Graduate Seminar in Poetry at Friday Harbor 2016

Students near lighthouse in Friday Harbor
photograph courtesy Kati Casto, past program participant

"The Nature of Poetry"

September 5th to September 15th, 2016

(With a few additional meeting times during Fall Quarter, TBA)

*For information about the undergraduate, quarter-long program at Friday Harbor (part of the Marine Biology Quarter) click here.

Location: UW Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island
Faculty: Professor Richard Kenney
Students: Graduate students in Creative Writing and others on a space available basis
Cost: an estimated $550 for housing and meals; tuition may be included in Autumn Quarter tuition total
Applications: Deadline: Friday, June 24, 2016
Course credits: 5 credits of ENGL 581

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This is a ten-day seminar in the art and practice of poetry, to be held this coming September at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island. There will be lecture and discussion, reading, critique, informal chat and solitary time for composition. Participants will be housed in student quarters at the marine station, and will take meals together at the dining hall.

Course Description

ENGL 581: The Nature of Poetry, 5 credits

An intensive review of the elements of poetic reasoning, with practice in its primitive forms.

Starting with a Darwinian presumption that “the forms of poetry” are natural insofar as rooted in ancient forms of human cognition, we’ll construe those forms as broadly as possible, and posit the problem of art in evolutionary terms. In ten breathless days, we’ll consider aspects of metaphorical logic, musical effect and tonal inflection, working toward a systematic taxonomy and technical overview of the elements of the poet’s art. The days will be breathless because the pace will be so joyfully unrelenting, and because the scenery is so beautiful, the evening firelight so cheery, and the company so good.

Credits and Tuition

MFA Students will receive five credits of ENGL 581, The Creative Writer as Critical Reader. Questions in regards to how these credits will fit into students' degree plans should be addressed to Andrew Feld, Director of the Creative Writing Program.

Course credits will be included in students' AUTUMN schedules and tuition for this course will be covered by students' Autumn Quarter tuition. (Graduate students pay the same tuition rate for 10-15 credits, so matriculated MFA students may take this course in addition to the 10 credits they have planned for Autumn Quarter without paying additional tuition, so long as they enroll in a minimum of 10 credits and a maxiumum of 18 credits total (FH credits plus other Autumn Quarter credits.) The $550 fee for housing and food will be paid separately to the English Department (checks made payable to the University of Washington and delivered to Carolyn Busch in A-101 Padelford Hall.) See payment schedule below.


Priority Application deadline: June 24, 2016 (thereafter we will consider applications on a space-available basis.)

We have reserved accommodation for just fifteen students. Make application by letter of inquiry to Richard Kenney (

Payment schedule

A $250.00 nonrefundable deposit is due upon acceptance to the program. The remaining balance of $300 to be paid in full by Friday, August 26, 2016. If a participant is forced to withdraw, a refund of all but the $250 deposit will be made if the withdrawing student's place is filled by someone on the waiting list. No refunds are possible after the program has begun.

Program Faculty

Richard Kenney is the author of four books of poetry: The Evolution of the Flightless Bird, Orrery, The Invention of the Zero, and The One Strand River. He teaches poetry and verse writing in the undergraduate and MFA programs at the University of Washington.