Dennis Nurkse

BA, Harvard. Author of 10 books of poetry (under “D. Nurkse”), including Love in the Last DaysThe Border Kingdom, Burnt Island, The Fall, The Rules of Paradise, Leaving Xaia, Voices over Water, and, most recently, A Night in Brooklyn; poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and six editions of the Best American Poetry anthology series. Recipient of a literature award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ award, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, and two awards from The Poetry Foundation; a finalist for the Forward Prize for best poetry book published in the United Kingdom. SLC, 2004–

Undergraduate Courses 2019-2020


First-Year Studies: Explorations in the Poetic Voice: Western and Non-Western, Traditional and Experimental

Open , FYS—Year

Contemporary poets face a dazzling range of stylistic options. This course is designed to give you a grounding in the practice of modern poetics and to encourage you to innovate as you understand the roots. We’ll look at prosody, the poetic line, and stanza form. We’ll examine the artistic thinking behind free verse (our main focus), haiku, the sonnet, the ghazal, the ballad, and the blues line. We’ll explore what poets do with voice, tone, and personae—how poets dramatize their insights. We’ll read widely: modern masters like Elizabeth Bishop and Gwendolyn Brooks; contemporaries like Anne Carson and Yusef Komunyakaa; classical poets like George Herbert; and world poets such as Issa, Basho, Pablo Neruda, Aime Cesaire, Anna Akhmatova, and Lorca. We’ll discuss how to read poetry as practitioners and how to hear what’s on the page. The strong constant focus will be on participants’ own poems; class members will be encouraged to follow their own poetic paths and develop their own artistic vocabulary. The class will be part humanistic workshop, part writing community, part critical inquiry. Expect to write freely and read voraciously. Biweekly individual conferences will alternate with class poetry readings, in which we will present our own poems as well as poems of favorite contemporary (or ancient) poets.


Previous Courses

Poetry Workshop


This course will focus intensively and humanistically on participants' own work.  Roughly a third of discussion time will be devoted to classics and to work that will never be found in the canon. We'll pay close attention to the development of the individual voice and examine poetics, prosody, issues of form and tone in contemporary and classical poetics, and the radically experimental text. We'll focus on the revision process: How do artists push themselves toward new worlds? How do poets achieve spontaneity without sacrificing rigor? How do texts reconcile clarity and unpredictability? Expect to read widely, to approach texts in new ways, and to create many wild drafts and a finished portfolio of six to ... poems. 


The Distinctive Poetic Voice

Open , Seminar—Fall

Contemporary poets face a dazzling range of stylistic options. This course is designed to help you develop not just your own ear and voice but your own sense of craft, intuition, technique, and experiment. We will focus primarily and profoundly humanistically on students’ own work with the knowledge that a mistake in art can be fascinating and the demonstration of competence can be irrelevant. We will also look at poets from Anne Carson to Elizabeth Bishop to Basho. Students will be encouraged to orient themselves and find their own directions in the labyrinth of modern poetic practice. We’ll study prosody, metrics, the lyric and epic voices—but the emphasis will be on students’ own creative projects. Expect to write every week, read voraciously, and create a portfolio of 6-12 poems.