Jeffrey McDaniel

Jeffrey McDaniel

Undergraduate Discipline

Writing

Graduate Program

MFA Writing Program

BA, Sarah Lawrence College. MFA, George Mason University. Author of five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Other books include The Endarkenment (Pittsburgh, 2008), The Splinter Factory (Manic D, 2002), The Forgiveness Parade (Manic D Press, 1998), and Alibi School (Manic D, 1995). His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 1994 and 2010. Recipient of an NEA Fellowship. SLC, 2011–

Current undergraduate courses

Poetry and Prose Hybrids

Fall

In this course, we will read and discuss books that defy easy genre classification and blur the lines of poetry, fiction, and memoir. Authors to be read include Maggie Nelson, Eula Biss, Jenny Offill, Ben Lerner, James Baldwin, and others. Half of each class will be devoted to discussing the weekly reading. The other half of each class will be spent discussing student work. Students will be encouraged, but not required, to embark on a project that explores hybrid forms in their writing. Students will be required to write critical responses to the reading and bring in a new piece of writing each week. For workshop, students may bring in poetry, prose, or anything in between. The semester will culminate with students turning in a revised portfolio. Open to any poet or prose writer interested in exploring hybridity.

Faculty

Where Words Are Born: A Poetry Workshop

Year

In this course, we will voraciously read and write and think. And as the course progresses, we will begin to look for ways to bring poetry out of the classroom. For instance, one project in the spring term will be a mobile reading where the audience physically walks around campus, encountering student poets in set locations along the way. While we will look for creative ways to bring poetry out of the classroom, the core of the class will be making poems come to life on the page. We’ll read a book each week, an eclectic assortment of texts published mostly in the last 10 years. We’ll spend half of each class discussing the reading in detail. Each week, students will write a new poem and critical responses to the reading. At the end of each semester, students will turn in a manuscript of revised poems.

Faculty

Previous courses

First-Year Studies in Poetry: Masks, Personas, and the Literal I

FYS

We will read a book each week, focusing on writers who utilize masks and personas to explore depths of honesty, thought, and feeling that might otherwise be off-limits—such as John Berryman’s Henry, Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito, the heteronyms of Fernado Pessoa, and the expansive I in Whitman’s Song of Myself), all of which complicate the notion of the unified first person. Other poets to be read closely include Louise Gluck, Monica Youn, James Dickey, Terrance Hayes, Natasha Tretheway, and others. We will look at the different ways a character can be created and inhabited via syntax, diction, emotional crescendos and deflations, associative leaps, metaphors, and tonal shifts. We will also read individual poems by poets who use a more literal I, considering the similarities and differences between poems uttered in the voice of a distinct character and those spoken more directly and, hopefully, coming to a richer understanding of the possibilities of the first person. Class time will be split between discussing the reading and student work.


Faculty

Living Poets

Fall

Each week, we will read a published book by a living writer and discuss that book in detail, roughly locating it in the context of contemporary American poetry. Each of the authors on the syllabus will come to class and share his or her work publicly with the group. Each reading will be followed by a discussion with the author, where students will be able to ask about influence, creative process, and craft. Our group conferences will be writing workshops, where each student will bring in copies of a new poem for discussion. Over the course of the semester, students will read 11 books of poetry and write one- to two-page critical responses. Students will revise four of their own poems as a final creative project. For a final critical project, students will write a five-page paper that focuses on one or two of the authors on the syllabus. Group conference will happen every week for this class.

Faculty

Masks, Personas, and The Literal I

Year

In this writing workshop, we will read books by poets who utilize masks and personas to explore depths of honesty, thought, and feeling that might otherwise be off-limits. We will consider the different ways in which a character may be created and inhabited via syntax, diction, emotional crescendos and deflations, associative leaps, metaphors, and tonal shifts. We will also read books by poets who collapse the space between poetic speaker and author, employing a more literal I. We will strive to come to a richer understanding of the possibilities of the first-person. Students will be asked to create their own mask, a constructed first-person to breathe and speak through, and also to write poems in the mind/throat/heart of a more literal I. The reading class will be roughly a book of poetry a week, including John Berryman’s Henry, Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito, and the expansive I in Whitman’s Song of Myself. There will be a number of short response essays to the reading. Students will be expected to write and rewrite with passion and vigor, turning in a new first draft each week and a chapbook of 12-20 poems. Class time will be split evenly between discussing outside reading and student work. This class will be good for both workshop veterans and those harboring an urge to give poetry a try.

Faculty

Poetry and Prose Hybrids - Graduate

Fall

In this class, we will read and discuss books that blur the lines among poetry and fiction and memoir. Authors to be read include: Lawrence Sutin, Maggie Nelson, Eula Biss, Michael Martone, David Shields, Robert Lowell, Rachel Zucker, Baudelaire, and others. Half of each class will be devoted to discussing the weekly reading, which will amount to about a book a week. The other half of the class will be spent discussing student work. Students will be encouraged to embark on a project that explores hybrid forms in their writing. For workshop, students may bring in poetry, prose, or anything in between.

Faculty

Poetry Workshop: 1960s-2010s

Spring

The reading list for this course will be split between seminal poetry books from the 1960s and vibrant work published in the 2010s. We’ll bounce back and forth between these two open and fertile decades. Poets to be read include: John Berryman, Terrance, Hayes, Sylvia Plath, Robert Hayden, Monica Youn, Frank O’Hara, and others. Class time will be divided between discussing student work and the weekly reading. Students will write a poem each week and, at the end of the term, submit a portfolio of revised work.

Faculty

The Image Factory: A Poetry Workshop

In this class, we will read poets who push the boundaries of logic and utilize wild, irrational imagery that often stops the reader in his or her tracks. Poets to be read include 19th-century French Symbolists; French and Spanish Surrealists of the 1920s-’30s; American poets from the ’60s whose work is fueled by stark, leaping imagery; post-World War II Eastern Europeans; and a number of contemporary writers who drive their imaginations above the proverbial speed limit. Class time will be split between discussing published work and student work. In addition to our weekly workshops, there will be biweekly screenings where we will examine surrealist cinema, including several films by Luis Buñuel, looking for parallels and conversation between the genres. Through writing exercises and revision, students will be pushed to explore associative imagery in their own poetry and to discover for themselves the various ways that similes and metaphors can be employed to create a more three-dimensional experience for the reader. Students will read the equivalent of a book a week and turn in a new poem each week. The semester will culminate with students vigorously revising a small manuscript of poems.

Faculty