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Four images. From top left, clockwise: students around workshop table; a faculty member speaking; a faculty member writing on a whiteboard; students listening at an event.

Teaching and Learning

MFA students take extensive workshops and seminars in their genre as well as at least one workshop and seminar in other genres. Beyond MFA courses, students also take courses across the UMass and the Five College Consortium. In addition to teaching composition in the Writing Program, which is the primary funding source for most MFA students, there are also opportunities to teach the undergraduate Living Writers course and a range of undergraduate creative writing workshops.

Four images. From top left: 3 students speaking on a panel; display boards at a presentation; a gathering of people posing for the camera; a display of ephemera.

Applied Literary Arts

One focus available to students in the MFA program is applied literary arts, through which students earn credits but also gain experience working in literary organizations. The Writers Work series introduces students to writers working in a wide array of fields, and in addition to work with publications as described below, students take on internships and other roles with Radius MFA, the Audio Archive, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute and Institute for Young Writers, the Juniper Fellows, and more.

From left: cover of an issue of The Massachusetts Review; cover of an issue of jubilat; cover of an issue of Paperbark


MFA students have the opportunity to work with UMass-affiliated literary journals including Paperbark and The Massachusetts Review as well as local presses with faculty or alumni connections like Slope Editions. Students have also created a number of their own literary journals, websites, and zines and found positions with other area-based publications such as The Common.

Four images. From top left: a poetry reading outdoors; four students posing at an event;  an audience listening to a poetry reading; five students and faculty pose at an event.

GradFest and Awards

Each spring, the program celebrates newly minted at GradFest, where graduating students are invited to read from a chapbook that includes excerpts from the graduating class’ work. MFA students across all years of the program are annually recognized with prizes from the MFA program and broader English Department.

Four images. From top left: a writer reads at an event; two faculty members pose for a photo; a writer reads at a podium; two students pose for a photo at an event.

Reading Series

The Pioneer Valley offers a plethora of reading series. The renowned Visiting Writers Series at UMass Amherst presents eight emerging and established writers per year. (Recent and upcoming readers include Gina Apostol, CA Conrad, Julie Iromuanya, Horacio Castellanos Moa, Fred Moten, Hoa Nguyen, Jordy Rosenberg, Christine Schutt, Danez Smith, and others.) MFA students help run and are often featured in local events hosted by Live LitHUTPlatform, among others. Amherst College Creative Writing Center and The Poetry Center at Smith College have robust reading series that are open to the public, and our great area bookstores, including UMass MFA partner Amherst BooksThe Odyssey Bookshop, and Unnameable Books, regularly host visiting writers.

A collage of three images of faculty members posing for photos at events and a fourth image of a dog reading a book.

Faculty and Staff

The UMass MFA faculty are widely published in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and other mediums. They have received honors including the Lavan Younger Poet Award, the Whiting Award, the Pen/Faulkner Award, the Kafka Prize for Best Novel by an American Woman, the Katherine Anne Porter Prize, and more; their work has been supported by fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Poetry Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Visit our faculty page to learn more about our faculty and their writing.

Covers of 8 books, clockwise from top left: The Nix, by Nathan Hill; Monument, by Natasha Tretheway; Home Fire, by Kamila Shamsie; Milk, by Dorothea Lasky; You're the Most Beautiful Thing that Happened, by Arisa White; Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas; Why Poetry, by Matthew Zapruder, and Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, by Andrea Lawlor

Alumni Engagement

Alumni of the MFA for Poets and Writers publish, teach, and lead literary lives across Massachusetts and around the world. Alumni often visit to read and talk to students as part of the Visiting Writers Series, Writers Work, and the Juniper Literary Festival.

clockwise from top left: Amherst Books; Emily Dickinson house; James Tate festival; the Bookmill

Pioneer Valley Literary Community

Located just two hours from Boston and three hours from New York City in a region the New York Times has called the “Valley of the Literate,” Western Massachusetts has long been home to writers, and students enjoy a broad literary community here that includes the Emily Dickinson Museum, the Montague Bookmill, the Du Bois Archive, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the David Ruggles Center for History and Education, the Poetry Center at Smith College, the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, and annual events like the Amherst Poetry Festival and the Northampton Print and Book Fair.

Four images. From top left, clockwise: two students chat at a table; a writer gives a reading; pamphlets laid out on a table; a student explores tables at the festival.

Juniper Literary Festival

Once a year, the MFA program draws students, alumni, faculty, and the wider literary community together to celebrate the Juniper Literary Festival. Introducing audiences to the vibrant landscape of new American poetry and fiction and exploring issues essential to the future of American literature, the Juniper Literary Festival features readings with internationally known writers and UMass MFA alumni as well as programming from current students and a journal and book fair.