Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Master of Arts

Degree Type

Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts


Graduate Program in Creative Writing

In times of crisis and change, the poet reimagines the possible and lights a way forward. Our Poetry program, with its ethically-alert curriculum, diverse reading lists, and dedicated faculty, will help you become the poet you’ve dreamed of being.

Program Overview

Rise to the challenge to write for today’s world.

Western’s Poetry program gives aspiring poets the knowledge, skills and vision they need to become confident members of the poetic community. Students with diverse poetic styles come together in a welcoming program that encourages freedom of thought and expression while providing the necessary grounding to help students uncover and develop their ​talents. ​​You’ll learn to write in the freer modes characteristic of most contemporary poetry and also learn how to make creative use of more traditional poetic forms. Through innovative coursework and close mentoring from faculty, you’ll hone your techniques, elevate your art and reimagine the possible.

Cultivating poets

Kevin O’Shea reads from his poetry thesis for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Western.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Concentration in Poetry 

The Concentration in Poetry brings students into the ongoing conversation of poetics, introducing them to the ideas, questions, approaches and techniques that have been the concerns of poets across time and cultures. The Poetry curriculum offers both workshop­-style courses that focus on developing students' vision, voice, sensibility and craft through intensive writing and peer-reviewing, as well as research-style courses that focus on developing students' understanding of the contemporary poetic scene through the study of diverse poetic movements and styles.

As the culmination of their work, all MFA students complete an MFA thesis, which consists of a book-length manuscript of original poetry. Students complete this capstone project under the guidance of a thesis advisor and present it during their third Summer Residency. In addition to their coursework and their theses, students are also responsible for mastery of three reading lists, two of which are compiled by the Poetry faculty and one of which is compiled by the student. A comprehensive exam, consisting of one question from each list, must be passed in the final summer of study in order for students to graduate. 

The MFA Concentration in Poetry requires the following 60 credits:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation (taken three times with different emphasis each summer)3
CRWR 630First-Year Poetry Intensive2
CRWR 634Major Authors I6
CRWR 635Poetry Workshop I6
CRWR 640Second-Year Poetry Intensive2
CRWR 644Major Authors II6
CRWR 645Poetry Workshop II6
CRWR 646Narrative Poetry6
CRWR 648Form and Technique in Poetry6
CRWR 650Third-Year Poetry Intensive2
CRWR 653Poetry Book Reviewing/ Poetry, Literacy, Pedagogy6
Select one of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second Fall term:6
CRWR 609
Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery
CRWR 610
Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey
CRWR 614
Traditional Publishing I (with permission of the Publishing Concentration Director)
CRWR 623
Independent and New Model Publishing I
CRWR 665
Screenwriting Genre
CRWR 685
Craft of Creative Nonfiction
Three credits of:3
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits60

Poetry as a Second Concentration 

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

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
Select one of the following two summer residency courses:2
CRWR 640
Second-Year Poetry Intensive
CRWR 650
Third-Year Poetry Intensive
CRWR 634Major Authors I6
CRWR 644Major Authors II6
CRWR 646Narrative Poetry6
CRWR 648Form and Technique in Poetry6
Three credits of:3
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits30

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


Career preparation starts your first year at Western and is the primary focus of every degree.

Visit Career Services in Library 120 or online to discover your interests, define your goals, and land the career of your dreams.

The data below is automatically collected by Burning Glass Technologies, a firm that sources job market data and provides analytics. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.

The Program

Advance your poetic career in our flexible program.

Western’s graduate Creative Writing program follows a low-residency format. Faculty and students interact online through Zoom and Canvas during the academic year and gather in person on Western’s campus for two weeks each July for intensive classes and to work closely with nationally recognized authors on their writing.

  • Residency: MFA students attend three summer residencies. The first prepares students for success in the program; the second focuses on the creation of poetry chapbooks and collections; and the third prepares graduates to present their work in the form of readings and craft talks. M.A. students only attend the first two of these residencies.
  • Academic Year: During the academic year, full-time students take two courses each semester. These six-credit courses make use of video conferencing and web platforms for online work. MFA students complete four such semesters, and M.A. students complete two.
  • Additional Opportunities: Guests throughout the year compliment course instruction. MFA students also take one class in another creative writing concentration (Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Publishing or Screenwriting). All students are given guidance on how to enter contests and submit work for publication.
  • Matriculation: To complete the MFA, students work on a culminating, book-length poetry manuscript throughout their final year, under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. M.A. students simply complete the coursework of their two academic semesters and two residencies.

Writing for today

Poetry students study diverse contemporary poets and learn to write in both received and experimental forms.

Opportunities and Partnerships

  • Study with award-winning writers who are active in the fields of poetry, translation and criticism.
  • Get detailed guidance on how to submit work to contests and poetry journals.
  • Finish the MFA program with a professional-quality, book-length manuscript.
  • Learn about book reviewing, grant writing and editing, and leave with essential career documents, such as a resume and bio.
  • Practice teaching, leading workshops and delivering craft talks.
  • Get training from a professional voice and performance coach on how to read your poetry for an audience.
  • Meet and learn from guest speakers and visiting artists such as Dan Beachy-Quick, Jennifer Hancock, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, David Southward and a host of others.
  • Gain experience in the world of publishing by working with our national-level publication, “THINK: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction, Essays, and Reviews.”
  • Take a course from the program’s other concentrations: Genre Fiction, Screenwriting for Film and Television, Nature Writing and Publishing.

Poetry that speaks to our times

A student performs during the Martin Luther King Jr. Open Mic, hosted by WordHorde and the Black Student Alliance.

News & Research

Nature Writing MFA names new director

Nature Writing MFA names new director

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New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

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Genre Fiction Director, Fran Wilde

Western Announces New Director of Genre Fiction

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Western announces new Nature Writing MFA

Western announces new Nature Writing MFA

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BSA hosts Black History Month cultural events, featuring poet Kai Davis

BSA hosts Black History Month cultural events, featuring poet Kai Davis

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Department Information

Graduate Program in Creative Writing


Tyson Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Director, Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Program Support Coordinator

Corinne Sublette

Program Support Coordinator

Contact Information



Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Quigley Hall 117
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231