Jay Deshpande

AB, Harvard University. MFA, Columbia University. Author of the poetry collection Love the Stranger (YesYes Books, 2015), named a top debut of the year by Poets & Writers, and of the chapbooks The Rest of the Body (YesYes Books, 2017) and The Umbrian Sonnets (Pank Books, 2020). Deshpande is the recipient of a 2018-2020 Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University and was selected by Billy Collins as winner of the 2015 Scotti Merrill Memorial Award. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The New Republic, New England Review, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. A Civitella Ranieri fellow and a Kundiman fellow, he has taught at Columbia University, Stanford University, Rutgers University, and in the Brooklyn Poets Mentorship Program. SLC 2021—

Graduate Courses 2023-2024

MFA Writing

The Poet’s Novel—Mixed-Genre Craft



No small number of poets have tried their hand at writing fiction; there are also a select few writers who became known for their novels after beginning their careers in verse. But what is it that makes a novel poetic? Where do we notice the hand of a poet when reading a novel? Is this just about “attention to language” or “lyricism” or some other vague praise? Or is there something essentially poetic in the thinking and crafting of certain works of fiction? This craft class will wrestle with these questions by making a foray into recent and contemporary novels by poets. After touching on some earlier antecedents (Basho, Dante, Rilke, Stein, Plath), we will make a careful study of a range of models: Anne Carson, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Denis Johnson, Ben Lerner, Eileen Myles, and Michael Ondaatje. With these texts as foundations, we’ll then begin a student-led exploration of contemporary novels by poets. Throughout, we’ll consider a number of themes, including the relationship(s) between prose and verse, the significance of syntax; fragmentation, the role of narrative in poems, novel architecture, and the relationship between one writer’s fiction and their poetry. In addition to presentations and line-level analysis of passages from each text, students will have the opportunity to write stylistic imitations and to explore their own writing across generic borders.


Previous Courses

MFA Writing

Poetry Workshop: Silence, Embodiment, and the Speaker


Over the course of the term, we will develop our understanding of three key elements of the poem. Each can be engaged with a question: Who speaks in this poem and how is the voice managed? How does this poem call upon us to use our senses, to be in our bodies? How does this poem relate to the silence that encircles it on the page and in the air? By reading a wide range of poets, both contemporary and past, we will consider how a poem can move along these three axes and how all three help us as writers. For each week of the term, you will produce one new poem. Workshopping will emphasize the descriptive: Although it’s easier to say what’s bad or good in a draft, it’s much more valuable to describe what’s actually there on the page. Additionally, you will read one poetry collection per week (some assigned, some elective), and we will discuss your reading and your process during biweekly conferences. My hope is to give you the grounding and routine that make space for a true encounter with the mystery. That’s what we’re here for, after all.