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Poetry makes it home at Drew

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This January, Drew will welcome two poet laureates to campus along with several laureates-in-training. The University will become home to a new low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Poetry program, gaining eight new faculty members and a diverse group of student writers.

“A low-residency program means we’ll be on campus for 10 days in January and 10 days in June, and in between our students correspond with a nationally known poet mentor,” Program Director Anne Marie Macari said. “They send packets of work that include poetry and papers to their mentors, and the mentors send an elaborate response.” Over the interims between residencies, students will also work with their mentors to select between 20 and 25 books to read. The program lasts four semesters over the course of two years.

When the poetry students are on campus, they will attend workshops, lectures and readings. The readings, by students and faculty, will be open to the public. “We’ll be taking about 10 new students each semester,” Macari said.

Macari, a published poet, was the director of a low-residency program at New England College. “I live in New Jersey, and we wanted [a program] down here,” she said. “There’s not a lot in this area.”

Macari explained that the residency comes at a perfect time for Drew, which will also soon house the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival archives. “It’s clear that Drew wants to be a center for poetry in the country,” Macari said. The Dodge festival is the largest poetry festival in the United States, and Drew will acquire its 20 years’ worth of literature and videotapes of poetry readings. “Drew has made a huge commitment to poetry by making this happen,” Macari said. “The MFA program is really a natural partnership with that. We hope to use the archives and benefit from them.”

The program is also unique in that it is the first low-residency program to offer poetry in translation as a major part of its program.

Along with the eight new faculty members are two distinguished poets in residence-Gerald Stern, the first Poet Laureate of New Jersey, and Jean Valentine, the current Poet Laureate of New York. Both have won the National Book Award. The new faculty members will also include poet and feminist critic Alicia Ostriker, who has taught at Rutgers University for 40 years, and a young poet, Ross Gay, whom Macari called “a dynamic reader and teacher.”

According to Macari, the students accepted into the program will be just as diverse as its faculty. So far, Macari has received applications from “people only a few years out of college, and people in their 30s, 40s and even older.” Applications are coming in from as far away as Israel. The final decisions for the inaugural class will be made by December.

Macari said that most students in such MFA programs come from a variety of careers, most are related to literature. “We have a couple people applying who already have a book [published] and who still want to learn more,” Macari said. “You can teach writing at the college level [with an MFA]. We had a recent graduate from my former program who is in publishing. The most important thing is that people want to be better writers and get their books published.”