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Steven Cramer

Associate Professor, Creative Writing

Steven Cramer

From over twenty-eight years of working with poetry students, I've developed some central beliefs about teaching writing as an art. Despite what teachers can't do (implant talent; stoke "fire in the belly" without the help of embers), they can nurture, through attentive challenge, the promise of apprentice writers. That dynamic involves clear expectations and mutual trust, and the teacher's fair and honest estimate of a poem's merits, articulated with "respect for the emotional tissues" (Seamus Heaney). Of course, we all weep for our limitations.

Good teachers encourage. But they also say when a poem relies on cliché, hokey sentiment, platitudes, melodrama, or writing that lacks formal virtue. They don't mean that you are a cliché, hokey, melodramatic, or lacking in formal virtue. They mean your poem is not (yet) an event of language. When a poem is finished, it no longer belongs to the poet.

I'm interested in how certain poetic traditions - the sonnet, the Romantic odes, the inventions of Whitman and Dickinson, et al. - influence our own work even if we don't know it. I love the dispute between free verse and traditional form, especially when it takes place in the poem itself. I teach with an editor's eye.


Books of Poetry:
Clangings (2012)
Goodbye to the Orchard (2004)
Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand (1997)
The World Book (1992)
The Eye that Desires to Look Upward (1987)

Poetry published in:
AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, The Nation, New England Review, The New Republic, Paris Review, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Slate, and others

Essays and reviews published in:
Atlantic Monthly Online, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and others

Book Chapters:
“Merwin’s Evolving Protocols: On the Occasion of ‘The Day Itself,’” in Until Everything Is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W.S. Merwin (Seattle: WordFarm, 2012).
“Home Alone: Self and Relation in Part I of The Boat of Quiet Hours,” in Simply Lasting: Writers on Jane Kenyon (Graywolf Press, 2005)
“Images of Self-Confusedness: Fulke Greville,” in Touchstones: American Poets on a Favorite Poem (University Press of New England, 1996)

Awards: L.A. Times Book Prize Nomination, Massachusetts Honor Book Citation,The Sheila Motton Prize from the New England Poetry Club (for Goodbye to the Orchard); Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; Stanley Young Fellowship in Poetry, Bread Loaf Writer's Conference.

In 2014, Steven was 1 of 6 fellows selected to receive a $10,000 Artist Fellowship in Poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, out of the 280 poets that applied. The Council's Artist Fellowships recognize exceptional work by Massachusetts artists. The work Steven submitted for the fellowship was excepts from his book of poems, Clangings, published by Sarabande Books.

Prior Affiliations: The Atlantic Monthly; Bennington College; Boston University; David R. Godine, Publisher; Program in Writing and Humanistic Study, M.I.T.; Queens University; Tufts University.

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M.F.A. English, Iowa Writers Workshop
B.A., Literature, Antioch College
Sheffield University, England, non-degree student

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