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Joan Houlihan

MFA in Creative Writing Faculty

faculty joan houlihan

In poetry, more than in any other type of writing, language drives meaning. By focusing on the small elements of craft: line, syntax and line break, image and metaphor, sound and diction, I believe the poet finds a way to discover and inform the large elements: inspiration, intention, concept, invention, and communication. I engage each poem—and student—on their own terms, taking them as far (and deep) as possible, while challenging the student to examine their assumptions about what a poem can do. Through my extensive experience as an editor, I am especially able to help envision and re-envision a poem as well as a thesis/manuscript. My students have published books and chapbooks as well as poems in journals.



  • It Isn't a Ghost if it Lives in Your Chest (2021)
  • Shadow-feast (2018)
  • Ay (2014)
  • The Us (2009)
  • The Mending Worm (2006)
  • Hand-Held Executions: Poems & Essays (2003)


  • Academy of American Poets
  • Association of Literary Scholars
  • Critics and Writers;
  • Boston Review
  • Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Arts
  • Gettysburg Review
  • Gulf Coast
  • Harvard Review
  • Massachusetts Review
  • Poetry
  • Poetry International
  • Plume
  • Southampton Review
  • Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art
  • And many others


  • The Book of Irish-American Poetry—Eighteenth Century to Present (University of Notre Dame Press)
  • The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries (University of Iowa Press)
  • The World is Charged: Poetic Engagements with Gerard Manley Hopkins (Clemson University Press)

Essays and reviews published in:

  • Boston Comment
  • Contemporary Poetry Review
  • Pleiades
  • Poetry Society of America
  • And others


  • 2021 Julia Ward Howe Award
  • Must-read book of 2009 and 2018 (Massachusetts Center for the Book)
  • Green Rose Award for a Second Book (New Issues Press)


  • Professor of Practice, Clark University
  • Founding Director of Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference

Past Affiliations

  • Columbia University
  • Emerson College
  • Founder and Director of the Concord Poetry Center
  • Former Editor-in-Chief of Perihelion
  • Former Poetry Editor of Del Sol Review
  • Contributing Editor, Contemporary Poetry Review
  • Associate Editor of Tupelo Quarterly


BA, English, University of Massachusetts Amherst

M.A.T., English, University of Massachusetts Amherst