Western Illinois University’s Creative Writing Program: Focus on Poetry

Western Illinois University is located in the heart of Midwest America in Macomb, Illinois. This liberal arts state school is a favorite among locals for its price and low teacher-student ratio. The Department of English and Journalism houses the Creative Writing Program. Interested students must first complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in English (if currently at Western) before applying for a Master of Arts in creative writing. This program will prepare writing students for a Master of Fine Arts or a Ph.D. at another institution.

This program sponsors visiting authors where students hear readings from the author’s works and purchase their literature. Often the author will also visit with students in an informal setting at a professor’s home or in the department. Students may participate in their own version of a speaking author by conducting poetry slams. A stage is prepared, usually on campus or in the community, where poets recite original or other favorite poetry.

Students are prepared for poetry slams in the classroom. Many creative writing courses are workshop oriented. Students learn how to prepare their own work each week and have it work-shopped by other students in the class. This is perhaps the most valuable part of the program. It is here that constructive criticism is played out and understood and where the eye for detail is labored. In addition, students may also be prepared for memorizing a poem each week and reciting it to the class. This is the preparation needed for becoming an author who choses to read his or her own work in a group setting.

The English department houses the writing center where many students find assistantships. Students from all over campus come for additional help with their academic papers. The student literary magazine “Elements” is another part of the department where students learn about publishing. Faculty members assist with the magazine and all other aspects of the English major community, both on and off campus. Seasoned faculty and advisors are key to this program’s success. In most cases, graduation is possible in two years or less. The department does not require an internship. This may prove difficult for some students upon graduation, particularly if they pursue employment in a writing or publishing field.

The current president of Western, Al Goldfarb, and Provost Joseph Rallo add a welcoming aspect to campus. They are both quality-driven, personable and experienced. Their presence adds to the positive quality of this university.

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