Sally Wen Mao

BA, Carnegie Mellon University. MFA., Cornell University. Author of two poetry collections: OCULUS (Graywolf Press, 2019), shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books, 2014). Poetry published in Poetry, The New Republic, Harpers Bazaar, Pushcart Prizes, and Best American Poetry 2013, among others. Fiction published in The Georgia Review, Indiana Review, and Hyphen; Nonfiction published in Kenyon Review. Received fellowships from the New York Public Library Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, Kundiman, and others. Has taught at Hunter College, Cornell University, and George Washington University, among others. SLC, 2021–

Previous Courses

MFA Writing

The Uses of Speculative Poetry—Poetry Craft


What are the functions of science fiction, mythology, fairy tales, utopias, dystopias, horror, fabulism, and magic in poems? Is this even possible in a genre that eludes narrative and traditional story structures? How does poetry expand the possibilities of speculation? In this class, we will look at many poetry collections with tropes imagining “another world”—playing with tropes that are at once both familiar and strange, whether that is the world of fables or imagined futures. We will examine poets (and poetics) such as Kim Hyesoon, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Lucille Clifton, Terrance Hayes, and Etel Adnan, among others. In addition to reading poets, we might also read Octavia Butler’s stories, read essays on sci-fi world-building and craft, watch films or TV, and do some exercises in summoning and communing with our poetic ghosts in an attempt to achieve cosmic intertextual poetry projects.