Gregory Pardlo

B.A., Rutgers University-Camden. M.F.A., New York University. Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection Digest (Four Way Books). Digest was also shortlisted for the 2015 NAACP Image Award and is a current finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His other honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts; his first collection, Totem, was selected by Brenda Hillman for the APR/Honickman Prize in 2007. Pardlo's poems appear in The Nation, Ploughshares, Tin House, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. Pardlo lives with his family in Brooklyn. SLC, 2015 –

Previous Courses

MFA Writing

Poetry Workshop


Cliché is perhaps the only thing a poem cannot abide. Clichés are not just trite or overused phrases. They are also the images, ideas, and narratives that make up the shared body of knowledge that we call “common sense.” In the writing process, we poets often reach for clichés and common-sense thinking in times of crisis or discomfort instead of boldly depicting the thing that likely inspired the image or idea in the first place. In this sense, language that is flat and unimaginative can signal, paradoxically, the very passages in a poem that are the most emotionally fraught. Rather than simply discarding them, we might consider ways to honor the original sentiments buried within that stale language. In this workshop, we will discuss strategies for getting at the useful, emotionally-raw material fossiled into such otherwise disposable language. We will dig through your printouts of failed poems, we will scroll through forgotten files on your laptop, and we will use this material to generate new work that is moving, surprising, maybe even a little discomforting, and above all fresh.