This semester, the Shapiro Creative Writing Center is introducing three master classes taught by award-winning author and poet C.D. Wright. Applications are available for all sophomores, juniors, and seniors and are due on Friday, Sept. 12. The classes will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 23; Tuesday, Oct. 14; and Tuesday, Nov. 11.
Kim-Frank Family University Writer-in-Residence and Shapiro Creative Writing Center Director Amy Bloom ’75 emphasized that the key merit of the program is the opportunity to work with a professional writer.
“The motivation [behind the program] was to bring some of America’s best poets to Wesleyan and to give the students the opportunity to work with them,” Bloom said. “[Wright is an] outstanding, articulate American poet with a passion for poetry and teaching. It’s not just she’s professional, it’s that she’s so gifted.”
The classes are capped at a dozen participants, all selected by Bloom and Wright based on a submitted cover letter. Bloom stated that the limit is designed to keep the classes intimate and to ensure that all students have the opportunity to work closely with Wright.
Shapiro Center Senior Fellow Amanda Distler ’15 spoke to the benefit of a small class with exclusively upperclassmen.
“You’re not only working with [Wright], you’re working with the whole class,” Distler said. “We want committed upperclassmen only, and the main reason that we’re drawing that line is so that we can have people who are closer to [masters level education], who need the prep, and who can realize what a masters class could do for them in the future.”
Wright is a professor at Brown University and the author of several books and book-length poems. In 1977, she founded a publishing company called Lost Roads Press, dedicated to poetry and literary fiction.
Distler emphasized the importance of Wright’s broad range of experience.
“You’re not just working with an author, you’re not just working with a poet, you’re not just working with a publisher; you get that all at once,” Distler said. “When someone has that point of view, it’s something that you can’t take out of them. Even when she’s giving advice on how to write or how to do poetry, she still has that backstory and that’s always influencing her advice. That could be extremely beneficial for someone who is interested in anything in the field.”
Katherine Gibbel ’15 has participated in master classes at the Shapiro Center in the past. She expressed excitement about the opportunity to work with another experienced writer.
“I’m honored and flattered that I get to meet her, even,” Gibbel said. “I just think it’s a really wonderful opportunity that the University provides for students so part of me just feels like, why not take advantage of it?… C.D. Wright is…a phenomenal poet.”
Although the Shapiro Center’s master classes are not offered for University credit, the classes aim to help students further their writing abilities. Distler noted that the benefits of working with a professional go beyond earning University credit.
“A lot of people are dissuaded by the fact that it’s not credit, but a lot of things in life are not tangible,” Distler said. “The best things in life you can’t write on paper, you can’t get on a transcript. Maybe it’s not the letter on a piece of paper that means the most about having turned in something and being proud of something.”
Rielly Wieners ’18 added that she hopes to take the class to advance a potential career in writing.
“Anytime you can work closely with an award-winning poet is exciting, especially if you’re trying to make a career out of writing like I am,” Wieners said. “It gets your name out there, and no one is better at critiquing poetry than a good poet.”
Following the class session on Oct. 14, Wright will hold a poetry reading and book signing event in the Shapiro Creative Writing Center. Distler expressed her excitement for the intimacy of the event.
“She’s been everywhere on the spectrum of the writing world and to have all of that experience answered into one answer for your question, that’s exciting to get all at once,” Distler said. “It’s an incredible opportunity because there are so many aspects to publishing and to writing and all of that and she’s had a peek at all of them.”
Additional reporting contributed by Sofi Goode ’17.