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Program Overview

We are one of the oldest and most eminent programs in the nation. Robert Lowell was one of the early teachers and had scattered about him Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and George Starbuck. Lowell taught his workshop in Room 222, a roundish room with a view of the Charles, where we still conduct our workshops nowadays, though Lowell more often met his students at the Ritz Bar. Another amazing workshop took place in the same room in 1992, led by Leslie Epstein and attended by Jhumpa Lahiri, Peter Ho Davies, Marshall Klimasewiski, Ha Jin, and others. Over the decades many distinguished writers have taught here, such as John Cheever, Donald Barthelme, John Bath, Richard Yates, Derek Walcott, Ahron Applefeld, Amos Oz, Louise Glȕck, Allegra Goodman, Sue Miller, and Jennifer Haigh. These days our poetry workshops are led by Robert Pinsky, Gail Mazur, and Karl Kirchwey, and those in fiction by Leslie Epstein, Ha Jin, and Sigrid Nunez.

Our program is small with ten students admitted in fiction and eight in poetry each year. The MFA is usually awarded after a year of eight courses—four creative writing workshops and four literature courses; one of the literature courses can be BU’s well-known translation seminar. Most of our students complete the coursework in one year, two semesters plus a summer. For graduation, they are required to write a thesis, ninety pages in fiction and thirty-five in poetry, which reflects the workshop experience. Many of our students are from other countries and some multilingual. Our alumni are highly accomplished, and every semester they publish several books with reputable presses. Some of them have been teaching at schools like Princeton, Yale, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Washington University at St. Louis. Of course, we can make no assurance of success. Our only promise to those who join us is a concentrated year of study, which will open a way to a long pursuit of your art. But we can assure you a rich and exciting time here. BU’s Playwrights’ Theater, the literary magazine AGNI, and the visual arts and music programs in BU’s College of Fine Arts all provide our students the chance for collaborations across artistic disciplines. There are cultural activities on campus and in the city all the time.

Once admitted, every student gets financial help: a full tuition and a stipend. A part of the stipend is the payment for teaching a course at BU, usually an introduction to creative writing for BU’s undergraduates or at the nearby Boston Arts Academy, a pilot public school. All admitted students are qualified for a Global Fellowship upon completion of their degree requirements, which allows them to travel for two or three months anywhere outside of the United States. In recent years everyone who applied received such a fellowship. That is our way of launching you into the world.

The MFA at BU

About the Program

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The Global Fellowships

Our MFA students have the opportunity to live, write, and travel anywhere in the world

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The Translation Seminar

Read about BU's renowned Translation Seminar

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