This semester, the Shapiro Creative Writing Center is hosting three master classes taught by award-winning author and poet C.D. Wright. Master classes are open to all poetry-writing upperclassmen free of charge. Each class will last 2.5 hours and include one dinner. The classes will meet Sept. 23, Oct. 14 and Nov. 11, and the deadline to apply is Sept. 12.
Wright is currently the I.J. Kapstein Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University where she teaches advanced poetry.
Wright was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. She has published over a dozen books, including Rising, Falling, Hovering, Like Something Flying Backwards: New and Selected Poems, and a text edition of One Big Self: An Investigation, focused on Louisiana inmates. She has published several book-length poems including Deepstep Come Shining and Just Whistle.
She also has composed and published two state literary maps, one for Arkansas, her native state, and one for Rhode Island, her adopted state. Wright is formerly the State Poet of Rhode Island, and with poet Forrest Gander, she edited Lost Roads Publishers for more than 20 years.
Wright is winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in March 2011 for her most recent title, One With Others: [a little book of her days], which was also a finalist for the National Book Award and was selected as winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her honors include awards from the Wallace Foundation and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts as well as the Lannan Literary Award. In 2004 Wright was named a MacArthur Fellow; in 2005 she was given the Robert Creeley Award, and elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2009, Rising, Falling, Hovering won the International Griffin Poetry Prize.
Amy Bloom ’75, the Kim-Frank Family University Writer-in-Residence and director of the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, emphasized that the key merit of the masters program is the opportunity to work with a professional writer.
“The motivation [behind the program] was to bring some of America’s best poets to Wesleyan and to give the students the opportunity to work with them,” Bloom said. “[Wright is an] outstanding, articulate American poet with a passion for poetry and teaching. It’s not just she’s professional, it’s that she’s so gifted.”
The classes are capped at a dozen participants, all selected by Bloom and Wright based on a submitted cover letter. Bloom stated that the limit is designed to keep the classes intimate and to ensure that all students have the opportunity to work closely with Wright.
Shapiro Center Senior Fellow Amanda Distler ’15 said another advantage is working with a class of like-minded upperclassmen.
“You’re not only working with [Wright], you’re working with the whole class,” Distler said. “We want committed upperclassmen only, and the main reason that we’re drawing that line is so that we can have people who are closer to [masters level education], who need the prep, and who can realize what a masters class could do for them in the future.”
Distler emphasized the importance of Wright’s broad range of experience.
“You’re not just working with an author, you’re not just working with a poet, you’re not just working with a publisher; you get that all at once,” Distler said. “When someone has that point of view, it’s something that you can’t take out of them. Even when she’s giving advice on how to write or how to do poetry, she still has that backstory and that’s always influencing her advice. That could be extremely beneficial for someone who is interested in anything in the field.”
Katherine Gibbel ’15 has participated in master classes at the Shapiro Center in the past and is looking forward to working with another experienced writer this fall.
“I’m honored and flattered that I get to meet her, even,” Gibbel said. “I just think it’s a really wonderful opportunity that the university provides for students so part of me just feels like, why not take advantage of it?… C.D. Wright is…a phenomenal poet.”
Although the Shapiro Center’s master classes are not offered for university credit, the classes aim to help students further their writing abilities.
Rielly Wieners ’18 added that she hopes to take the class to advance a potential career in writing.
“Anytime you can work closely with an award-winning poet is exciting, especially if you’re trying to make a career out of writing like I am,” Wieners said. “It gets your name out there, and no one is better at critiquing poetry than a good poet.”
Following the class session on Oct. 14, Wright will hold a poetry reading and book signing event in the Shapiro Creative Writing Center.
“[Wright] has been everywhere on the spectrum of the writing world and to have all of that experience answered into one answer for your question, that’s exciting to get all at once,” Distler said. “It’s an incredible opportunity because there are so many aspects to publishing and to writing and all of that and she’s had a peek at all of them.”
Applications are available for all sophomores, juniors, and seniors and are due on Friday, Sept. 12.
To apply for the master classes, send a cover letter including expression of interest and experience and a sample of three or four poems to Amy Bloom. The deadline is Sept. 12.
(This article was co-authored by Sofi Goode ’17 and Angelina Massoia ’17. Segments of this article were originally printed in the Sept. 9 edition of The Wesleyan Argus.)