWR 600 – Summer Orientation (1 credit)

Focus on learning mastery of online tools, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with professors during first summer; focus on attending presentations and participating in workshop sessions during second summer; and focus on presenting student thesis as well as attending and participating in other readings during third summer. Must be repeated three times for credit. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing

CRWR 694 – Capstone (3 credits)

Culmination of the degree. In consultation with an adviser and subject to the requirements within each concentration, ​the student completes a thesis of publishable quality, suitable for public reading, and for thesis binding. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

One of the following two summer residency courses:

CRWR 632 – Public Performance (2 credits)

Public speaking as it applies to the performance of poetry, delivery of lectures, and participation in panels, understanding of the craft of using their voices and their physical presence to deliver creative, critical and pedagogical work orally to the public, and how to participate in conversations with the greatest possible skill and grace. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

CRWR 633 – Poetry and Music (2 credits)​

Exploration of some of the complex relations between these two arts, from theoretical discussion to the practical aspects ​of writing everything from song lyrics to choral odes to opera libretti. Prerequisite: Admission to the Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

Students may count CRWR 646 toward the second concentration if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration.

Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Application Information