MFA Program

The MFA Program at Washington University in St. Louis is a two-year program where 30 students are working toward MFA degrees in fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. Our world-renowned faculty will mentor you and your writing to develop to your full potential. In addition to working with our faculty, our reading series brings a diverse group of poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers to the department, and the Hurst Professor program brings distinguished visitors each year to present their newest work, lecture on the craft of writing, and work one-on-one with our MFA students. Alison Bechdel, Claudia Rankine, George Saunders, Patricia Hampl, Kelly Link, Joy Williams, and Terrance Hayes are just some of our recent Hurst Professors.

The two-year program is rigorous and challenging, but fosters a close-knit community of support that continues long after the degrees have been granted. At the heart of the program are the fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry workshops, with craft courses in all genres, access to the department’s courses in literature, and many other courses in the College of Arts & Sciences also available to MFA students. Students may also take graduate courses from other departments when appropriate to their creative endeavors (and with the permission of the faculty).

Entry into the program is highly competitive—out of hundreds of applications received, we accept only 15 students (five each in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction). Our students come from all over the US and around the world and generally include a mix of recent undergraduates and older students, with a diversity of writing styles that continues to surprise us.

Learn More about Life in St. Louis

Zenique Gardner Perry

Read Zenique Gardner Perry's "When Momma’s Prayers Weren’t Enough"

A killing. And a summons home.

Listen to Niki Herd read her poem, "Aubade for The Late Great Show" on NER Out Loud

Funding and Fellowships

Financial Support

Because of our selectivity and size, we are able to offer all our new students full and equal financial aid for both years in the program in the form of a University Fellowship, which provides a complete tuition waiver plus a stipend sufficient for students to live comfortably in our relatively inexpensive city. There are also two university-wide fellowships for graduate students, which applicants to the MFA Program are urged to apply for separately: the Spencer T. Olin Fellowships for Women and the Chancellor's Graduate Fellowships. All MFA students receive health insurance through Washington University.

Learn more about financial support and funding opportunities

Program Structure

The Writing Program leads to the Master of Fine Arts in Writing (MFA). It is a two-year program, requiring satisfactory completion of 42 semester hours, a thesis (usually a volume of poems, short stories, a novel, a collection of essays or a book-length nonfiction manuscript), and an oral examination dealing principally with the thesis.

Learn More About the Program Structure

Admissions

Please note that, beginning in 2017, we no longer require the GRE for admissions.

Admission to the Writing Program at Washington University is highly competitive. Each year, we are able to accept only between 3 and 5 percent of applicants, and there are always many more qualified and promising writers than we can accommodate.

Applicants must apply by December 15. Applicants must follow standard Office of Graduate Studies procedures and apply online. The online application will allow you to submit the following material:

  • Application Fee
  • Applicant Information Form
  • Transcripts
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Writing Sample 
  • Curriculum Vitae

Typed manuscripts should consist of 6 to 12 poems or up to 35 double-spaced pages of fiction or nonfiction. Please note the decision-making committees admit students and decide on financial aid without regard to gender, sexual orientation, age, race, color, creed, national origin, or disability.

WUSTL is also home to the students who founded MFA App Review, an initiative that offers free, informal manuscript review to POC, Indigenous, Trans* and Nonbinary writers and poets applying to fully funded MFA programs. To learn how to apply to have your materials reviewed, please visit MFAappReview.com.

Please note that, following the Office of Graduate Studies’ policies, we very rarely accept students who have already received an MFA from another institution, even if the applicant is applying in a different genre.

Ready to apply?

Visit the Online Application

 

Our Alumni

We've long been fortunate to have outstanding students come through The MFA Program at Washington University, and we're very proud of how much our MFA alumni have gone on to accomplish since graduating.

 

Learn more about our graduates

Internship Opportunity

Dorothy, a publishing project—a nationally acclaimed independent press publishing works of innovative fiction—offers a one-year internship for an MFA student in creative writing. Students can apply in the spring of their first year to begin the internship the following fall. The intern chosen will work directly with Danielle Dutton, the press's editor, on mutually agreed upon projects that take into account the intern's interests and strengths. In general, however, the internship is designed to give students a wide range of experience with literary publishing, and so will likely involve a mix of editorial work (e.g., reviewing submissions, writing reader’s reports, copyediting manuscripts in layout), marketing, design, and book production and distribution. The intern will also have opportunities to represent the press publicly, including at the annual AWP conference (travel and hotel expenses will be covered), and his or her name will appear on the press's masthead.

Interested students should submit a letter of application and a CV to Professor Dutton (ddutton@wustl.edu) and Program Director David Schuman (dschuman@wustl.edu) no later than March 15 of the spring semester of their first year. The Course Master will be Danielle Dutton; David Schuman will be the Site Supervisor.

Creative Writing Faculty Bookshelf

Purgatorio
Boyz n the Void
Best Men
Then the War and Selected Poems, 2007-2020
Pale Colors in a Tall Field
The Silk Road
The History of the Future: American Essays
Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera
Samuel Johnson's Eternal Return
Margaret the First: A Novel
The Tether: Poems
The Rest of Love: Poems
Speak Low: Poems
Silverchest: Poems
Rock Harbor: Poems
Riding Westward: Poems
Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006
Poetry, Love, and Mercy
Pastoral: Poems
In The Blood
From the Devotions: Poems
Double Shadow: Poems
Cortège: Poems
Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry
The Backwash Squeeze and Other Improbable Feats: A Newcomer's Journey into the World of Bridge
Buster Keaton: Tempest In A Flat Hat
Tyrants: Stories
The Cottagers: A Novel
The Tender Land: A Family Love Story
S P R A W L
Attempts at a Life
Versailles
The Walking Tour
The Thin Place
The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf: A Novel
Labrador
Hell
Duplex: A Novel
The Eye Like a Strange Balloon
The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans
The Bride of E: Poems
Louise in Love
Inferno: A New Translation
Elegy: Poems
Apology for Want

Purgatorio

Award-winning poet Mary Jo Bang’s new translation of Purgatorio is the extraordinary continuation of her journey with Dante, which began with her transformative version of Inferno. In Purgatorio, still guided by the Roman poet Virgil, Dante emerges from the horrors of Hell to begin the climb up Mount Purgatory, a seven-terrace mountain with each level devoted to those atoning for one of the seven deadly sins. At the summit, we find the Terrestrial Heaven and Beatrice—who will take over for Virgil, who, as a pagan, can only take Dante so far. During the climb, we are introduced to the myriad ways in which humans destroy the social fabric through pride, envy, and vindictive anger.

In her signature lyric style, accompanied by her wise and exuberant notes, Bang has produced a stunning translation of this fourteenth-century text, rich with references that span time, languages, and cultures. The contemporary allusions echo the audacious character of the original, and slyly insist that whatever was true in Dante’s era is still true. Usain Bolt, Tootsie Fruit Chews, the MGM logo, Leo the Lion, Amy Winehouse, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, and Gertrude Stein are among those who make cameo appearances as Bang, with eloquence and daring, shepherds The Divine Comedy into the twenty-first century.

Boyz n the Void

Writing to his brother, G’Ra Asim reflects on building his own identity while navigating Blackness, masculinity, and young adulthood—all through wry social commentary and music/pop culture critique

How does one approach Blackness, masculinity, otherness, and the perils of young adulthood? For G’Ra Asim, punk music offers an outlet to express himself freely. As his younger brother, Gyasi, grapples with finding his footing in the world, G’Ra gifts him with a survival guide for tackling the sometimes treacherous cultural terrain particular to being young, Black, brainy, and weird in the form of a mixtape.

Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother blends music and cultural criticism and personal essay to explore race, gender, class, and sexuality as they pertain to punk rock and straight edge culture. Using totemic punk rock songs on a mixtape to anchor each chapter, the book documents an intergenerational conversation between a Millennial in his 30s and his zoomer teenage brother. Author, punk musician, and straight edge kid, G’Ra Asim weaves together memoir and cultural commentary, diving into the depths of everything from theory to comic strips, to poetry to pizza commercials to mapping the predicament of the Black creative intellectual.

With each chapter dedicated to a particular song and placed within the context of a fraternal bond, Asim presents his brother with a roadmap to self-actualization in the form of a Doc Martened foot to the behind and a sweaty, circle-pit-side-armed hug.
Listen to the author’s playlist while you read! Access the playlist here: https://sptfy.com/a18b

Best Men

Read an interview with David Schuman about Best Men in the Chicago Review of Books here: 
https://chireviewofbooks.com/2021/08/30/weddings-wolves-and-walla-walla-...

Then the War and Selected Poems, 2007-2020

A new collection of poems from one of America’s most essential, celebrated, and enduring poets, Carl Phillips's Then the War

I’m a song, changing. I’m a light
rain falling through a vast

darkness toward a different
darkness.

Carl Phillips has aptly described his work as an “ongoing quest”; Then the War is the next step in that meaningful process of self-discovery for both the poet and his reader. The new poems, written in a time of rising racial conflict in the United States, with its attendant violence and uncertainty, find Phillips entering deeper into the landscape he has made his own: a forest of intimacy, queerness, and moral inquiry, where the farther we go, the more difficult it is to remember why or where we started.

Then the War includes a generous selection of Phillips’s work from the previous thirteen years, as well as his recent lyric prose memoir, “Among the Trees,” and his chapbook, Star Map with Action Figures.

Ultimately, Phillips refuses pessimism, arguing for tenderness and human connection as profound forces for revolution and conjuring a spell against indifference and the easy escapes of nostalgia. Then the War is luminous testimony to the power of self-reckoning and to Carl Phillips as an ever-changing, necessary voice in contemporary poetry.

Pale Colors in a Tall Field

Carl Phillips’s new poetry collection, Pale Colors in a Tall Field, is a meditation on the intimacies of thought and body as forms of resistance. The poems are both timeless and timely, asking how we can ever truly know ourselves in the face of our own remembering and inevitable forgetting. Here, the poems metaphorically argue that memory is made up of various colors, with those most prominent moments in a life seeming more vivid, though the paler colors are never truly forgotten. The poems in Pale Colors in a Tall Field approach their points of view kaleidoscopically, enacting the self’s multiplicity and the difficult shifts required as our lives, in turn, shift. This is one of Phillips’s most tender, dynamic, and startling books yet.

The Silk Road

The Silk Road begins on a mat in yoga class, deep within a labyrinth on a settlement somewhere in the icy north, under the canny guidance of Jee Moon. When someone fails to arise from corpse pose, the Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topologist, the Geographer, the Iceman, and the Cook remember the paths that brought them there―paths on which they still seem to be traveling.

The Silk Road also begins in rivalrous skirmishing for favor, in the protected Eden of childhood, and it ends in the harrowing democracy of mortality, in sickness and loss and death. Kathryn Davis’s sleight of hand brings the past, present, and future forward into brilliant coexistence; in an endlessly shifting landscape, her characters make their way through ruptures, grief, and apocalypse, from existence to nonexistence, from embodiment to pure spirit.

Since the beginning of her extraordinary career, Davis has been fascinated by journeys. Her books have been shaped around road trips, walking tours, hegiras, exiles: and now, in this triumphant novel, a pilgrimage. The Silk Road is her most explicitly allegorical novel and also her most profound vehicle; supple and mesmerizing, the journey here is not undertaken by a single protagonist but by a community of separate souls―a family, a yoga class, a generation. Its revelations are ravishing and desolating.

The History of the Future: American Essays

A collection of long essays centered on American places where the past is erupting into the present in unexpected ways. What does it mean to think about Dallas in relationship to Dallas? In The History of the Future, McPherson reexamines the space between history, experience, and myth. Private streets, racism, and the St. Louis World’s Fair; fracking for oil and digging for dinosaurs in North Dakota boomtowns—Americana slides into apocalypse in these essays, revealing us to ourselves.

  • "Best Books of 2017" (The Guardian, Iowa Public Radio)
  • Winner of the 2017 PEN Southwest Book Award
  • Finalist for the 2018 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award

Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera

"Here Comes Kitty is a dark circus of the very best kind: bright 'damage' on every page. It pierces the heart with its mixture of love and going. I am honored to speak in support of such an extraordinarily brilliant book." —Bhanu Kapil

"Monumental incongruities—dazzling composition. Richard Kraft and Danielle Dutton have created a riot of images and words. The exuberance is contagious. A delight. A must." —Rosmarie Waldrop

"Here Comes Kitty reaches out in all sorts of ways like a compendium of the postmodern without pretentiousness which—despite combining humor, the erotic, the gothic, the wry, the popular and the sophisticated—tells a tight tale with wild invention and makes you want both to turn the pages and dwell on the images." —Tom Phillips

Samuel Johnson's Eternal Return

When Samuel Johnson dies, he finds himself in the body of the man who killed him, unable to depart this world but determined, at least, to return to the son he left behind. Moving from body to body as each one expires, Samuel’s soul journeys on a comic quest through an American half-century, inhabiting lives as stymied, in their ways, as his own. A ghost story of the most unexpected sort, Martin Riker’s extraordinary debut is about the ways experience is mediated, the unstoppable drive for human connection, and the struggle to be more fully alive in the world.

Martin Riker grew up in central Pennsylvania. He worked as a musician for most of his twenties, in nonprofit literary publishing for most of his thirties, and has spent the first half of his forties teaching in the English department at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2010, he and his wife Danielle Dutton co-founded the feminist press Dorothy, a Publishing Project. His fiction and criticism have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York TimesLondon Review of Books, the Baffler, and Conjunctions. This is his first novel.

Margaret the First: A Novel

Winner of an Independent Publisher's Book Award Gold Medal for Historical Fiction

Margaret the First dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional 17th-century Duchess. The eccentric Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when “being a writer” was not an option open to women. As one of the Queen’s attendants and the daughter of prominent Royalists, she was exiled to France when King Charles I was overthrown. As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret met and married William Cavendish, who encouraged her writing and her desire for a career. After the War, her work earned her both fame and infamy in England: at the dawn of daily newspapers, she was “Mad Madge,” an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London—a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution—and the last for another two hundred years. 

Margaret the First is very much a contemporary novel set in the past. Written with lucid precision and sharp cuts through narrative time, it is a gorgeous and wholly new approach to imagining the life of a historical woman.

The Tether: Poems

As I understand it, I could
call him. Though it would help,
it is not required that I give him
a name first. Also, nothing
says he stops, then, or must turn.
--from "The Figure, the Boundary, the Light"

The Rest of Love: Poems

The light, for as far as
I can see, is that of any number of late

afternoons I remember still: how the light
seemed a bell; how it seemed I'd been living
insider it, waiting - I'd heard all about

that one clear note it gives. 
--from "Late Apollo III"

Speak Low: Poems

Speak Low is the tenth book from one of America’s most distinctive—and one of poetry’s most essential—contemporary voices. Phillips has long been hailed for work provocative in its candor, uncompromising in its inquiry, and at once rigorous and innovative in its attention to craft. Over the course of nine critically acclaimed collections, he has generated a sustained meditation on the restless and ever-shifting myth of human identity. Desire and loss, mastery and subjugation, belief and doubt, sex, animal instinct, human reason: these are among the lenses through which Phillips examines what it means to be that most bewildering, irresolvable conundrum, a human being in the world.

Silverchest: Poems

In Silverchest, his twelfth book, Carl Phillips considers how our fears and excesses, the damage we cause both to others and to ourselves, intentional and not, can lead not only to a kind of wisdom but also to renewal, maybe even joy, if we're willing to commit fully to a life in which "I love you / means what, exactly?" In poems shot through with his signature mix of eros, restless energy, and moral scrutiny, Phillips argues for the particular courage it takes to look at the self squarely―not with judgment but with understanding―and extend that self more honestly toward others. It's a risk, there's a lot to lose, but if it's true that "we'll drown anyway―why not / in color?"

Rock Harbor: Poems

Wind as a face gone red with blowing,
oceans whose end is broken stitchery--

swim of sea-dragon, dolphin,
shimmer-and-coil, invitation. . . . You Know
the kind of map I mean. Countries as

distant as they are believable . . .

--from "Halo"

Riding Westward: Poems

What happens when the world as we've known it becomes divided, when the mind becomes less able―or less willing―to distinguish reality from what is desired? In Riding Westward, Carl Phillips wields his celebrated gifts for syntax and imagery that are unmistakably his own―speculative, athletic, immediate―as he confronts moral crisis. What is the difference, he asks, between good and evil, cruelty and instruction, risk and trust? Against the backdrop of the natural world, Phillips pitches the restlessness of what it means to be human, as he at once deepens and extends a meditation on that space where the forces of will and imagination collide with sexual and moral conduct.

Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006

Quiver of Arrows is a generous gathering from Carl Phillips's work that showcases the twenty-year evolution of one of America's most distinctive―and one of poetry's most essential―contemporary voices. Hailed from the beginning of his career for a poetry provocative in its candor, uncompromising in its inquiry, and at once rigorous and innovative in its attention to craft, Phillips has in the course of eight critically acclaimed collections generated a sustained meditation on the restless and ever-shifting myth of human identity. Desire and loss, mastery and subjugation, belief and doubt, sex, animal instinct, human reason: these are among the lenses through which Phillips examines what it means to be that most bewildering, irresolvable conundrum, a human being in the world.

Poetry, Love, and Mercy

The Judith Lee Stronach Memorial Lectures on the Teaching of Poetry was established in 2003 in memory of a poet and an inspired teacher of poetry to children and to the underprivileged. She is also remembered for her generosity in support of actions, world wide, to safeguard and to further Human Rights. This series of lectures on teaching poetry by distinguished poets was conceived of by her family as a contribution to the role poetry plays at Berkeley in occasions that bring the public and academic communities together.

Pastoral: Poems

Carl Phillips is the author of nine previous books of poems, including Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006; Riding Westward; and The Rest of Love, a National Book Award finalist. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

In The Blood

Winner of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize (1992)

From the Devotions: Poems

With From the Devotions, Carl Phillips takes us even further into that dangerous space he has already made his own, where body and soul--ever restless--come explosively together. Speaking to a balance between decorum and pain, he offers here a devotional poetry that argues for faith, even without the comforting gods or the organized structures of revealed truth. Neither sage nor saint nor prophet, the poet is the listener, the mourner, the one who has some access to the maddening quarters of human consciousness, the wry Sibyl. From the Devotions is deeply felt, highly intelligent, and unsentimental, and cements Phillips's reputation as a poet of enormous talent and depth.

Double Shadow: Poems

A stunning new collection of poems from the author of Speak Low

Comparing any human life to "a restless choir" of impulses variously in conflict and at peace with one another, Carl Phillips, in his eleventh book, examines the double shadow that a life casts forth: "now risk, and now / faintheartedness." In poems that both embody and inhabit this double shadow, risk and faintheartedness prove to have the power equally to rescue us from ourselves and to destroy us. Spare, haunted, and haunting, yet not without hope, Double Shadow argues for life as a wilderness through which there's only the questing forward―with no regrets and no looking back.

Cortège: Poems

Carl Phillips is the author of nine previous books of poems, including "Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006";" Riding Westward"; and "The Rest of Love," a National Book Award finalist. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis. This is the second collection of poems by Carl Phillips, whose first book, "In the Blood," won the 1992 Morse Poetry Prize. As "The Boston Book Review" observed, "Cortege" is the work of "an erotic poet, one who follows his sexuality into surprising territory . . . The contemporary scene is fully present [throughout this book], with all its new and old terrors--AIDS, loneliness--but Phillips's richness of mind is such that he often encounters in this life the artifacts of a couple of millennia of art and mythology. Which is not to say these poems have an academic flavor--far from it. The vision is contemporary, the language ours . . . What makes these poems such a coherent whole, in addition to their open sensuality, is the awareness they contain of the inescapable sadness of beauty . . . This is a poet of tact and delicacy, with an understated approach to even potentially explosive subjects."

Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry

The "coin of the realm" is, classically, the currency that for any culture most holds value. In art, as in life, the poet Carl Phillips argues, that currency includes beauty, risk, and authority-values of meaning and complexity that all too often go disregarded. Together, these essays become an invaluable statement for the necessary-and necessarily difficult-work of the imagination and the will, even when, as Phillips states in his title essay, "the last thing that most human beings seem capable of trusting naturally-instinctively-is themselves, their own judgment."

The Backwash Squeeze and Other Improbable Feats: A Newcomer's Journey into the World of Bridge

In this spirited homage, McPherson recounts the colorful history of bridge and his attempts to master its mysteries in time to compete at the North American Bridge Championships—despite being barely able to shuffle cards. The characters he meets convince him that in a game that pits mind against mind, close attention to the cards often reveals much about those sitting at the table.

Buster Keaton: Tempest In A Flat Hat

This biography celebrates one of cinema’s greatest clowns, painting a detailed portrait of the man behind the mayhem and offering a fresh look at the classic comedies that defined the Golden Age of silent film. McPherson takes the reader on a journey through Buster Keaton’s life and times, from the vaudeville stage to the glittering screens of early Hollywood, revealing Keaton as an antic genius—equal parts auteur, innovator, prankster, and daredevil.

Tyrants: Stories

The grouped stories in Tyrants trace the many forms of emotional inheritance―cultural, romantic, and historical. Some deftly portray both time and place, while others mine interpersonal relations with such intimacy and truth that they could be set anytime, anywhere. In the first sequence of stories, a son inherits and reconsiders his father’s convoluted and extravagant notions about love, sex, wealth, and fatherhood. In the second, an American man and his Korean wife confront the cultural implications of a romantic, self-imposed exile. And in the historical fictions that complete the collection, love and flight, ambition, exploration, and exile intertwine in a helium balloon above Sweden, in an Italian airship at the North Pole, and in Stalin’s dacha during the Nazi invasion. Marshall N. Klimasewiski’s talent for “deft psychological triangulations” (New York Times Book Review) and for capturing “the subtle dynamics between people” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) is on full display here.

The Cottagers: A Novel

Cyrus Collingwood, age nineteen, suspects that he may be a genius without a calling. He is a year-round resident of East Sooke, Vancouver Island, and has a natural resentment for the summer cottagers who descend on its rocky beaches. When two vacationing American couples arrive―old friends with a complicated history―they become his obsession. Greg and Nicholas are engaged in an academic collaboration that looks more like competition; Samina and Laurel are old friends who have grown apart and developed a strange jealousy. Cyrus spies on the cottagers through their windows, then begins to insinuate himself into their lives. When one of the cottagers goes missing, no one will look at any of the others the same way again.
 

The Tender Land: A Family Love Story

A superb portrait of family life, THE TENDER LAND is a love story unlike any other. The Finnerans -- parents and five children, Irish Catholics in St. Louis -- are a seemingly unexceptional family. Theirs is a story seldom told, yet it makes manifest how rich and truly extraordinary the ordinary daily experience we take for granted is. In quietly luminous language, Kathleen Finneran renders the emotional, spiritual, and physical terrain of family life -- its closeness and disconnection, its intimacy and estrangement--and pays tribute to the love between parents and children, brothers and sisters.

S P R A W L

Finalist for the Believer Book Award

“Rereading SPRAWL in the new edition—a novel that remains unlike anything I’ve read before—made me recall the sensation of first reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. Like The Waves, SPRAWL radically reorients the reader to what the narrative space of a novel can be and do, and, most memorably, how that can feel. Consisting of a single paragraph spanning more than a hundred pages, the strange bakelite surface of the novel’s prose creates a retro-futurist scene. Is the novel set in a 1950s white-picket-fenced suburbia made ever stranger? or is it set in an ecologically doomed near-future? At its center is an impressionistic portrait of a couple consisting of the narrator and her husband, Haywood, but this is treated less as a plotted narrative drama of a relationship and more like a David Attenborough documentary studying the mating and nesting rituals of a particular specimen pair of the aspirational white middle class (if Attenborough were an alien observer). The novel is imbued with deep observational analysis (consumption as competition, even sport; the economics of homemaking and desire).” —John Vincler, Music & Literature

Inspired by a series of domestic still lifes by photographer Laura Letinsky, Danielle Dutton's absurdly comic and decidedly digressive novel Sprawl chronicles the mercurial inner life of one suburban woman (the dissolving marriage, the crumbs on the countertop, the drunken neighbor careening into the pool, the dead dog on the side of the road), constructing surprising taxonomies that rearrange the banalities, small wonders and accoutrements of contemporary suburban life.

Attempts at a Life

Fiction. Operating somewhere between fiction and poetry, biography and theory, the stories in ATTEMPTS AT A LIFE do what lively stories do best, creating worlds of possibility, worlds filled with surprises. Like the "experiments in found movement" one character conducts (in "Everybody's Autobiography"), Dutton's stories find movement wherever they turn, each sentence a small explosion of images and anthems and odd juxtapositions. This is writing in which the imagination (both writer's and reader's) is capable of producing almost anything at any moment, from a shiny penny to an alien metropolis, a burning village to a bright green bird. "Danielle Dutton's stories remind me of those alluring puzzles where the pool is overflowing and emptying at the same time. Dutton's answer? That the self is a rush of the languages of storytelling and moments of helpless intimacy"--Robert Gluck.

Versailles

Wittily entertaining and astonishingly wise, this novel of the life of Marie Antoinette finds the characters struggling to mind their step in the great ballroom of the world.

The Walking Tour

A walking tour in Wales ends in tragedy for two couples, leaving a legal and psychological nightmare for one of their children, Susan, to sort out. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.

The Thin Place

In a thin place, according to legend, the membrane separating this world from the spirit world is almost nonexistent. The small New England town of Varennes is such a place, and Kathryn Davis transports us there - revealing a surprising pageant of life as, in the course of one summer, Varennes' tranquillity is shattered by the arrival of a threatening outsider, worldly and otherworldly forces come into play, and a young local girl finds her miraculous gift for resurrecting the dead tested by the conflict between logic and wish.

The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf: A Novel

A young woman in flight from her past, and an old woman whose secrets are contained in the grave--with this configuration, Davis begins a novel of true bravura about opera, adultery, and murder.

Labrador

A New York Times Notable Book and the winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction, Kathryn Davis's "dazzling first novel" (Kirkus Reviews) "transforms a literary commonplace -- a young girl's transition from childhood to adulthood -- into a brilliantly original story" (Belles Lettres). In LABRADOR, Davis conjures two unforgettable sisters. Willie, the elder, is beautiful and wayward. Kitty, the younger, is a loner whose only means of escaping the bewitching influence of her sister is to follow her grandfather to his home in Labrador, where she cannot avoid confronting the demons that haunt her. A tale of two sisters and the ambiguous, sometimes destructive ties that bind them, LABRADOR is a tender meditation on love, its joys, its limitations, and its hidden bitterness.

Hell

Part mystery, part domestic meditation and part horror story, ""Hell" is Davis's tour de force." (Joy Press, "The Village Voice.") In her brilliantly eerie third novel, three households coexist in a single restless vision.

Duplex: A Novel

"Utterly compelling . . . Davis writes with a stunning brilliance, creating fractured worlds that are both extraordinary and routine." ―The Boston Globe
"A coming-of-age-meets-dystopian-fantasy-meets-alternate-reality novel, or maybe an Ionesco-meets-Beckett-meets-Oulipo novel . . . The world [Duplex] describes has gone cuckoo while its characters' anxieties remain stubbornly, drably, daringly familiar." ―Tom Bissell, Harper's Magazine

The Eye Like a Strange Balloon

The poems in The Eye Like a Strange Balloon find their seed in paintings, film, video, photographs, and collage, and the end results are something more than a sum of their parts. Beginning with a painting done in 2003, the poems move backwards in time to 1 BC, where an architectural fragment is painted on an architectural fragment, highlighting visual art’s strange relationship between the image and the thing itself. The total effect is exhilarating—a wholly original, personal take on art history coupled with Bang’s sly and elegant commentary on poetry’s enduring subjects: Love, Death, Time and Desire. The recipient of numerous prizes and awards, Bang stands at the front of American poetry with this new work, asking more of the English language, and enticing and challenging the reader.

The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans

This compelling book takes its title from Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu. In Beckett's play, a grieving beloved seeks relief from the haunting presence of a departed lover in a place where "From its single window he could see the downstream extremity of the Isle of Swans." With a bow to Beckett's style and linguistic playfulness, Mary Jo Bang's collection of poems deals compassionately and gracefully with the tangible world.

The Bride of E: Poems

In her sixth collection, The Bride of E, Mary Jo Bang uses a distinctive mix of humor and directness to sound the deepest sort of anguish: the existential condition. Timeless yet tirelessly inventive, Bang fashions her examination of the lived life into an abecedarius that is as rapturous in its language and music as it is affecting in its awareness of--and yearning for--what isn't there. The title of the first poem, "ABC Plus E: Cosmic Aloneness Is the Bride of Existence," posits the collection's central problem, and a symposium of figures from every register of our culture (from Plato to Pee-wee Herman, Mickey Mouse to Sartre) is assembled to help confront it. Riddled with insight, pathos, and wit, The Bride of E is a brilliant new work by one the most compelling poets of our time.

Louise in Love

In this stunning new collection of poems, Mary Jo Bang jettisons the reader into the dreamlike world of Louise, a woman in love. With language delicate, smooth, and wryly funny, Louise is on a voyage without destination, traveling with a cast of enigmatic others, including her lover, Ham. Louise is as musical as she is mysterious and the reader is invited to listen. In her world, anything goes, provided it is breathtaking. Bang, whose first collection was the prize-winning Apology for Want, both parodies and pays homage to the lyric tradition, borrowing its lush music and dramatic structure to give new voice to the old concerns of the late Romantic poets. Louise in Love is a dramatic postmodern verse-novel with an eloquent free-floating narration. The poems, rife with literary allusion, take journeys to distant lands. And, like anyone on a voyage without a destination, they are endlessly questioning of the enigmatic world around them.

Inferno: A New Translation

Award-winning poet Mary Jo Bang has translated the Inferno into English at a moment when popular culture is so prevalent that it has even taken Dante, author of the fourteenth century epic poem, The Divine Comedy, and turned him into an action-adventure video game hero. Dante, a master of innovation, wrote his poem in the vernacular, rather than in literary Latin.

Elegy: Poems

Mary Jo Bang's fifth collection, Elegy, chronicles the year following the death of her son. By weaving the particulars of her own loss into a tapestry that also contains the elements common to all losses, Bang creates something far larger than a mere lament. Continually in search of an adequate metaphor for the most profound and private grief, the poems in Elegy confront, in stark terms and with a resilient voice, how memory haunts the living and brings the dead back to life. Within these intimate and personal poems is a persistently urgent, and deeply touching, examination of grief itself.

Apology for Want

Winner of the 1996 Bakeless Literary Publication Prize for Poetry