Reed College Catalog

Samiya Bashir

Poetry and nonfiction.

Peter Rock

Fiction and nonfiction.

Creative writing courses at Reed are taught as workshops by practicing writers. Students write works of poetry and fictional and nonfictional prose, which are distributed to other participants in the workshop for review and critique. In addition to the workshops, occasional discussions and meetings with visiting writers are part of the program. Students are encouraged to participate in literary events both on and off campus and to create such events of their own.

Admission to creative writing courses requires consent of the instructor based on a writing sample. Creative theses are possible when faculty supervision is available and when the student’s work gains approval from the creative thesis committee.

Creative Writing 201 - Introduction to Creative Writing

Making Fiction
Full course for one semester. In this course, students will learn about and experiment with the tools of fiction writing. Students will complete numerous generative, exploratory forays into the world of fiction, honing their craft as well as considering the ethical, political, and personal implications that arise when one transmits language to the page. Our reading list will be composed of work by contemporary writers who represent the range of what gets classified as “fiction” today, such as Carmen Maria Machado, Percival Everett, Stephen Graham Jones, Kelly Link, and NoViolet Bulawayo. Class sessions will be used primarily for discussion of assigned readings and student work. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

Poetry in and through Performance
Full course for one semester. Poets who also perform are often lumped into “spoken word” or “performance art” categories. In truth, there are a number of ways to integrate poetry, performance, and collaborative art practice. In this course we will work through a variety of processes toward bringing poems to life individually and together. Unlike traditional approaches to lyric poetry, performance often takes a proverbial village to pull off well. In this course, taught in conjunction with theatre professor Catherine Duffly’s Applied Theatre Production course, we will engage the challenges and benefits of collaboration and production by staging of Citizen: An American Lyric by poet Claudia Rankine, adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs. Drawing on oral, lyrical, musical, dramaturgical, and (post)modern traditions, we will explore approaches to poetry in performance individually and alongside musicians, singers, film and video artists, dancers, performers, and more as presented in theatre, club, site-specific, and nontraditional settings. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a three- to five-page writing sample and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

The Short Story
Full course for one semester. In this course students will write short stories, and read the work of their classmates as well as that of published authors. Close attention will be paid to the narrative strategies used by writers such as Alice Munro, Jamaica Kincaid, Lydia Davis, George Saunders, and Yasunari Kawabata to help the students in writing their own fiction. We will consider these various strategies when reading and responding to the work of peers. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Creative Writing 207 - Introduction to Creative Nonfiction

The Personal Essay
Full course for one semester. For many of us, our first impression of the personal essay is that it’s basically autobiography, or maybe memoir; i.e., the “person” in “personal” is us. And this is often the case. But “personal” is also about a tone, a relationship with the reader, a sense of intimacy established, often, through the use of the first person. Which is to say that the personal essay may look outward as much as it looks inward. In this workshop students will write personal essays that cover a range of genres (such as memoir, analytic meditation, and portrait) and discuss the work of writers such as Montaigne, Didion, and Baldwin, as well as more contemporary essayists.  Students will also read and discuss the work of their peers. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a prose writing sample of three to five pages, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference.

Creative Writing 224 - Poetry Studio I

Awakenings and Connections
Full course for one semester. According to Lucille Clifton, “Poetry began when somebody walked off a savanna or out of a cave, looked up at the sky with wonder and said, ‘Ah-h-h!’” In this introductory poetry studio students will engage in writing exercises designed to help them strengthen their poetry-writing skills. We will read, listen to, and analyze poetry written by nationally recognized authors in an attempt to find a common critical language that we will use while discussing student work. To that end, students will write poetry, both in and out of class, and will workshop that poetry with their peers. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five poems, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Rearranging the Mirrors
Full course for one semester. In Cole Swensen’s poem “The Painter Rearranges the Mirrors,” she writes: “You open a little door. The door could be anywhere.” This line will serve as our governing precept in creating an entry point for approaching poetry and, in particular, for writing poems.  We will examine the poem as portal, as a backstage all-access pass of our own making; any other door left ajar will be ours to enter as figuratively as we please. In practical terms, this will translate to rigorous reading, writing exercises, and in-depth class discussion designed to hone the critical skills and strategies necessary to the craft. Heavy emphasis will be placed on encouraging and examining student work within a workshop format, but we will also cover a wide range of published poetry, contemporary and otherwise, from poets aligned with our thinking and poets diametrically opposed. Prerequisite: a writing sample of three to five poems and consent of instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

Creative Writing 274 - Poetry Studio II

Full course for one semester. Variable topics. Enrollment limited to 15. Writing sample required. See specific listing for other prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit. 

From Intent to Accident (Unfolding the Poem by Chance)
Full course for one semester. The focus of this course is to provide an intensive, critical forum for students to engage with poems within a workshop format as a process-oriented activity and to test or tease out the relationship between chance and necessity (“Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity” —Democritus), between the subconscious and conscious mind. We will explore ways chance has been used and can be used as a motivating instrument, but with a steady eye on how it introduces possibilities for objectivity and care. Heavy emphasis will be placed on appreciating the draft as a means of sourcing resonance and primacing intuition. Our lively, collaborative investigation will include weekly exercises aimed squarely at stimulating and disrupting our current reading and writing strategies, group discussion exploring wider questions of freedom, mystery, and the utility of disorder. Be prepared for rigorous reading of a range of poetry and essays by poets, artists, and other dedicated thinkers-at-play. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a previous workshop course, a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

Creative Writing 321 - Special Topics Studio

Full course for one semester. Variable topics. Enrollment limited to 15. Writing sample required. See specific listing for other prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit. 

Ambivalence, Failure, and Doubt
Full course for one semester. Many of us go through our days feeling more than one way—about a person, a film, a political issue, what to eat for lunch. Doubt shapes our path as much as certitude. Though we must learn to make choices and forge ahead in order to function in the world, our inner landscapes are rich with complexity and contradiction. In this course, intended for writers of fiction and creative nonfiction, we bring this multiplicity onto the page—from the level of word to sentence to story/essay. We will write and share writing and read a good deal of fiction and nonfiction (Renee Gladman, Thomas Bernhard, John Keene, Charles D’Ambrosio, Bhanu Kapil) and some critical theory (Lauren Berlant, Homi K. Bhabha, Jack Halberstam) to help us envision what a literature that values many paths, that sometimes chooses the “wrong” path, might be. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and/or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

Prose Short Forms
Full course for one semester. This workshop is designed for students with considerable experience in writing short prose. Students will read stories and essays by authors such as Ross Gay, Lydia Davis, Yasunari Kawabata, and Sandra Cisneros in order to learn how to manage effects economically, and to write with maximum efficiency and suggestion. Students will write one short piece of prose per week; critically responding to others’ work, and the revision of one’s own stories, will also be emphasized. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Fact to Fiction
Full course for one semester. This workshop is designed for students with considerable experience in writing short fiction. Students will read nonfiction, source material, poetry, and other documents along with fiction that is based on or inspired by these sources. Readings will include work by John Edgar Wideman, Angela Carter, Andrea Barrett, Maggie Nelson, and others. Students will choose and explore personal and factual sources and, over the course of the semester, write fiction that takes these sources into account. Special emphasis will be given to critical response to others’ work, and the revision of one’s own stories. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 
Not offered 2020–21. 

Inspiration as Reaction
Full course for one semester. This workshop will investigate where our writing (fiction and nonfiction) comes from, and how to provoke it from within us. We will endeavor to investigate the objects of our personal curiosity, and how to pursue our curiosity to productive and entertaining ends. Such investigations might generate reactions to other writings and works of art, music, the news, our memories, animals, and will involve additional delving into our fears, hopes, and blind spots. Class time will be spent in conversation, generating and critiquing work, observing art and perhaps traveling to witness it, show and tell, etc.; a fair portion of the reading for this course will be assigned as we go, reacting to the atmospheres that are generated. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and/or consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Queer Writing
Full course for one semester. In this open-genre course, “queer” will exist as an adjective, noun, and verb. That is, through frequent short and longer writing forays, we will investigate why and how writing might be considered “queer”; we will consider strategies for expressing queer subjectivity and experience on the page; and we will explore how writing (language, genre, form) can be “queered” in ways that go beyond subject matter. Writing prompts will touch on realms corporeal, confessional, political, fantastical, abject. Readings will cross genre and decade, including but not limited to work by Jess Arndt, Hilton Als, David Wojnarowicz, Audre Lorde, Ocean Vuong, Ari Banias. Students do not need to identify as queer to take this course. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-­level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

Revision and Beyond
Full course for one semester. This workshop is designed for students with considerable experience in writing short fiction. Often, we talk about writing as if the bulk of the work is in generating the first draft, and revision isn’t much more than a final polish. But most writers eventually find that revision is as creative and gratifying a part of the writing practice as the earlier stages. In this course, students will practice and develop strategies for revision from sentence to story level, focusing on elements of craft as well as considerations of audience, genre, and the ethical dimension of fiction writing. The course will also offer students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the contemporary literary landscape through discussion and research around publishing, literary community building, the practice of creative writing in the academy, and other timely conversations in the field. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-­level creative writing course, sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

Writing Resistance
Full course for one semester. Our current cultural climate may more easily stick the word “resistance” to a car bumper than to substantive declaration or action. But as writers, we have the power to remake language with intention—or even choose to altogether reclaim or create language anew. In this open-genre course, we will ask what it means for writing to be “political,” to “resist” through form and structure, content and sentiment. To be didactic and subtle. To be barbed and tender. To affect change. While considering the presence and practice of resistance in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, we’ll also ask why or whether genre needs to exist at all. Is that a political question? Our reading of published authors will focus on contemporary work by writers such as Solmaz Sharif, Juliana Spahr, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Etel Adnan, and Hilary Plum. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a three- to five-page writing sample of any genre, one 200-­level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

Creative Writing 331 - Special Topics Studio

Full course for one semester. Variable topics. Enrollment limited to 15. Writing sample required. See specific listing for other prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit. 

Bulldozers, Birds, and Benson’s Bubblers: Poetry Grounded in Place
Full course for one semester. “Feelings are bound up in place,” wrote 20th-century southern writer Eudora Welty, arguing that art grounded in place can focus the “voracious eye of genius...into mediation, into poetry.” From the margins to the mainstream and all points surrounding, we will sharpen our own focus through specificity and sensory detail to write through the many dimensions of place—physical and psychological, real and imagined. To achieve our goals, we will physically and lyrically explore the city of Portland and its surroundings. By engaging the work of poets like Camille Dungy, C.S. Giscombe, Gary Snyder (Reed ’51), Brenda Hillman, Rodrigo Toscano, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (Reed ’69), and others, we will explore contemporary approaches to ecopoetics and building a poetry of landscape, urbanity, and the natural world that leaves room for, as poet Juliana Spahr notes, the “bulldozer” as well as the “bird.” Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor; a previous creative writing workshop course is preferred although not required. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

The Long Poem
Full course for one semester. The long-view focus of this advanced workshop is to provide an intensive critical forum for students to engage deeply with the practice of poetry with a specific focus on reading and writing long poem(s). We will work diligently to further the development of each poem/poet, exploring various strategies to generate and extend new work, and giving close consideration to the different modes of time expressed and experienced in poetry. This is primarily a workshop, but each participant will be responsible for presenting/explicating a long work in class discussion. Given the advanced nature of the course, students must have completed at least two course-long poetry workshops at Reed. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: Creative Writing 224 in poetry, in addition to either Creative Writing 274 or 331 in poetry, a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 
Not offered 2020–21. 

Multimedia Poetries
Full course for one semester. This course will be an inquiry into craft and discovery of the multimedia poetries around us and within us. We examine the recent landscape to understand how these poetries and poetics work, how and where they succeed (and fail), and how they might move into the future. We will critically study the work of others, including our peers, while working through regular skills-building creative assignments toward the completion of our own capstone project. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: Creative Writing 224 and one other creative writing course, a writing sample, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 

The Poem, Visualized
Full course for one semester. In this course, we’ll explore what it means to consider the poem as a visual object, beyond concrete poetry. Looking to films, paintings, dance, fashion, graphic novels, and other media, we’ll test and expand where our poems can live on and off the white page. Our lively and collaborative investigation will include weekly writing exercises and a freewheeling range of poetry and essays. Heavy emphasis will be placed on encouraging and examining student work within a workshop format, but this course will also include gallery visits and engagements with local working poets and artists. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a previous workshop course, a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2020–21. 

Regarding Revision
Full course for one semester. “I don’t write poems,” poet Robert Lowell famously said, “I rewrite them.” In this special topics studio we will focus intently on the art of re-visioning your poetry through multiple drafts to explore how the poem might become its truest self. While not a workshop in the traditional sense, this course will operate closer to the mode of a workshop in an old garage: placing our previously written (and occasionally newly written) poems on metaphorical sawhorses and trying their shape, their sound, their polish or exposed rough edges. Students will be presented with a variety of revision strategies employed by multiple generations of poets while also testing methods to re-vision old strategies anew and in particular for their own voice and their own poems. Together we will work to demystify the often confounding, yet very gratifying, task of revision. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: any 200-level poetry writing course (instructor may consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis), and a writing sample of three to five poems, sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Creative Writing 481 - Independent Study

One-half or full course for one semester. Independent writing projects. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor and the division.