Letter from the MFA Director

Many people wonder whether creativity can be taught. Aren’t writers born, not made? And can’t you learn everything you need to just from reading, and life experience?

Of course some can, and many have. But, I know from my own experience getting an MFA, and now teaching in one of the top programs in the country, that taking a few years to surround oneself with dedicated mentors and equally committed fellow students, reading and writing, is a great and worthy joy. Getting an MFA accelerated me as a poet, and helped me to learn in ways that otherwise surely would have taken far longer, and maybe not have happened at all.  

Our faculty are world-class writers and teachers, dedicated to creating an intimate community of writers who support and challenge each other. Our cohorts are closely bonded and carefully chosen. Each year we have three Visiting Writers in Residence, one in each genre, teaching workshop, as well as Visiting Editors who read student manuscripts and give crucial publishing and career advice.

Because we are a small program, the faculty each are able to devote close personal attention to each of our students and their work. And because of our location in the Bay Area, and the way our program is constructed, we are able each year to bring to our program a variety of the best writers, editors, agents, and other active members of the literary community, in order to create the diversity and variety of a larger program without in any way giving up our intimacy and focused mentorship of our students.

It’s an exciting time to be at Saint Mary’s, and we are celebrating with a rich and diverse variety of readings, craft talks, and visitors. Also, the Bay Area is alive with literature.

Ultimately, what I treasure most is what our MFA program does for its students. Each year, we see a wonderful and diverse variety of the most talented writers of all ages come to our program, ready to learn and work. We see them grow and change while they are here. And then we see them leave, and go on to do great things. Yet they always stay part of the Saint Mary’s family. Of all the MFA programs I know, Saint Mary’s is the best model I have seen for teaching writers who want to advance their craft in the most serious of ways, which is why it feels like home to the faculty, as well as to the writers while they are here studying, and also long after.

--Matthew Zapruder, Director, MFA in Creative Writing

Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder is the author of five collections of poetry, including Come On All You Ghosts, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Father’s Day (Copper Canyon, 2019), as well as Why Poetry, a book of prose (Ecco, 2017). He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a William Carlos Williams Award, a May Sarton Award from the Academy of American Arts and Sciences, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship. His poems, essays and translations have appeared in many publications and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2020. He is editor at large at Wave Books, where he edits contemporary poetry, prose, and translations.