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AcademicsGraduate AcademicsCreative Writing & Poetics

MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Poetics

Join a thriving community of writers and artists working across genres and forms with our open-genre program. Discover our MFA in Creative Writing.

Program Overview

Naropa’s MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics provides the only open-genre degree in the country. Rooted in the lineage of experimental poetics, writers at the Jack Kerouac School work across artistic disciplines and genres to hone their voices on and off the page.

From contemplative to documentary poetics, MFA writers at Naropa work at the cutting edge of contemporary, experimental forms alongside the traditions of letterpress printing, book arts, and small press publishing.

Founded in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Diane di Prima, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics values the craft and spirit of writing. Its MFA in creative writing program culminates in a critical and creative thesis, enabling writers to enter the world ready to take their work to the next level from academia to publishing, performance, and community building.

Our faculty includes accomplished poets and writers from around the country and the world, including program director Anne Waldman, distinguished professor and world-renowned poet and performer. To date, Naropa’s graduate creative writing program students have studied with Joy Harjo, Roberto Tejada, Layli Long Soldier, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and other visiting faculty. Encounters with these gifted writers and performers are a hallmark of Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School.

The graduate program’s approach explores revolutionary genre-bending in the craft of writing, and our inclusion of poetics, unique among MFAs in creative writing, encourages exploration across genres and themes. Naropa’s cross-genre curriculum helps writers shape their own aesthetic and develop their unique critical and creative voices. We challenge the notion of safe or generic works and create a space for radical exploration and experimentation.

At Naropa, community is fostered through a culture of collaboration over competition. Our greatest concerns are not program rankings or how often and where student work is being published. Instead, we are concerned with writers discovering the full expression of their creative capacity. Our writing community is strengthened by a rich calendar of events, including our Summer Writing Program, an annual convocation of students, poets, fiction writers, performers, letterpress printers, and more.

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Quick Facts

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Program Format

The MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics is a two-year, on-campus, 48-credit graduate degree. Students typically enroll in 9 credit hours per semester and 12 credit hours in the Summer Writing Program (over two summers).

The program offers an open-genre curriculum within a contemplative academic environment, providing MFA students maximum flexibility within the degree. Graduate students are encouraged to take classes across genres, enabling them to investigate a personal, intensely original writing process and style.

Course Spotlight

Multigenre Workshop: Text and Image

This interdisciplinary and multigenre writing course explores the confluence of text and image in poetry, prose, and cross-genre texts. Through exploratory reading and creative writing experiments, students investigate how images interrupt, complicate, and layer narrative, as well as the reasons a writer might embrace this multimodal, multivocal form. Students produce creative manuscripts that draw on and innovate with text and image.

Degree
Requirements

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing & Poetics requires a total of 48 credit hours distributed among the following courses:

MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics Requirements

Semester-long courses in creative writing workshops require regular submission of original work for critique, oral presentation, and editing. Creative reading and writing courses have distinct literature and creative writing components.

  • WRI-614 Prose Workshop: Memoir/Anti-Memoir(3)
  • WRI-625 Multigenre Workshop: Adaptation(3)
  • WRI-629 Multigenre Workshop: Translation(3)
  • WRI-671 Prose Workshop: Narrative Practices(3)
  • WRI-715 Poetry Workshop: Experimental Poetry(3)
  • WRI-720 Prose Workshop: Experimental Prose(3)
  • WRI-722 Poetry Workshop: Eco-Poetics(3)
  • WRI-729 Multigenre Workshop: Collaborative Texts(3)
  • WRI-730 Multigenre Workshop: Performance Art and Writing(3)
  • TWRI-731 Prose Workshop: the Novel(3)
  • WRI-739 Poetry Workshop: Contemplative Poetics(3)
  • WRI-744 Multigenre Workshop: Somatic Writing(3)
  • WRI-748 Multigenre Workshop: Activist Writing(3)
  • WRI-749 Multigenre Workshop: Text and Image(3)
  • WRI-758 Poetry Workshop: Documentary Poetics(3)
  • WRI-763 Multigenre Workshop: Notes on Architecture(3)
  • WRI-770 Multigenre Workshop: Cross-Genre Forms(3)
  • WRI-775 Multigenre Workshop: Cross-Disciplinary Writing(3)
  • WRI-793 Special Topics: Writing Workshop(3)

These examine a single writer’s work or specific topics in literary history, or encompass a survey of historical or theoretical orientations, and require critical papers in a standard academic format. Students must take WRI-617 in their first semester.

  • WRI-617 Poetics Seminar: Writers in Community(3)
  • WRI-640 Poetics Seminar: Women Writers(3)
  • WRI-656 Poetics Seminar: The Archive(3)
  • WRI-677 Poetics Seminar: Critical Theory(3)
  • WRI-707 Poetics Seminar: Major Authors(3)
  • WRI-727 Poetics Seminar: Cross-Cultural Literature(3)
  • WRI-733 Poetics Seminar: Queer Lit(3)
  • WRI-740 Poetics Seminar: Film Poetics(3)
  • WRI-757 Poetics Seminar: Lineages(3)
  • WRI-761 Poetics Seminar: Contemporary Trends(3)
  • WRI-796 Special Topics: Poetics Seminar(3)
  • WRI-652 Week Two Summer Writing Program(2)
  • WRI-651 Summer Writing Program(2)
  • WRI-653 Summer Writing Program I(2)
  • WRI-751 Summer Writing Program(2)
  • WRI-752 Week Two Summer Writing Program(2)
  • WRI-753 Summer Writing Program(2)

There are a variety of courses available that satisfy this requirement, including, but not limited to, Taijiquan, sitting meditation, aikido, ikebana, sumi brushstroke, thangka painting, and yoga. Each of these disciplines provides training in an art form that cultivates mindful awareness.

The Creative Writing and Poetics program offers the following 3-credit contemplative courses:

  • WRI-739 Poetry Workshop: Contemplative Poetics(3)
  • WRI-744 Multigenre Workshop: Somatic Writing(3)

There are a variety of courses available that provide professional development in teaching and publishing.

  • WRI-602 Professional Development: Letterpress: Well-Dressed Word(3)
  • WRI-603 Professional Development: Letterpress: First Impressions(3)
  • WRI-607W Professional Development: Teaching Practicum: Designing a Writing Workshop(2)
  • WRI-672 Professional Development: Book Arts(3)
  • WRI-700 Professional Development: Writing Pedagogy Seminar(3)
  • WRI-705 Professional Development: Small Press Publishing(3)
  • WRI-781 Professional Development: Project Outreach(3)
  • WRI-797 Special Topics: Professional Development(3)

Students have ample choices to fulfill the 6-credit elective requirement and may choose courses from a wide range of offerings (including taking extra poetics and workshop courses). The Creative Writing and Poetics program also offers the following electives:

  • WRI-789W Fall Writers Practicum(1)
  • WRI-791W Spring Writers Practicum(1)
  • WRI-794W Writers Practicum With Anne Waldman(1)
  • WRI-795W Writing Practicum with Allen Ginsberg Visiting Fellow(1)

In their last semester, MFA students submit an MFA thesis, which includes creative and critical components. Additional information about the MFA thesis and extended thesis is available in the JKS office.

  • WRI-875 MFA Critical Thesis Seminar(3)
  • WRI-880 MFA Creative Thesis(3)
  • WRI-881 Extended MFA Thesis(0.5)

Why Choose Naropa?

Strong Writing Tradition

The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics has encouraged experimental forms across genres since its founding in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Diane di Prima. We challenge the notion of safe or generic works and create a space for radical exploration and experimentation.

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Contemplative Approach

Naropa students deepen their writing craft not only through external exploration but by exploring their minds, hearts, and souls. Introspective pedagogy leads to better writing and a greater connection with yourself and your writing community.

In-house Publishing & Printing

At Naropa, you will have the opportunity to Publish your work in the student-run literary journal of the Kerouac School , Bombay Gin, which is distributed nationally through Small Press Distribution. Students and alumni have also started their own presses with support from the university.

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How this Program Prepares You

Professional Dossier

Naropa students graduate with a solid record of written work, developed alongside peers and polished under the guidance of expert faculty. Our workshops, seminars, and summer programs are designed to push students to discover and harness their own writing voice.

Critical Analysis

Our program actively encourages students to approach reading and writing through a critical lens, questioning assumptions, identifying bias, and deconstructing generalizations. Graduates from the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics are trained to recognize intersectionality in the literary arts, recognizing the wider spectrum that surrounds any piece.

Writing as Creative Art

Our program guides students through the process of crafting creative work, encouraging cross-genre exploration to enrich their practice and develop their writing skills. Students are encouraged to follow and develop their artistic instincts to the fullest, realizing their potential as artists and writers.

What You'll Learn

Superior Writing Craft

Strengthen your craft and technique in a variety of literary genres.

Foundation in Critical Theory

Clearly communicate original ideas on a variety of literary texts and topics.

Awareness of Intersectionality in the Literary Arts

Recognize and appreciate intersecting social identities in literature.

Freedom of Expression

Discover your full potential as a writer by learning to take creative risks.

Career Preparedness

Become a published author, writing teacher, translator, or editor.

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Career Opportunities with a Creative Writing & Poetics

Our graduate creative writing program graduates go on to publish across literary fields, start small presses, pursue PhDs, and careers as professors, publishers, podcasters, artistic rebels, and more.

Hear from a Graduate

I knew Naropa was the right choice because of my dual values of deepening my roots in practice while growing out the limbs of my creative writing capacity and study. I also knew that this university and community would provide the perfect container for me to fulfill the purpose I feel is mine in the world.

Heather Fester

MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics

FAQS about the
MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics

An MFA degree in creative writing allows individuals to pursue careers in writing in traditional settings such as publishing or other fields such as marketing and technology. Graduates can find employment as authors, editors, proofreaders, copywriters, UX writers, technical writers, journalists, lyricists, scriptwriters, and teachers.
While a BA in creative writing provides a solid foundation, an MFA will allow you to fine-tune your writing skills and fully develop your creative voice as an author. For those interested in education, an MFA is required to teach writing classes at the college level.

The MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics is a two-year, 48-credit graduate degree. As this is an on-campus degree, students must relocate to Boulder, Colorado, in order to attend. Alternatively, our low-residency MFA in creative writing can also be completed in two years and does not require relocation.

Naropa’s Creative Writing and Poetics MFA is the only program with an open-genre curriculum. Our approach to creative expression and contemplative practice allows students to develop their writing skills in ways that other institutions lack.

Funding includes the Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Anselm Hollo Graduate Fellowships.

The fellowships are awarded annually to three incoming MFA Creative Writing and Poetics students (residency program). Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Anselm Hollo fellowship recipients will receive full funding (tuition and fees), plus an additional $5,000 scholarship as well as a $4,500 stipend. Fellowship recipients may not simultaneously hold a Graduate Assistantship.

Additionally, partial funding is provided for students who have applied for and been offered graduate assistantships with the Naropa Writing Center.

Visit our Graduate Scholarship page to read more about funding, fellowships and scholarships for the Creative Writing & Poetics MFA and other degrees.

Learn More About the Program

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Connect
with your counselor

Olivia Phipps

Graduate Admissions Counselor

Ready to Apply?

Admission Requirements

Naropa’s application process evaluates both academic performance and candidates’ openness and willingness to engage in contemplation.

Learn more about admission requirements and the application process for our Creative Writing MFA.

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Completion of an undergraduate degree is required in order to apply for our MFA in Creative Writing. Candidates must submit a transcript of their undergraduate coursework, a statement of interest, a resume, two letters of interest, and a creative writing sample. They may also apply for financial aid at this stage.

Applicants who meet qualifying criteria will be invited to an interview day, which includes group and individual interview. 

Discover all admission requirements.

You can apply to Naropa as an international student with an undergraduate diploma from a non-US university. However, additional documentation must be submitted together with your application. Learn how to apply to Naropa as an international student.

Costs and Financial Aid

Naropa graduate students can apply for many grants, scholarships and financial aid opportunities. Over 75% of our graduate students receive federal or institutional support to finance their studies. 

See our Costs & Aids page to learn more about the costs of attending Naropa, well as grants, scholarships, and programs you may be eligible for.

Graduate Scholarship Opportunities

Scholarships are a great way to help with the costs of going to school. Naropa University offers an array of scholarship opportunities to undergraduate students. Students may be eligible to receive scholarships through their admissions application, by applying for scholarships, or by being nominated for a scholarship. For more detailed information about the different scholarships available and how to receive them, please review our undergraduate scholarship page.
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Naropa Campuses Closed on Friday, March 15, 2024

Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

Based on the current weather forecast, the Healing with the Ancestors Talk & Breeze of Simplicity program scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday will be held as planned.

Staff that do not work remotely or are scheduled to work on campus, can work remotely. Staff that routinely work remotely are expected to continue to do so.

As a reminder, notifications will be sent by e-mail and the LiveSafe app.  

Regardless of Naropa University’s decision, if you ever believe the weather conditions are unsafe, please contact your supervisor and professors.  Naropa University trusts you to make thoughtful and wise decisions based on the conditions and situation in which you find yourself in.