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Steven Cramer

Professor, Creative Writing

Steven Cramer

I teach creative writing as the art that it is. Teachers of any art can’t implant true originality, or stoke the “fire in the belly” without the help of ready kindling, but they can nurture, through attentive challenge, the promise of apprentice artists. That dynamic involves the student’s willingness to recognize critique as a kind of caring, and the teacher’s alertness to the constraints and capacities of the apprentice.  The way a painter teaches studio art, or guitar instructors position their students’ fingers on the frets—that’s how good creative writing mentors teach.  And they don’t confuse rigor with ruthlessness, even as they know artists must be ruthless with themselves. Yes, they have to provide an honest appraisal of the merits of a student’s work-in-progress—promising or unpromising—but that can be done with what Seamus Heaney beautifully calls “care for the emotional tissues.”

I'm interested in how poetic traditions of all sort live inside our own work. I don’t believe that creative writing exists without creative, constant, and catholic reading. I know of no serious writer who didn’t first love reading.

When a poem is finished, it is a gift that no longer belongs to the poet.


Books of Poetry

  • Departures from Rilke (2023)
  • Listen (2020)
  • 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

  • “Elegy for Little Richard,” a poem, Solstice Magazine
  • “Let Us Once Again Praise Creative Writing Workshops,” an essay, On the Seawall
  • Atlantic Monthly Online
  • Boston Review
  • Harvard Review
  • Ploughshares
  • Plume
  • 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).


  • 2021 Massachusetts "Must Read" Citation for Listen
  • 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Fellowship
  • 2005 Massachusetts Honor Book citation for Goodbye to the Orchard
  • 2005 Sheila Motton Award, New England Poetry Club, for Goodbye to the Orchard
  • 2005 L.A. Times Book Prize Nomination for Goodbye to the Orchard
  • 2005 Poet’s Prize Nomination for Goodbye to the Orchard
  • 1984 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
  • 1983 Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship

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.

Learn More

Connect through Steven Cramer's website.


  • MFA English, Iowa Writers Workshop
  • BA, Literature, Antioch College
  • Sheffield University, England, non-degree student

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