Martha Rhodes

Author of four collections of poetry: At the Gate  (1995), Perfect Disappearance (2000, Green Rose Prize), Mother Quiet (2004) and The Beds (2012); poems published widely in journals such as Agni, Columbia, Fence, New England Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Anthologized widely, with work appearing in Agni 30 Years, Askold Melnyczuk ed.; Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women, Susan Aizenberg and Erin Belieu, eds. (Columbia University Press, 2001); The New American Poets: A Bread Loaf Anthology, Michael Collier, ed. (University Press of New England, 2000); and others. Previously taught at Emerson College, New School University, and University of California-Irvine; currently teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Visiting or guest poet at many colleges and universities around the country and taught at conferences such as the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, The Frost Place, Indiana University, Sarah Lawrence Summer Conference, and Third Coast. Serves on many publishing panels throughout each year at colleges, conferences, and arts organizations and is a regular guest editor at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Colrain Manuscript Conference. In 2010, she took over the directorship of the Frost Place Conference on Poetry in Franconia, New Hampshire. Founding editor and the director of Four Way Books, publishers of poetry and short fiction, located in New York City. SLC, 2005–

Current graduate courses

Managing Your Material: Poetry Craft Class


“In a good poem, the elements work together as a unit, just as our own combinations of body and mind work together. But if we are studying body and mind as medical students do, we would soon realize that it is impossible to consider all parts at once. The way to deal with a complicated subject is to look at it part by part. …[Regarding poetry]we have to talk separately about the elements that make it up—such as imagery, diction, rhythm—even though we know they cannot exist in isolation.”

– from Western Wind by John Frederick Nims

We will examine how poets manage their content by isolating elements such as diction, syntax, structure: pacing, tone, imagery, metaphor, among others so that we can see how the elements are working on their own and how they cooperate and don't cooperate with each other. What decisions is the poet making? And how do those decisions influence us as readers? There will be assignments throughout the semester that include generating poems, reading, writing a short paper (2-3 pages), teaching a poem to the class, and more. Throughout the semester we will read poems closely by such writers as Baldwin, Bishop, Brooks, Carson, Francis, Gluck, May, Voigt, and many more.


Previous courses

Generating and Revising Poems: Finding the New in the Old

During the semester, we will focus on looking at poems not only through the lens of “How do I make this better?” but also through the lens of “What other possible routes/avenues can I take with this poem?” We will look at revision in terms of “conventional” editing and also discover a radical approach to revising poems through which I will guide the workshop participants as the term  progresses. Workshop participants will be encouraged to generate new work from the poems they already have, while revising those poems at the same time. Indeed, we will discover that writing a new poem is often the same as revising an old poem.


Poetry Craft Class: Managing Material

The job of poets is to manage material, to understand that we have decisions to make, and to be willing to make those decisions in service of the poem at hand. Understanding the elements that make up a poem—recognizing them, identifying them, utilizing them—is what makes a raw talent a great talent. We will learn the art of close reading. Each week, we will look through craft lenses at poems that I bring in—discussing diction, the poetic image, structure, time, location, syntax, etc. There will be occasional writing in class and writing assignments; students will also be asked to write a few short papers (2-3 pages each) on assigned craft issues and poems. The reading of craft essays will be assigned, as well. Among the many poems assigned will be work by Ai, Armatrout, Ashbery, Bidart, Cooper, Hass, Kunitz, Kageyama-Ramakrishnan, Li, Nogues, Whitman, and many more.