Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges Where You Can Express Your Poetic Voice
Last month was National Poetry Month, so whether you love Emily Dickinson’s slanted rhyme, Allen Ginsberg’s beats, or Langston Hughes’ Renaissance jazz, now is a great time to celebrate this literary art form. If you’d like to pursue your passion for poetry, be it writing, history, analysis, or performance, in college, the expert counselors at IvyWise have identified five great schools where you can find poetic inspiration.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
The English literature department at this public university offers students interested in writing or studying poetry the opportunity to pursue a poetry sub-concentration or fulfill requirements for a general English concentration. Courses range from fundamental classes, such as “Introduction to Poetry” and “Creative Writing: Poetry,” to higher-level courses, including “Modern Poetry (1900-1940),” “Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost,” and “Advanced Poetry Writing.” Outside of the classroom, students can join the The U-Club, the “UMich” slam poetry team, which hosts bi-monthly poetry slams. This year, the University is hosting the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, a nationwide college competition during which students can also participate in poetry workshops and attend panel discussions.
Located in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, UMich offers students a beautiful campus environment where they can take advantage of numerous academic and social programs. UMich has 12 undergraduate colleges, including the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and the College of Music, Theater, and Dance. Despite an undergraduate enrollment of more than 27,000, UMich presents students with ample opportunities to make the large campus seem more intimate, whether they choose to participate in a residential learning community, Greek life, or one of Michigan’s 900 student clubs and organizations. Students can also cheer on the Wolverines, the most successful team in college football history, at “The Big House,” the largest football stadium in the world, or enjoy some nature at the Matthaei Botanical Garden and the Nichols Aboretum.
Though frequently noted for achievements in research and technology (the “father” of the iPod and the founder of Google are alumni), UMich’s 400,000-plus alumni network also boasts dozens of published authors, noted performers, and, yes, even a Pulitzer Prize– winning poet, Theodore Roethke.
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
Music and poetry have more in common than one might think, which is why, in addition to offering 12 majors in various aspects of music, performance, and production, Berklee College of Music also offers minors in both creative writing and spoken word/slam poetry (the first school to offer a slam-specific program). Students in either minor can hone their craft in writing classes and workshops. Courses range from “Poetry Jam and Slam,” to “Flo’ology: Spoken Word and Improvisation,” to “Studies in Poetry and Lyric.” This private college also offers plenty of poetry focused extra-curricular options. Berklee hosts an annual college-wide Poetry Slam in conjunction with the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, as well as several smaller events and open mic nights throughout the year. During these events, students and featured guest artists like New York’s Nuyorican and louderArts, and Boston’s own Lizard Lounge perform. For those who would rather keep their words on the page, Berklee’s literary magazine, Fusion: A magazine of Literature, Music, and Ideas, features poetry written by both students and faculty.
Located in the heart of Boston, Berklee allows students to apply their studies in the real world as members of the city’s lively and diverse music and arts community. Students frequently perform gigs at folk, jazz, and rock venues throughout the city, and hold internships at major radio stations, record labels, and recording studios. On campus, students of all majors can participate in student-run enterprises such as the BIRN, a commercial-free radio station; Caf Shows, a student-run music venue; and Heavy Rotation Records, a working record label that releases commercial recordings by Berklee students and alumni. In total, Berklee alumni have received 199 Grammy Awards (including this year’s Best New Artist Esperanza Spalding, a 2005 graduate), in addition to many Oscar, Emmy, and other distinctive arts awards.
In addition to their extensive music and arts offerings, Berklee’s 4,100 students can also participate in student government, take part in LiveWell, a wellness, health, and fitness program, or join any of the school’s intramural and recreational athletic organizations as well as neighboring Emerson College’s NCAA Division III Varsity sports teams.
Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY
Offering a nationally-renowned writing program that incorporates collaborative student workshops, Sarah Lawrence College is a great option for aspiring poets. This private college’s poetry curriculum begins with a first-year-student themed seminar, such as “The Poetic Process,” while subsequent courses explore the creation, history, and meaning of poetry: “The Distinctive Poetic Voice,” “Speaker Box” and “The Sixties.” The Spoken Word Collective (a student organization dedicated to both academic and slam poetry) lets students take their passion for poetry beyond the classroom, as does the college’s annual Dead Poets Slam event and the annual Poetry Festival (the largest free poetry festival in New York State). Sarah Lawrence students can also submit their poetic work to two campus publications: Dark Phrases, an annual literary journal, and The Looking Glass, a literary review.
Sarah Lawrence, a co-ed, liberal arts college where students can pursue disciplines in humanities, sciences, history or the arts, has a unique curriculum that allows its 1,300+ students to design an individualized program tailored to their intellect and interests. Students take three courses per semester, which are structured as small, seminar-style classes (capped at 15 students) with bi-weekly student/professor meetings bolstered by studio, lab, performance and internship work. Instead of exams, students complete a term paper that draws from their individualized learning experiences and they receive written evaluations in return (grades are recorded for transcript purposes only). Beyond poetry, extracurricular offerings at the college range from Bollywood dance, to Stitch n’ Bitch (a community of crafters), to intramural and intercollegiate athletics.
Sarah Lawrence, which occupies a sprawling 40 acres in Bronxville, New York, just north of New York City, offers unique housing options: former private houses, real-life apartment buildings, cooperative houses, traditional suite-style dormitories, contemporary community-focused dorms and even a converted section of the president’s house. (Imagine running into the president on the way to an 8:00 AM class!).
Brown University, Providence, RI
Since its establishment by poet, translator, and critic Edwin Honig in the 1960s, Brown University’s Literary Arts program has maintained extensive offerings dedicated to the art of reading and writing poetry. Students can explore 60-70 course options annually, including “Fiction through Poetry,” “Poetry and Ethics” and “Poetry Newly in Translation in English.” Classes are taught by professors such as Forrest Gander, a poet and geologist who translates literature from Spanish into English and has edited two anthologies of Mexican poetry; and CD Fellow, a winner of the International Griffin Poetry Prize as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Students can also peruse through Brown’s Harrison Collection of American Poetry and Plays—the most comprehensive of its kind, with roughly 250,000 volumes of American and Canadian poetry, plays, and vocal music—which can be found at the university’s library.
Students at this private university, set in the beautiful, historic, and vibrant city of Providence, RI, have a tremendous amount of freedom when it comes to designing their academic programs and courses of study. There are no generalized core requirements at Brown, so students can take classes (with an average 9:1 student to faculty ratio) that both educate and interest them while pursuing a degree in one of 70+ concentrations (“majors”). When it comes to student life at Brown, there is something for everyone. The University offers more than 300 student organizations from a pirate-themed a cappella group to a space club and from UNICEF to tae kwon do.
Brown emphasizes a strong global presence and encourages students to experience life abroad. With initiatives such as the Brown University AIDS Program (funded by the National Institutes of Health), and programs such as Focus on Africa and the Year of India, Brown students are given distinct opportunities to be a “positive force in a complex and interconnected world.”
Kenyon College, Gambier, OH
Kenyon College is nationally recognized for its strong creative writing program, a sub-concentration of the school’s English department (the college’s largest). Students can take writing courses at both the introductory and advanced levels, ranging from “Prosody and Poetics” to “Poetry and the Visual Arts,” as well as courses dedicated to certain periods in poetry: Renaissance, Post-Colonial, Victorian, 17th-Century, Contemporary, and Modern. At this private liberal arts college, students can study alongside instructor Victor Rodriguez-Nunez, who has won several awards, including the Rincon de la Victoria International Poetry Prize, Fray Luis de Leon poetry prize, and The David Prize, for his 18 published books of poetry. Students can also attend a workshop or event sponsored by the Kenyon Poets’ Society, or apply to work for the Kenyon Review Student Associates Program, which allows selected students to become part of the literary magazine’s staff.
Kenyon College offers its 1,600 enrolled students in all majors an in-depth liberal arts education grounded in interaction between faculty and students. The college has 13 interdisciplinary majors, in addition to 31 traditional courses of study, and offices unique academic and social programs to supplement classroom learning: the Kenyon-Exeter Program sends students to the University of Exeter for a year of study, and the Kenyon-Honduras Program includes a semester of immersion in Latin America led by two Kenyon anthropology professors.
Kenyon’s campus is spread over 1,200 rural acres in Central Ohio. Often highlighted for its outstanding theater and athletic facilities (the Kenyon Athletic Center, composed primarily of glass, houses a 1,500 seat arena, a recreational gymnasium, expansive weight and fitness facilities, an indoor track, indoor tennis courts, a theater and a swimming pool), the campus is the future home of The Horvitz Center for the Arts, which will serve Kenyon and the surrounding community. Kenyon has received distinction as the “oldest private college in Ohio” and President Rutheford B. Hayes, Academy-Award winning actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Wright, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Peter Taylor are all alumni.
Whether you have been constructing iambic pentameter for years or have just started reciting reverse rhyme, these colleges each offer unique ways to pursue your poetic passion: you can sign up for intensive poetry-focused curriculums, join poetry slams teams and other groups, or even make a hobby out of reading poetry from a college’s library collection. Consider these five schools as you begin your college search!
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