Penn State Welcomes Two New Poets to CW Program in Fall

At the end of the spring 2017 semester, we mark the retirement of two poets in the English Department: Professor Robin Becker and Senior Lecturer James Brasfield.

On the heels of these longtime faculty  members’ departures, we are happy to report the addition of two poets to the creative writing program in the fall 2017 semester.

Shara McCallum

Shara McCallum  will join the Penn State creative writing faculty as a full-time professor after serving as the Director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell.  McCallum received her BA from the University of Miami, her MFA from the University of Maryland, and her PhD in Poetry and African American and Caribbean Literature from Binghamton University. She is the author of The Face of Water: New and Selected Poems, This Strange Land, Song of Thieves, The Water Between Us, and the recently published Madwoman. McCallum’s poems have appeared in publications in the US, the UK, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Israel, and have been translated into Spanish, French, Italian, and Romanian. Recognition for her work includes a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, among other awards.


Lee Peterson

Lee Peterson, Director of the Writing Commons and Instructor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State-Altoona, will serve as a visiting faculty member at University Park this fall. She will teach  ENGL 513, Advanced Poetry Writing. Peterson received her BA from Oberlin College in women’s studies and English literature and her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in creative writing. Her poetic, research, and community interests center around issues of human rights, the experiences of women and girls in wartime, and trauma and recovery. Her poetry collection Rooms and Fields: Dramatic Monologues from the War in Bosnia  won the 2003 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize.


Graduates Andrews and Blake Collaborative Poetry Series

Two Penn State Creative Writing graduates, Kimberly Quiogue Andrews and Sarah Blake, recently appeared in the Missouri Review for their collaborative poem, “The Sea Witch Needs a Mortgage for the Land, If Not For the House of Bones.”

As part of a larger work, the authors describe the subject of this series of poems as the stories of a sea witch who has decided to move to land and live among humans. Working collaboratively has “pulled the poems and their protagonist’s desires in unexpected directions” while also confronting  particular kinds of sociopolitical absurdities, such as sexism and capitalism, among others.

To read a poem from Andrews’s and Blake’s series, check it out here!

Why Choose BA/MA?

With the deadline for the BA/MA program this upcoming Wednesday, March 15, several current BA/MA students were asked why they decided to apply and what they love most about the program. If you needed more than one reason to apply yourself, here it is!

“I was really drawn to the program because of the opportunity to teach ENGL 15 along with my writing. This has proven to be the most fulfilling part of the program for me this year!” –Carter Clabaugh, Class of 2017

“I wanted to expand upon my creative writing skills, and once I found out I could do that in an extra year, receive my master’s degree, get funding, and potentially gain teaching experience, I knew that’s what I wanted. Also, I was definitely not ready to graduate and leave Penn State for the ‘real world,’ quite yet–with this I have an extra year to cherish.” –Erin Servey, Class of 2018

“I had always written poetry, but I never thought it could be a tangible pursuit. One day I just up and decided to really try, and here I am.” –Makensi Ceriani, Class of 2017

“I chose to join the BA/MA program so that I could give myself a chance to write. I have always enjoyed writing as a way to organize my thoughts and emotions, and I saw this program as a way to give myself time, especially as a young person, to try to seriously write a body of work.” –Melanie Brusseler, Class of 2017

“I chose the BA/MA program because writing is what I want to do and I wanted to challenge myself among people who write differently and similarly to myself.” –Kylie McCool, Class of 2018

“To receive my master’s degree and teaching experience in only one extra year seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t refuse! All involved in this program, from faculty to fellow students, are also extremely helpful and incredibly fun to work with!” –Lauren Barron, Class of 2018

“I joined the BA/MA program because it gave me a huge opportunity to grow as a writer, work intensively on creative writing, and a way to move very meaningfully forward with pursuing creative writing.” –Nina Eckel, Class of 2018

For more information, check out the English department website and be sure to get your application in!

Sarah Manguso to Read March 22

Join us Wednesday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the Foster Auditorium as Sarah Manguso is set to read as this year’s Fischer Family Writer-in-Residence.

Manguso is the author of five books of prose, including Ongoingness, a meditation on motherhood and time; The Guardians, an investigation of friendship and suicide; The Two Kinds of Decay, a memoir of her experience with a chronic autoimmune disease; Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape, a collection of very short stories; and 300 Arguments, a book of essays.

She is the author of two poetry collections, poems from which have won a Pushcart Prize and appeared in four editions of the Best American Poetry series. Her work has also appeared in Harper’s, McSweeney’s, the Paris Review, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications.

Her most recent book, 300 Arguments, published in February 2017, defies labels and blurs genre lines. Tess Taylor from NPR notes, “This collection transcends any category to be something totally its own…. Manguso’s captured the argumentative voice of a mind sifting through a problem, circling it, animated by sorting it out. We enter Manguso’s mind – her puzzle, pleased to be puzzled, too.” Leslie Jamison of The Atlantic says of it: “[Manguso’s] prose feels twice distilled; it’s whiskey rather than beer.” Joshua James Amberson of the Portland Mercury calls it, “perspective-altering.”

Manguso received her MFA from the University of Iowa, and she has taught creative writing at Columbia, NYU, Princeton, the New School, the Pratt Institute, the Otis College of Art and Design, and St. Mary’s College, where she was a Distinguished Visiting Writer. Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rome Prize, Manguso currently serves as the Mary Routt Chair of Creative Writing at Scripps College in Los Angeles.


Rachel Cantor to Read February 16th

Join us this February 16th at 7:30 p.m. as esteemed author, Rachel Cantor, will read as part of the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium.

Cantor is the author of two novels, A Highly Unlikely Scenario and Good on Paper, both published by Melville House. Her stories have appeared in such publications as Paris Review, One Story, Ninth Letter, The Kenyon Review, and New England Review. Some of her stories have also been anthologized, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, short-listed by the O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories, and awarded runner-up Bridport and Graywolf/SLS Prizes. In addition to her awards, she has received scholarships, fellowships from artist colonies in both the United States and foreign countries, and fellowships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writing Conferences.

The New York Times praised her most recent novel, Good on Paper, saying, “Cantor is unafraid of asking big questions explicitly, like whether fidelity—to texts or to people—is possible.” The Boston Globe said of the novel: “It is not often that a novel comes along that is laugh-out-loud hilarious and thought-provokingly philosophical. Good on Paper is both.” And finally, writer Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven) called it, “sharp, witty, and immensely entertaining.”

Caitlin Horrocks to Read December 1


As part of the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series, Caitlin Horrocks will be reading this Thursday, December 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Foster Auditorium.

Caitlin Horrocks is author of the story collection This Is Not Your City. Her work appears in The New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize, The Paris Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. She is fiction editor of The Kenyon Review and teaches at Grand Valley State University and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program. Her debut novel and second story collection are forthcoming from Little, Brown.

Juan Felipe Herrera Readings/Interview Now Online

Select pieces from U.S. Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera’s, reading from the Emily Dickinson Lecture are officially up on the Creative Writing YouTube channel! Be sure to check them out if you couldn’t be with us this past October 19th!


A special thank you also goes to BA/MA student, Abby Kennedy, on conducting an incredibly compelling interview with Mr. Herrera, which can also be found in several videos on our YouTube channel.


For a complete list of past recorded readings and interviews, please check out our channel as well as the Videos tab!

Penn State Grad Ruth Ellen Kocher to Read November 3rd


Join us Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. as award-winning poet, Ruth Ellen Kocher, a Penn State alumna who earned a bachelor of arts in English in 1990, will read as part of the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium.

Kocher is the author of seven books of poetry, including “Desdemona’s Fire,” winner of the Naomi Long Madget Award for African American Poets; “When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering,” winner of the Green Rose Prize in Poetry; and, “domina Un/blued,” winner of the 2014 PEN/Open Book Award. Her work has also been published in Callaloo, Cimarron Review, Ploughshares, African American Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, Washington Square, Crab Orchard Review, and Ninth Letter.  Her poems have also been translated into Persian in the Iranian literary magazine She’r.

About Kocher’s most recent collection, “Third Voice,” Publisher’s Weekly writes, “The dramatic voices that operate throughout act as a reminder that history is a fragmented reality with many angles, not simply a linear series of indisputable facts.” Poet Al Young also praises Kocher, saying, “This versatile poet blinks at nothing under the stars. Speaking and singing in the many voices and key signatures of poetry, our primal human language, Kocher shines and sheds visible and audible light.”

Kocher currently lives in Erie, Colorado, and teaches in the Poetry, Poetics, and Literature Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

U.S. Poet Laureate to Deliver 2016 Emily Dickinson Lecture October 19th


Join us Wednesday, October 19th at 7:30 p.m. to hear United States Poet Laureate, PEN/Beyond Margins Award winner, and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Juan Felipe Herrera deliver this year’s Emily Dickinson Lecture in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium.

Herrera, who has also served as California’s Poet Laureate, is the first Latino to hold the U.S. Poet Laureate position. He is the author of numerous collections of poems and has also written short stories, young adult novels, and books of prose for children – including “Half the World in Light,” which was adapted into a musical in New York City. Herrera has received the Americas Award from the Consortium of the Latin American Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for his young adult novel, “Crashboomlove;” and, the New Writer Award from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation for his novel, “Calling the Doves.”

As the current Poet Laureate, Herrera is working on a project titled “La Casa de Colores,” which features his own pieces but seeks contributions from members of the community as well.  When he is not writing, Herrera is a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. He currently lives in California and serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

Although Herrera deals with heavy social and political topics in much of his work, NPR’s Craig Morgan Teicher describes Herrera and his poetry in a more positive light: “His wide-eyed amazement fortifies him with a joyful naiveté with which he meets the world, happy to encounter it again and again.”  Similarly, the New York Times’ Dwight Garner admires the way Herrera’s “senses are open toward the world and his bearing on the page is noble and entrancingly weird.”

Stephen Burt of the New York Times praises Herrera, saying: “Many poets since the 1960s have dreamed of a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too. Many poets have tried to create such an art: Herrera is one of the first to succeed.”

Renovo, PA, the Focus of Documentary Writing and Photography Course

Writing student Makensi Ceriani sits near the Renovo rail yard. Image: Jana Bontrager

Writing student Makensi Ceriani (BA/MA 2017) sits near the Renovo rail yard. Image: Jana Bontrager


A recently published article from Penn State News details the collaborative 400-level course taught last spring by writer, Julia Kasdorf, and photographer, Steven Rubin. The special-topics course combined both documentary writing and photography to develop a creative glimpse into life in Renovo, PA.

The results of this eye-opening course was the student creation of three books and three websites all encompassing different elements of the small, northern-Pennsylvania town.

Check out some the students’ work here:

“Revealing Renovo” website by Kate Wright (BA/MA 2017), Ian Whitehead-Scanlon, and Morgan Clark

Website detailing Renovo’s history by Kristin Consorti, Susan Moskal, and Val Smith

This website focusing on the Bucktail Medical Center, created by Scarlett Li and Jane Jin

Congratulations to all those involved and to the students whose books were presented to the Renovo Area Public Library at the conclusion of the course!

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