Skip Navigation
A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.

Poetry Concentration

Banner image of student reciting poetry
The Poetry Concentration allows students to pursue work on and about poetry through a variety of experiences and courses. By combining academic and practical work and independent projects, students will gain a deeper understanding of the craft of writing, the business of publication and the dissemination of poetry to others.


An image from the Photo-Poetry students collaboration "You May Notice Some Changes"

“You May Notice Some Changes”

A call and response collaboration between Poetry Concentration students and Photo I students in spring 2020, “You May Notice Some Changes” explores life during the COVID-19 pandemic in their words and images. The project afforded a chance to forge a different kind of creative dialogue during this time of social distancing.



Requirements & Courses

Participation In The Concentration

The Poetry Concentration accepts up to 12 students annually. Sophomores and juniors are encouraged to apply for participation in the concentration. Applications are reviewed in both Fall and Spring semesters. The concentration supports the study of poetry within a range of scholarly disciplines and gives students the opportunity to explore areas of professional practice (writing poetry, teaching poetry, writing about poetry, translating poetry and book arts/publishing of poetry) through local, regional and national presses, journals, book arts centers and other sites where poetry is made, critiqued and taught.


Successful applicants will usually have taken one or both of the two gateway courses (ENG 112 and PYX 140) before applying. Accepted students will work with the director as their concentration adviser, who will oversee the progress on the concentration and will track their work. Students receive a certificate of completion for their work.

Fitting the Concentration with Your Major and Minor

In the application process, students will need to identify the major(s) (and minor, if known) that they intend to pursue, and the Advisory Committee will consider the feasibility of the proposed course of study. You may apply two courses from a major, or one course from a minor, toward your concentration.

Generally, students elect to participate in the Poetry Concentration in lieu of a department minor or second major. In some cases, however, students may choose to pursue the Poetry Concentration in addition to a second major or a minor. This often occurs when the concentration logically unifies and reinforces a particular program of study. For example, a student with an English major and an education minor might elect to do the minimal additional course work for the Poetry Concentration, with a focus on teaching poetry. Such decisions should be made in consultation with the student’s adviser.

Students will receive a certificate of completion for their work and the concentration will be noted on their official transcript. 

The concentration is composed of six courses. In addition to the two gateway courses and the senior capstone seminar, a student must take three electives, chosen to support an area of focus. In addition, students are required to engage in one or two poetry-related practical learning experiences or internships. The combined course work will total no fewer than 19 credits; the practical learning experiences carry no credit.

This form will help you and your concentration adviser track your progress. It must by submitted to the registrar no later than the end of the first week of your final semester:


Two required gateway courses (total 3 credits)
  • ENG 112 Reading Contemporary Poetry
    (2 credits, S/U only, normally offered fall and spring semesters)
  • PYX 140 The Art and Business of Poetry—normally offered during interterm
    (1 credit, S/U only) An intensive, week-long gateway course required of all concentrators. PYX 140 is usually offered each year during interterm. The course meets 3 hours each day.
Three electives (total 12 credits)

Must be approved by the Advisory Committee and be relevant to the student’s focus. One elective must be a 200-level literature course focused on poetry (not creative writing). Some of the electives should relate to the thread of the concentration the student wishes to pursue.

Two internships or practical experiences (not for credit)

The Smith College Lazarus Center for Career Development and the concentration director can provide information on potential internship and work experiences, but it is the student’s responsibility to arrange for two relevant practical experiences. As a general rule, students will be expected to apply for Praxis funding for one of their practical experiences. The second experience might be an additional internship (on- or off-campus) or a more informal project, like assisting a professor on manuscript preparation.

ENG/PYX 301 Poetry Capstone (4 credits)

This a one-semester project in the senior year that synthesizes the student’s previous course work and internship experiences to address a substantive independent project. This work will be conducted primarily as a group independent study or a seminar, depending on the number of senior concentrators.

Independent projects in areas other than poetry writing must have a faculty sponsor in addition to the poetry capstone instructor. Projects might include development of curriculum materials related to the teaching of poetry to elementary school students; creation of a book or a printed volume of poetry; producing a chapbook-length manuscript of original poetry or of translations; a video poetry project, etc. Topics for the capstone will be decided in concert with the concentration director during the fall of the senior year. Students will present their capstone work at Celebrating Collaborations.

PYX 300/400 Poetry Concentration Capstone

Offered every spring; limited to senior PYX concentrators

To fulfill the Poetry Concentration, each student will complete a senior capstone project integrating the skills and perspectives learned through the electives in the concentration and the internships or practical experiences. Students will complete an independent project under the rubric of a group special studies. For example, students might compose a chapbook of their own poetry, produce and print a chapbook of previously written poetry, compose a portfolio of translations, develop an integrated packet of curriculum materials for teachers of poetry in a particular grade (K-12), or curate an online exhibit of some part of the poetic process, such as drafts.

The project must be approved by the capstone instructor. Students will work with the instructor of the capstone, and sometimes with their concentration adviser or another faculty resource, in shaping and implementing the project. The project will be presented at Celebrating Collaborations in mid-April as a work in progress.

Seniors should complete this plan for a senior capstone project before the beginning of the spring semester, and discuss with the capstone instructor.

A broad range of courses that engage with poetry can be found across the curriculum. Poetry concentrators are able to pursue a unique course of study related to their own personal interests within the genre. Possible electives could include (but are not limited to) poetry classes linked to English literature, translation, generative workshops, world languages, poets of color, environmental studies, classical studies, education, and community arts. If you see a poetry-related course among a department's current offerings, please consult with the concentration director to see if this could count as an elective toward fulfilling concentration requirements.

Five College Courses

Some Five College courses may be applied to PYX credit. Consult the current course catalogue to check availability. The director of the concentration will have final approval over which courses may be applied.



The following gateway courses are required for the Poetry Concentration. Concentrators should begin with ENG 112; PYX 140 is limited to 15 with priority given to declared concentrators.

Consult the Smith College Course Search for locations, times and more information.

ENG 112 Reading Contemporary Poetry
(2 credit, S/U only)
This course offers the exciting opportunity to read contemporary poetry and to meet the poets who write it. We read and discuss the work of six to eight contemporary poets who visit Smith as part of the Poetry Center reading series; we bring our thoughts and queries to the intimate afternoon Q & A sessions with the poets; and we attend their public readings.

There are no prerequisites for this class, which accommodates a range of students, from those with minimal experience reading poems to those who are dedicated scholars and writers of poetry. The emphasis is on process and reflection rather than on analysis and formal argumentation. We’re not so much about unlocking “the meaning” as simply engaging each poem on as many levels as possible. We trace our way through the experience of reading a poem, asking questions such as: What’s your immediate hit on this voice? What do you notice about how the words are set on the page? How does the poem itself direct your experience of reading it; that is, how do particular elements work on you as you read and reread? At what point are you most strongly engaged? Which words or phrases seem most pivotal in understanding the poem’s intention(s)? We also reflect on the experience of seeing the poet read and/or talk about his or her work and the ways in which this may color or change our response to it.

PYX 140 The Art and Business of Poetry
(1 credit, S/U only)
An intensive, weeklong gateway course required of all concentrators. PYX 140 is offered during interterm and enables students to sample the various focus areas within the concentration: translation, book arts, teaching, and poetry reviewing and blogging. The course meets three hours each day. Enrollment is limited to 15, with priority given to declared concentrators.

Participating Faculty


Matt Donovan
Director of the Boutelle-Day Poetry Center

Poetry Advisory Committee

María Estela Harretche
Professor of Spanish & Portuguese

Jessica Moyer
Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages & Literatures

Cornelia Pearsall
Professor of English Language & Literature

Ellen Doré Watson
Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence

Affiliated Faculty

Floyd Cheung
Vice President for Equity & Inclusion; Professor of English Language & Literature and American Studies

Rosetta Marantz Cohen
Myra M. Sampson Professor of Education & Child Study

Barry Moser
Irwin and Pauline Apler Glass Professor of Art

Thalia Pandiri
Professor of Classical Languages & Literatures and of Comparative Literature

Renata Pienkawa
Lecturer in Education & Child Study, ESL Specialist

Michael Thurston
Provost & Dean of the Faculty; Helen Means Professor of English Language & Literature

Michele Wick
Lecturer in Psychology

Sujane Wu
Associate Professor of East Asian Languages & Literatures

Janie Vanpée
Professor of French Studies and Comparative Literature


Students at the Poetry Center

Internships are an integral part of the Poetry Concentration. Students will complete two internships. Internships can be paid, volunteer or supported by Praxis.

Students internships can be paid, supported by Praxis or volunteer opportunities. We identify an array of local, regional, national and international internships, but students are responsibe for researching and securing their internships and they must be approved by the concentration director. Some experiences, such as working for faculty members in archival projects through CFCD grants or Quigley fellowships, may also qualify as internships.

Each of the two internships or practical experiences must involve a minimum of 100 documented hours of work and require a supervisor’s evaluation.

Students may also fulfill the requirement with one extended internship of a minimum of 200 hours (Praxis-funded internships require a total of 220 hours). Concentrators who take this route are encouraged (but not required) to take on a second, shorter-term practical experience as well.

Poetry concentrators are required to complete two poetry-related internships. Each internship must entail a minimum of 100 hours of work. If you wish to receive Praxis funding for an internship, it must be a minimum of 220 hours; see the Lazarus Center for Career Development for more information about Praxis funds.

Following is a representative list of available poetry internships. This list is by no means comprehensive--it is intended to be a starting point for your search. You are also free to design your own practical experience; for example, you might choose to volunteer to teach poetry programming at a school or community center, or you might offer your services to a press or publication that doesn’t have an established internship program. 

The Chicago Poetry Center
Semester or Summer
grant writing, administration, event assistance

The Poetry Foundation
Internships are listed periodically on the Jobs section of the Poetry Foundation website.

Nuyorican Poets Cafe
New York
Semester or Summer
development; programming; publicity/outreach

Poets House
New York
Semester or Summer
book processing, editing, library maintenance

Beloit Poetry Journal
Farmington, ME
Semester or Summer
screening manuscripts, marketing/distribution, development of special projects (e.g. chapbooks, readings, workshops)

RHINO Poetry
Evanston, IL
Semester or Summer
logging submissions, rejection letters, website maintenance

Copper Canyon Press
Port Townsend, WA
Semester, Summer, or Interterm
publicity/marketing; editorial; production; development

The Poetry Project
New York
Semester or Summer
programming, development, publishing, editing

Augury Books
New York
distribution, website maintenance, social media, sales

Belladonna Collaborative
New York
Semester or Summer
event planning and assistance, sales, distribution, administration

Cave Canem
New York
Semester or Summer
marketing, programming, research, administration

Girls Write Now
New York
Semester or Summer
program: enrollment, curriculum, pair support; development/communications: outreach, funder research, proposal drafting and packaging

Milkweed Editions
Minneapolis, MN
Semester or Summer
marketing; development; editorial

The Frost Place
Franconia, NH
preparing and implementing summer programs, serving as museum docent

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
New York
Semester or Summer
editorial; marketing; publicity

Northampton, MA
Semester or Summer
reading and editing submissions, preparing texts, producing final copy

David R. Godine, Publisher
Semester or Summer
editorial, publicity, marketing, production

Hedgerow Books of Levellers Press
Amherst, MA
marketing, editing, prize submissions, event planning


How to Apply

The Poetry Concentration accepts up to 12 students annually. Sophomores and juniors are encouraged to apply. Preference is given to those who have already completed a gateway course and have shown ongoing interest in poetry.

Applications are due April 30, 2021.





Poetry Concentration

Wright Hall 102
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-4890
For general administrative queries, please contact Jennifer Blackburn.