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WRITING POETRY MA

The Next Step: our Master's degree in poetry

The MA in Writing Poetry is an accredited degree with Newcastle University and the Poetry School, delivered as a part-time course over two years. Students are based either in London or Newcastle upon Tyne during term time, and come together to participate in a one week Summer School which alternates between the two cities each year.

The MA is firmly rooted in the publishing, performing and promoting poetry world with established poets, including Glyn Maxwell and Tamar Yoseloff in London and Tara Bergin, Bill Herbert, Sean O’Brien and Jacob Polley in Newcastle. There will also be guest tutors from the Poetry School’s teaching community and from Newcastle University.

A full fee scholarship is available each year to an outstanding applicant.

COURSE OUTLINE

Year One: Poetry Masterclass (1), Poetry Workshop (1), Summer School (1) Year Two: Poetry Masterclass (2), Poetry Workshop (2), Summer School (2), Portfolio

The Poetry Masterclasses and Poetry Workshops are taught from September to May (on alternate weeks), with weekly group meetings, and 1:1 tutorials.

Summer Schools run for one week, and the Portfolio is a work in progress throughout the course, with individual tutorials held towards the end of the second year.

Our Tutors

 

Glyn Maxwell, Lead Tutor

Glyn Maxwell’s collections include Pluto (Picador), Hide Now (Picador), The Nerve (Picador), and The Breakage (Faber), all of which won or were shortlisted for major prizes. His epic poem Time’s Fool (Picador) is in development as a feature film with Fox Searchlight. On Poetry (Oberon), a guidebook for the general reader, was described as ‘the best book about poetry I’ve ever read’ in The Guardian. In 2016, he published its sequel, Drinks With Dead Poets. His plays and opera libretti have been performed in many countries. He has taught at Amherst, Princeton, Columbia, and NYU in the USA; Warwick, Essex, and Goldsmiths in the UK.

‘A great teacher, Derek Walcott, led me to the three most important voices in my development – Auden, Frost, and Edward Thomas. This may make me sound like a dyed-in-the-wool formalist – perhaps I was long ago, though I’ve never been conservative with any kind of c – but the love of these poets, and countless different others, led me to a much broader and wilder sense of what poetry can be. The subjects and styles of poetry are infinitely various, and the best thing a teacher can do is raise awareness of how form works.

I don’t do this in an academic way, as I didn’t learn it like that. There are two dangerous pathways facing a new poet. The first is to feel that poetry used to be great and is now a mess of fragments. The second is to feel that all beauty is nostalgia and only the contemporary matters. Both attitudes are dumb. Form in poetry is the sound of captured time, so to ignore it is to reduce poems to the constant reiteration of a personal passing moment. Which is literally unmemorable.

I illustrate uses of form both in the canonical works we look at, and the work-in-progress of the students. My only canon is what has survived, my only praxis figuring out the reasons why. I tend to avoid the contemporary. Partly because I feel students will be immersed in it anyway, but more so because the worst course for a new poet is to set off in search of “the sound that gets published”. I love all the forms of poetry that are not the isolated subjective statement: drama, libretto, translation, song, anything where the “I” is somehow all of us, and not one lone heart. I constantly invent games and exercises by way of illustration.’

Tamar Yoseloff, Core Tutor

Tamar Yoseloff’s sixth collection is The Black Place (Seren, 2019). She is also the author of Formerly (the inaugural chapbook from her publishing venture, Hercules Editions), incorporating photographs by Vici MacDonald and shortlisted for the 2012 Ted Hughes Award; two collaborative editions with the artist Linda Karshan, and Nowheres, a privately-produced book with the artist Charlotte Harker. Tamar is a freelance tutor in creative writing, and runs poetry courses for galleries including the Hayward, the RA and the National Gallery. She is a core tutor at the Poetry School and a lecturer on the Poetry School / Newcastle University MA in Writing Poetry.

‘My earliest influences were the American poets I studied at university – O’Hara, Lowell, Bishop, Plath, and Stevens. Although they had different styles and approaches, they gave me the ability to mesh narrative and experience with something less tangible. I liked the plain speaking of Bishop and the mystery of Stevens, and wondered if I could find a balance between them. I also discovered I could be both formal and free, and I’ve been interested ever since in how to drive a poem forward but retain an open form.

I have always been interested in visual art. I’ve written poems and sequences informed by the work of Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keeffe but have also collaborated with living artists to produce publications and exhibitions. I have worked with many galleries – including the Hayward, the National Gallery, the Barbican, the Royal Academy and Kettle’s Yard – to create courses informed around their exhibitions. Working from the visual is still very much a part of my creative practice – it’s often how a poem begins for me.

On the MA, I offer a module on ekphrastic practice (which may include a gallery visit or two) as well as one on visual poetic experiment, encompassing concrete poems and redactions and featuring artists on the boundary between art and poetry, such as Ian Hamilton Finlay. I also lead sessions on free verse lineation, metaphor, prose poetry, the contemporary sonnet, and ‘difficulty’ in poetry – subjects that excite me. I encourage close reading, including work from poets who are writing at the moment, such as Claudia Rankine and Anthony Anaxagorou, as well as poets from the previous generation, such as Sharon Olds and Jorie Graham. These sessions are an opportunity for discussion and debate – considering how we can expand our practice.’

Poetry Masterclass

Poetry Masterclasses consist of ten self-contained seminars constituted of a mixture of exercise and discussion-based learning and delivered by both core and guest tutors, plus tutorial and drop-in sessions to discuss progress and to prepare for submission. Students are required to engage with the topic of each seminar through practical work and direct discussion. Students will strengthen their knowledge of a range of forms, techniques and thematic concerns present in contemporary poetry and of a variety of perspectives from which these can be approached. They will develop the confidence to experiment with their own work and to produce considered and disciplined revision of their poems. They will also learn to provide practical criticism of others’ work and to receive and utilise constructive criticism of their own work.

Poetry Workshop

In Poetry Workshops, students will develop: their knowledge of a range of literary forms and techniques, an awareness of the contemporary poetic landscape in which they are intervening, and the inheritances on which they might draw as poets. They will also gain knowledge of how, critically and constructively, to address issues within their own and other peoples’ writing. Within the group workshops, students will become familiar with poetic forms, schools and styles both within the context of US and UK poetry, and with issues of contemporary poetry and the tradition, through prescribed reading and critical discussion. The two individual tutorials will offer the chance for intensive critical discussion of students’ work, coupled with tailored guidance on further reading and the development of their writing practice. The file of work enables writers to consolidate their work in the light of all comments received; the commentary on process encourages responsible critical insight into the processes of revision, theme and influence.

Summer School

Summer School offers an intensive course in professional development. On the Poetry School campus Summer School, this course will improve students’ awareness of the market for their work and give them an insight into the opportunities for publication, funding, and publicity available to poets. Students will become familiar with the context in which the professional poet can pursue their craft and develop strategies by which to further pursue, and to develop an audience for, the writing they have undertaken on the various other modules of this degree. On the Newcastle University campus Summer School, students will acquire a sound knowledge of the options available for writers to teach their craft and of the pathways and requisites for doing so, as well as developing their awareness of the possible ways in which they can progress their academic development. Students will become familiar with the context in which the professional poet can pursue their craft within an academic context and how their writing practice might be pursued in tandem with teaching the skills they have to future writers. They will also become aware of the routes by which they might teach creative writing and the necessary qualifications required to do so, via a discussion of the possible options for their further academic development.

Annual Submission

This module will be offered in lieu of a student’s participation in Summer School. This module will consist of a semester of independent study, plus three one-hour tutorials.

Portfolio

Students will prepare a file of work consisting of around 30 poems or equivalent, and will show through the file a finally shaped work or body of work along with a reflection on the processes of the work. This module will consist of a semester of individual supervision followed by a semester of independent study. Each student must consult the module leaders with an initial proposal, submitting an opening plan/draft for comment and discussion.

How to apply

For more information on fees and entry requirements, please visit the Newcastle University webpage. For further enquiries, please email Sarala Estruch at [email protected] for study in London, or Melanie Birch at [email protected] for study in Newcastle.

A full fee scholarship is available for outstanding applicants (or two 50% scholarships where there are two equally outstanding applicants). For more information and to apply, click here.

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