Department of English

Lisa Olstein


ProfessorM.F.A., 2003, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Lisa Olstein

Contact

Interests


poetry, poetic prose, creative process, interdisciplinary artistic collaboration

Biography


Lisa Olstein is the author of four books of poetry, including Radio Crackling, Radio Gone, winner of the Hayden Carruth Award; Lost Alphabet, a Library Journal best book of the year; and Little Stranger, a Lannan Literary Selection; and Late Empire (Copper Canyon Press 2017). Pain Studies, a book of narrative nonfiction, is forthcoming in 2020. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The NationAmerican Letters & Commentary, and Boston Review, and has been recognized by a Pushcart Prize, Lannan Writing Residency, Essay Press Chapbook Prize, and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Centrum. She is also the lyricist for Cold Satellite, a rock band fronted by acclaimed songwriter Jeffrey Foucault. 

Courses


E 380E • Practicum In Editing

35250 • Fall 2019
Meets T 11:00AM-2:00PM UTC 1.142

Practicum in Editing: Bat City Review

This is a course in and about literary editing as a practical, visionary, and collaborative endeavor. Students become essential members of Bat City Review’s community of thinker-makers, undertaking editorial, production, and outreach work essential to the life of the journal. Exploring questions of editorial mission and curation, as well as the role of literary journals in contemporary American letters, class members will develop their own editorial ethics and aesthetics as they collaborate on the creation of Bat City’s next issue. Students will build valuable critical and professional skills and gain insight into how their own work may be received when sent out for publication. At the same time, they’ll be an integral part of Bat City’s welcoming community of writers and, through the journal, join in national literary conversations.

This course is open to all interested graduate students with priority given to MFA candidates in the NWP and MCW. All class members serve as Associate Editors and receive masthead recognition in the journal. An ideal point of entry for anyone interested in editing and literary publishing, students interested in a future editorial role with BCR are especially encouraged to enroll.

Founded in 2004, Bat City Review is an annual literary journal of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art, generously funded by the Department of English and the Michener Center for Writers. Under the leadership of MFA student editors, BCR has published 14 issues to significant acclaim, featuring work by Terrance Hayes, Diane Seuss, D.A. Powell, Caitlin Horrocks, Aimee Bender, George Saunders, Mary Ruefle, Amit Majmudar, Joe Jiménez, and Danez Smith, among many others.

E 398T • Supervised Teaching In English

35355 • Fall 2019
Meets F 9:00AM-12:00PM MEZ 1.104

Supervised Teaching in English (Creative Writing)

This class provides a supportive and collaborative pedagogical community for MFA students teaching creative writing. Taking up questions ranging from the nuts and bolts of syllabus development to the ethics, aesthetics, and logistics of workshop leadership to the underlying goals and commitments that motivate our teaching in the first place, class members will explore topics both practical and conceptual, develop and peer review course materials, and report from the field of their own classrooms as they prepare for and teach their courses. (Required of and restricted to New Writers Project students with creative writing teaching appointments in 2019-20.)

E 386L • Creatv Writ: Wrkshp In Poetry

35795 • Spring 2019
Meets T 11:00AM-2:00PM CBA 4.336

What questions do you most often have about the poems you read? What questions do you most often have about the poems you write? What questions do poems pose of us, their readers and/or makers? What questions urge you to turn to poetry in the first place? Inquisitive in spirit and prismatic in approach, this graduate poetry workshop will focus on members’ new poems: generating and honing them, exploring the ways in which they inspire us to imagine and require us to think, investigating the issues of craft and process they suggest, and considering the sources of poetic resonance that compel them into being. Published poems, essays, art and other materials will guide our inquiry. A variety of workshop methods will inform our analysis. Above all, we’ll pursue a practice of rigorous attention—improvisational and deeply considered—to language’s powers and possibilities as manifest (or incipient) in the poems before us.

E 380E • Practicum In Editing

35925 • Fall 2018
Meets T 11:00AM-2:00PM MEZ 1.104

Practicum in Editing: Bat City Review

This is a course in and about literary editing as a practical, visionary, and collaborative endeavor. Students become essential members of Bat City Review’s community of thinker-makers, undertaking editorial, production, and outreach work essential to the journal. Practically and conceptually, the course will explore questions of editorial mission and curation, as well as the role of literary journals in contemporary American letters. Research, analysis, discussion, and skills-based tutorials will support class members in the development of their own editorial ethics and aesthetics, while they simultaneously collaborate on the creation of Bat City’s next issue. Students will build valuable critical and professional skills and gain insight into how their own work may be received when sent out for publication. At the same time, they’ll be an integral part of Bat City’s welcoming community of writers, participating in local events, and, through the journal, joining in national literary conversations.

The course is open to all interested graduate students with priority given to MFA candidates in the NWP and MCW. Students serving on the editorial board are expected to enroll. Students not on the board are equally welcome: the class is an ideal point of entry for anyone interested in literary publishing generally or in a future editorial role with Bat City in particular. All class members receive masthead recognition in the journal.

Bat City Review is an annual literary journal of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art, generously funded by the Department of English and the Michener Center for Writers. Founded in 2004 by Professor Kurt Heinzelman, under the leadership of MFA student editors, BCR has published 13 issues to significant acclaim, featuring work by Terrance Hayes, Diane Seuss, D.A. Powell, Caitlin Horrocks, Aimee Bender, George Saunders, Mary Ruefle, Amit Majmudar, Joe Jiménez, and Danez Smith, among many others.

E 386L • Creatv Writ: Wrkshp In Poetry

35255 • Spring 2018
Meets T 11:00AM-2:00PM CAL 323

Graduate Poetry Workshop

This graduate poetry workshop (open to candidates in either MFA program) will focus on members’ new poems: generating and honing them, exploring the ways in which they inspire us to imagine and require us to think, investigating the issues of craft and process they suggest, and considering the sources of poetic resonance that compel them into being in the first place. Published poems, essays, images, and other materials will guide our inquiry. A variety of workshop methods will inform our analysis. Above all, we’ll pursue a practice of rigorous attention—improvisational and deeply considered—to language’s powers and possibilities as manifest (or incipient) in the poems before us.

E 380E • Practicum In Editing

35765 • Fall 2017
Meets TH 12:30PM-3:30PM CAL 323

Practicum In Editing: Bat City Review

This is a course in and about literary editing as a practical, visionary, and collaborative endeavor. Students become essential members of Bat City Review’s community of thinker-makers, undertaking editorial, production, and outreach work essential to the journal. Practically and conceptually, the course will explore questions of editorial mission and curation, as well as the role of literary journals in contemporary American letters. Guided research, analysis, and discussion will support class members in the development of their own editorial ethics and aesthetics, while they simultaneously collaborate on the creation of Bat City’s next issue. Tutorials will include topics such as In-Design, Submittable, SquareSpace, and Photoshop, as well as copy-editing, proofreading, and layout. Students will build valuable critical and professional skills and, as writers themselves, gain insight into how their own work may be received when they send it out for publication. At the same time, they enter into Bat City’s welcoming community of writers, participate in local events, and, through the journal, join in national literary conversations.

The course is open to all interested graduate students with priority given to MFA candidates in the NWP and MCW. (Students potentially interested in future editorial positions with the journal, including the paid, post-graduate Managing Editorship) are especially encouraged to enroll.)

Bat City Review is an annual literary journal of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art, generously funded by the Department of English and the Michener Center for Writers. Founded in 2004 by Professor Kurt Heinzelman, under the leadership of MFA student editors, BCR has published 13 issues to significant acclaim, featuring work by Terrance Hayes, Diane Seuss, D.A. Powell, Caitlin Horrocks, Aimee Bender, George Saunders, Mary Ruefle, Amit Majmudar, Joe Jiménez, and Danez Smith, among many others.

 


E 380F • Literature For Writers

35770 • Fall 2017
Meets T 12:30PM-3:30PM CAL 323

Becoming Contemporary: American Poetry’s Cross-Current Riptide Climax Forest of 1965-1969  (& How it Relates to Now)

During a brief period in the mid to late 1960s, a remarkable number and variety of poets whose work helped define what we call Contemporary American Poetry published books of lasting importance. Whether early-, mid-, or late-career works, these collections embody a crucial nexus for 20th century American poetry—and culture—that continues to shape the landscape today. In this seminar, we’ll engage each book on its own merits; explore issues of inheritance, influence, trajectory, and context; consider ideas of school, identity, movement, and politics; and dust for the fingerprints of these poets on work being written now.  Our anticipated reading list includes collections by John Ashbery, Amiri Baraka, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsburg, Etheridege Knight, Audre Lorde, WS Merwin, Frank O’Hara, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, James Tate, and others. It will also include essays about literature/art/culture relevant to then (a time of intense social and political upheaval) and now (a time of intense social and political upheaval). Poetry-oriented, students focused on other genres are welcome and may request some reading list and assignment accommodations to address their interests.

E 386L • Creatv Writ: Wrkshp In Poetry

35695 • Spring 2017
Meets W 11:00AM-2:00PM CAL 323

Creative Writing: Workshop in Poetry

This graduate poetry workshop (open to candidates in either MFA program) will focus on members’ new poems: generating and honing them, exploring the ways in which they inspire us to imagine and require us to think, investigating the issues of craft and process they suggest, and considering the sources of poetic resonance that compel them into being in the first place. Published poems, essays, images, and other materials will guide our inquiry. A variety of workshop methods will inform our analysis. Above all, we’ll pursue a practice of rigorous attention—improvisational and deeply considered—to language’s powers and possibilities as manifest (or incipient) in the poems before us.

CRW 325P • Poetry Writing

34420 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CAL 221

CRW 325P  l  Poetry Writing

Instructor:  Olstein, L

Unique #:  34420

Semester:  Fall 2016

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites:  One of the following: C L 315, E 603B, (316K,) 316L, 316M, 316N, 316P, or T C 603B.

Description:  In this class, students will read and write intensively with two primary goals in mind:  to generate and hone exciting new poems, and to become increasingly skilled readers of poetry from a practitioner’s perspective.  Part laboratory, part think-tank, part workshop, our class will combine the writing and revising of new poems with close reading and analysis of published poems and essays; active exploration of elements of craft, process, and imagination; and constructive, nuanced response to student poems.

Requirements & Grading:  Requirements include: 1) Meaningful engagement with all aspects of our work, written and oral, via fulfillment of weekly reading and writing assignments, excellent attendance, and active class participation. (80%); 2) A final portfolio of poems written and revised over the course of the semester, accompanied by a short reflection paper regarding process and craft. (20%)

E 380E • Practicum In Editing

35600 • Fall 2016
Meets F 9:00AM-12:00PM PAR 214

Practicum in Literary Editing: BAT CITY REVIEW

Thirteen years ago the graduate students in The Department's Creative Writing Program inaugurated a literary journal called the Bat City Review.  The journal has received, in this very short time period, national acclaim.  Works from the journal have been featured on poetry daily websites, reviewed favorably by national publications, and included in prize-winning book collections. Published annually, edited and managed entirely by Creative Writing students, BCR is a jewel in the Department's treasury.  As the faculty founder, principal instructor, and ongoingeditorial advisor, I worked to develop and maintain what might be called a culture of the journal and to ensure that the editing experience remains pedagogically valuable to the students who undertake it.

This course, then, is botha practicum for editing a literary journal and an introduction to the role of literary journals in the U. S. during the last century. Theoretically, the course raises questions of aesthetic value and editorial judgment: in fact, we begin by reading Descartes's "Discourse on Method."  Often this involves understanding how a particular work, whether poetry or fiction, operates within its own genre (and this involves identifying the genre in the first place, not always an easy task, especially if the genre is being bent by the work in question or the reader is unfamiliar with the generic conventions that are being bent).  So, one strain of course preparations has to do with this issue of establishing a basis for aesthetic evaluation, which is quite different from liking the work that you like.

The largest part of the course will also be discussion and evaluation of actual submissions to the journal, both poetry and prose.  These submissions run into the thousands for poetry, several hundred for fiction.  So, this is a hands-on course.

SUGGESTED READING LIST:

Descartes, "Discourse on Method"

The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History, ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie

The Little Magazine in Contemporary America, eds. Ian Morris and Joanne Diaz

Selected journal reading—Glimmer Train, Missouri Review, One Story, Tin House, Poetry, Zootrope, Agni, Mid-American Review, etc.

REQUIREMENTS:

Successful reading of all submission materials, plus supplementary reading of secondary and primary texts.  Weekly evaluative writing assignments.  Occasional administrative tasks pertaining to management of periodical publication. The final exam is the completion of the year's new issue.

 

E 380F • Literature For Writers

35605 • Fall 2016
Meets M 1:00PM-4:00PM CAL 419

What Are You Looking At? Book-length Poetic Obsessions

In this class we’ll examine poetry, poetic prose, and poetry/prose hybrids fueled, shaped, and sustained by the playing out of the imagination upon particular ideas, people, events, and/or forms—that is, book-length works compelled by the author’s extended engagement with identifiable, external sources of deep creative resonance or productive irritation. Located at the intersections of inspiration and execution, form and content, self and other, freedom and constraint, such work forms a unique, often hybrid, tradition and also brings into high relief fundamental issues of craft and process. We’ll take up a diverse group of contemporary examples, analyzing each work’s particular method/madness and exploring the sources fueling each text’s fire, ranging from artists’ notebooks to philosophical treatises. In addition to close reading, interpretive analysis, and investigative research, students will pursue a creative project instigated by resonant external sources particular to their own imaginations and intellects. Texts likely to include: Memorial, Alice Oswald; Dime Store Alchemy, Charles Simic; The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Michael Ondaatje; Voyager, Srikanth Reddy; Bluets, Maggie Nelson; Nox, Anne Carson; and Voyage of the Sable Venus, Robin Coste Lewis; among others.

E 386L • Creatv Writ: Wrkshp In Poetry

34870 • Spring 2016
Meets W 1:00PM-4:00PM PAR 214

This graduate poetry workshop (open to candidates in either MFA program) will focus on members’ new poems: generating and honing them, exploring the ways in which they inspire us to imagine and require us to think, investigating the issues of craft and process they suggest, and considering the sources of poetic resonance that compel them into being in the first place. Published poems, essays, images, and other materials will guide our inquiry. A variety of workshop methods will inform our analysis. Above all, we’ll pursue a practice of rigorous attention—improvisational and deeply considered—to language’s powers and possibilities as manifest (or incipient) in the poems before us.

CRW 340P • Poetry Workshop

33930 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CAL 419

CRW 340P  l  Poetry Workshop [Certificate]

Instructor:  Olstein, L

Unique #:  33930

Semester:  Spring 2015

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer Instruction:  No

Flags:  Writing

CRW 340P and E 341L may not both be counted.

Prerequisites: CRW 325M or 325P (or E 325P).

Description: In this workshop you'll read, write, and think about poetry every week, exploring the possibilities of the poem and developing the practices of a working poet. You’ll be an individual writer generating and honing new poems, and you’ll be an essential member of a semester-long writing community dedicated to becoming increasingly fluent (and adventurous) readers and practitioners.

Texts: Our primary texts will be student work distributed weekly and published poems and essays handed out in class.

Requirements & Grading: Each week, assignments will combine the following: writing poems to be shared in workshop, reading and responding to peer poems, and discussing published work (poems and essays). Attendance is required. A final portfolio of poems (8-10pp.) written and revised over the course of the semester, accompanied by a short reflection on process and craft, will be turned in at our final meeting.

Final grades will be based on demonstrated effort and meaningful engagement with all requirements, as above. (Weekly written work: 40%; Class participation: 40%; Final portfolio: 20%).

E 386L • Creatv Writ: Wrkshp In Poetry

35045 • Spring 2015
Meets M 1:00PM-4:00PM CAL 200

This graduate poetry workshop (open to candidates in either MFA program) will focus on members’ new poems: generating and honing them, exploring the ways in which they inspire us to imagine and require us to think, investigating the issues of craft and process they suggest, and considering the sources of poetic resonance that compel them into being in the first place. Published poems, essays, images, and other materials will guide our inquiry. A variety of workshop methods will inform our analysis. Above all, we’ll pursue a practice of rigorous attention—improvisational and deeply considered—to language’s powers and possibilities as manifest (or incipient) in the poems before us.

E 380F • Literature For Writers

36030 • Fall 2014
Meets M 1:00PM-4:00PM CAL 221

Form Mode Mood Ghost

Part reading room, part laboratory, part workshop, part cartographer’s library, this craft seminar will engage in crash-course consideration of poetic forms and modes through classic examples, modern/contemporary reconfigurations, and our own experiments writing in (ghost) forms. Our terrain will include selected modes (e.g. ode, elegy, epistle, pastoral, lyric, long poem, short poem, prose poem, chance operations) and selected forms (e.g. sonnet, sestina, villanelle, syllabics, cento, ghazal, abecedarian), as well as ghost versions of each: contemporary borrowings, (re)interpretations, and riffs. Building historical-formal literacy will be a natural part of the process, but is not our primary goal (this is not a course on prosody, strict form, or historical survey). Instead, maintaining a craft-oriented, practitioner’s perspective, our emphasis will be on exploring the ways in which form and mode act on and in language, how they affect our senses and intellects, and how they’re expressed in the contemporary imagination. Our reading necessarily will be episodic and intensive. Our writing will be undertaken as serious play allowing us to embody and metabolize received forms (rather than to produce “real” work) and to productively riff off of and reinvent constraints. [NB: Poetry-focused in certain obvious ways, many of our explorations will be relevant across genres; prose writers (and attendant adjustments to writing assignments) are welcome.]

E 380F • Literature For Writers

36257 • Spring 2014
Meets W 1:00PM-4:00PM UTC 4.114

In this class we’ll examine poetry and poetry/prose hybrids fueled, shaped, and sustained by the playing out of the imagination upon a particular idea, person, or form—that is, book-length works compelled by the author’s extended engagement with an identifiable, external source of deep creative resonance or productive irritation. Located at the intersections of inspiration and execution, form and content, self and other, freedom and constraint, such work forms a unique, often hybrid, tradition and also brings into high relief fundamental issues of craft and process. We’ll take up six contemporary examples of the form, analyzing each collection’s particular method and madness, and explore some of the diverse sources that fuel each project’s fire ranging from artists’ notebooks to philosophical treatises. In addition to close reading, interpretive analysis, and investigative research, students will pursue a creative project instigated by resonant external sources particular to their own imaginations and intellects.

E 386L • Creatv Writ: Wrkshp In Poetry

36080 • Fall 2013
Meets M 1:00PM-4:00PM PAR 214

Creative Writing: Workshop in Poetry

This graduate poetry workshop (open to candidates in either MFA program) will focus on members’ new poems: generating and honing them, exploring the ways in which they inspire us to imagine and require us to think, investigating the issues of craft and process they suggest, and considering the sources of poetic resonance that compel them into being in the first place. Published poems, essays, images, and other materials will guide our inquiry. A variety of workshop methods will inform our analysis. Above all, we’ll pursue a practice of rigorous attention—improvisational and deeply considered—to language’s powers and possibilities as manifest (or incipient) in the poems before us.

Curriculum Vitae


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