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Otis College of Art and Design

Graduate Writing Program

—Paul Vangelisti, Chair Graduate Writing Program

As a writer, specifically a California writer, I find that where I live grows daily more curious and fascinating: what is of and in the world speaks with an eloquence beyond any voice I can imagine.

Too often the study of contemporary poetry and fiction has been left to the English Department or to other disciplines that fail to consider the primary and complex practice of writing as a verbal art. Otis is uniquely positioned to introduce a comprehensive approach to the graduate writing degree. In asking “why Otis?” it is important to view our MFA program as not only distinctive in the institutional market but also as an extension of Otis’s historical mission to bring innovative arts education to the Los Angeles Basin. Our multi-disciplinary approach—writing, literature, criticism, publishing and translation—is the ideal complement to the program’s international emphasis, providing a singular opportunity to look at American writing in relation to other contemporary world literatures. We prepare verbal artists to make their way in a profession that increasingly involves teaching or other institutional affiliations (publishing, arts organizations, museums, etc.), along with the more traditional, individualized role of the creative writer.

—Gilad Elbom (‘02) MFA Writing Student Otis faculty members “brought fresh approaches and perspectives as well as different backgrounds and languages. There was no uniformity, and nobody was trying to teach from a formula...

—Rocío Carlos

Arabesque In first position you are wolf you are teeth and saliva the mother who ate the other’s cubs you are cold all of the time you sing the same song. In third position you are starfish, your limbs regenerate you like the sight of your own blood. You raise your leg 180 degrees and remove it. You are hawk, rabbit, are running, are hiding, are eating yourself.

...The emphasis was on diversity and possibilities. Everything about the program...was geared toward the formulation of a personal literary vision:...

At the heart of the Graduate Writing program are the prose and poetry workshops, as well as the literary seminars. In the weekly workshops, students critique each other’s writing through a rigorous presentation schedule. The seminars propose complementary intensive reading around practical critical problems and unite fiction, nonfiction writers and poets in discussion of literary, historical, and genre issues. Topics and instructors rotate on a regular basis. This study encourages students to make thoughtful choices about their lives, and to understand the repercussions and potential of their conduct. Diverse courses investigate current issues in international literature, contemporary arts, philosophy, and the professional context of art production.

–Raymond Chandler

At Otis, the ultimate goal of graduate education is to demystify the student’s perception of the larger professional world of fine arts and literature, and to launch emerging writers into lasting practices. Toward that end, it is expected that the final thesis project will be a publishable book. Visiting writers and members of the national literary community visit campus every semester; and Graduate Writing’s publishing ventures —both OR, and the small press Otis Books/Seismicity Editions—are integrated into the graduate experience through fellowships and an optional minor in publishing.

Chandler Residence

I smelled Los Angeles before I got to it. It smelled stale and old, like a living room that had been closed a long time. ...the weekly fiction workshop, our meetings with visiting writers, our classes on literary criticism and theory, our individual tutorials with Paul...


OR is the literary tabloid and publication project of the Otis Graduate Writing program. It features poetry, fiction, translations, essays, reviews and visual art, from the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia. OR is distributed internationally to individuals, institutions and bookstores.

...He always insisted that I make a commitment to a literary idea, not to seeing my book in print.

Otis Books/ Seismicity Editions Given the crisis in U.S. publishing and the difficulties facing new and innovative writing that seeks to find its way into print, Otis’ Graduate Writing Program has established this literary press as an alternative to both corporate and small press publications. Seismicity Editions is committed to publishing innovative works of contemporary fiction, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and translation in high quality, trade paperback editions.

Recent Alumni Publishing

Amy Allara (’07) has her first chapbook of poems, Variation, forthcoming in 2010–2011 from Highway 101 Press. Aaron Clark’s (’09) first novel, The Science of Paul, is forthcoming in 2010 from New Pulp Press. Polly Geller’s (’09) translation of Adriano Spatola’s novel The Porthole, is forthcoming from Otis Books/Seismicity Editions in 2010–2011. Sarah Suzor’s (’09) first chapbook of poems, It was the season then, appeared in May 2010 from EtherDome Press, and another chapbook, Isle of Dogs, is forthcoming from Toad Lily Press in 2010–2011. Four alumni have, in 2009–2010, started their own publishing ventures: Gilad Elbom’s (’02) Sacrifice Press in Corvallis, OR Kate Findley’s (’09) Larva Lamp magazine, Los Angeles, CA Sarah Suzor’s (’09) Highway 101 Press, Los Angeles, CA Elizabeth Epstein, currently finishing her thesis, who in 2009 launched a limited edition, fine print series of books from her Echo Park Press.

—Rocío Carlos

I write poetry because it is the practice of mindfulness. Or I write poetry because it is the first art. Or I write poetry because language is the mother of images. Or I write poetry because it is a language I want to be fluent in. Or I write poetry because I am well read. Or I write poetry because it is not fiction. Or I write poetry because I like the constraint.Or I write poetry because I don’t need therapy. Or I write poetry because I ...It was up to me self-express in other to define that idea, search for the meanways. Or I |write poetry ing behind the story, find the focus and because I am making a premise of my book, map. Or I write poetry beetc... cause I am not afraid to destroy things I make. Or I write poetry because it is a mechanism for telling the truth. Or I write poetry because I like making shit up. Or I write poetry because in the sixth grade Mrs. Kirkwall made me. Or I write poetry because in seventh grade Mr. Cate wouldn’t let me. Or I write poetry because I fucking feel like it, alright? Or I write poetry because I can. Or I write poetry because of the special effects. Or I write poetry because it is the language of the divine. Or I write poetry because I am religious. Or I write poetry because I am. Or I write poetry because. Or I write poetry. Or I write. Or I. Or.

—Rocío Carlos


Epistle: A Ransom Note Los Angeles made you do it you stepped off the bus— the sunset bleached your memory clean you leased a room pink as a seashell— the ocean roared inside your body. ...Every minute I spent with Paul You went to audition and the rest of the faculty, both in after audition class and outside of Otis, was horned devils with devoted to that search... whips spurred you: panderer, seducer. You accepted the drink and lifted your skirt Oh captain oh detective director promoter surgeon oh god. A star was born the eyes of the seraphim watched their wings blazed like a movie screen.

The Graduate Writing Faculty is made up of working fiction writers, poets, translators, essayists, anthologists and editors who have achieved recognition in their fields, and who join the students in building an eclectic, vibrant and expanding literary community in Los Angeles. Paul Vangelisti Chair; MA, ABD, University of Southern California; BA, University of San Francisco. Author of more than twenty books of poetry. Translator, journalist, and former Cultural Affairs Director at KPFK Radio. NEA Translator Fellow and NEA Poetry Fellow, and winner of PEN USA and Academy of American Poets translation awards. Guy Bennett Senior Lecturer; PhD, BA (French) University of California, Los Angeles. Author of four books of poetry, including Drive to Cluster (2003). Noted translator from French. Brian Blanchfield Senior Lecturer; MFA, Warren Wilson College; BA, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Author of Not Even Then (2004), published by the UC Press in the New California Poetry Series. Poet and critic. Ben Ehrenreich Senior Lecturer; studied religion at Brown University. Author, The Suitors (2006). Published in L.A. Weekly, The Village Voice, The Believer, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times. His fiction has appeared in Bomb, McSweeney’s, Black Clock, Swink, and elsewhere. Peter Gadol Associate Professor; AB Harvard College. Author of six novels, including Silver Lake (2009), The Long Rain (1997) and Light at Dusk (2000). Work has been translated into several languages.

Jen Hofer Senior Lecturer; BA Brown University; MFA Iowa University. Recent publications include The Route, a collaboration with Patrick Durgin, sexoPUROsexoVELOZ and Septiembre, a translation of Mexican poet Dolores Dorantes, and lip wolf, a translation of Mexican poet Laura Solórzano. Lewis MacAdams Senior Lecturer; MFA University of Iowa; BA Princeton University. Author of ten books of poetry, including The River (2005). Engaged in current Los Angeles scene through a strong interest in social and environmental issues. Douglas Messerli Senior Lecturer; MA, PhD University of Maryland; BA University of Wisconsin. Writer of fiction, poetry, and drama, as well as editor of Sun & Moon Press, now Green Integer Books, one of the country’s foremost publishers of new writing. Dennis Phillips Senior Lecturer; BFA, California Institute of the Arts. Former director, Beyond Baroque Literary Center, Venice. Author of numerous books of poetry, including Sand (2002) and Credence (1996), which force the reevaluation of contemporary genres and aesthetics. Martha Ronk Senior Lecturer; BA Wellesley College; PhD Yale University. Shakespeare scholar and author of numerous poetry collections, including Vertigo (National Poetry Series winner, 2007), In a Landscape of Having to Repeat (2004, PEN USA award in poetry), and Why/Why Not (2003). Benjamin Weisman Senior Lecturer; BFA California Institute of the Arts. Writer and visual artist, author of two collections of short fiction, Headless and Dear Dead Person. Solo shows in the U.S. and abroad. Hosts “New American Writing Series” at UCLA Hammer Museum.

...It was a small, intimate, highly supportive setting, a place where talent and hard work were appreciated...

—Joan Didion

I’m not living here, I’m just staying here ...It was a beautiful combination of practice and theory, hard work and intellectual contemplation, rigorous workshops and academic discussions...

Visiting Writers and Critics

Salar Abdoh Daniel Alarcon Jane Alison Samina Ali Eric Anderson Rae Armantrout Luigi Ballerini Amiri Baraka Bruce Begout Aimee Bender Bill Berkson Sarah Shun-lien Bynum Mary Caponegro Ron Carlson Jeff Clark Joshua Clover Wanda Coleman Gillian Conoley Bernard Cooper John D’Agata Michael Davidson Ray DiPalma Timothy Donnelly Dolores Dorantes Kenward Elmslie Percival Everett Sesshu Foster David Francis Forrest Gander Cristina Garcia Amy Gerstler Andrew Sean Greer Katharine Haake Adam Haslett Brooks Hansen Jack Hirschman Anselm Hollo Brenda Hillman Christine Hume Samantha Hunt Lawson Fusao Inada Joanne Kyger David James Devin Johnston Pierre Joris Trevor Joyce Norman Klein Aaron Kunin Paul La Farge Ann Lauterbach Joseph Lease Ben Lerner Suzanne Jill Levine Sam Lipsyte Timothy Liu Alvin Lu Heather McGowan John Mc Manus Laura Moriarty

Jennifer Moxley Maggie Nelson Joseph O’Neill Ron Padgett Elio Pagliarani Michael Palmer Claudia Rankine Tom Raworth Ishmael Reed Antonio Riccardi Elizabeth Robinson Stephen Rodefer Jerome Rothenberg James Sallis Hélène Sanguinetti Janet Sarbanes Leslie Scalapino Joanna Scott Hubert Selby Jr. Standard Schaefer Christine Schutt Aaron Shurin Jane Smiley Ersi Sotiropoulos Kevin Starr David St. John Nathaniel Tarn Jean Thompson Frederic Tuten Catherine Wagner D.J. Waldie Diane Ward Lawrence Weschler Marianne Wiggins CD Wright Ofelia Zepeda

Selected Course Descriptions

Prose/Poetry Workshop I/II/III/IV

A two-year workshop sequence in the student’s area of emphasis i.e., fiction, poetry, non-fiction. Also, as part of the course, the student may meet with the program director and other graduate faculty during the semester.

Literary Seminar

In-depth seminars focusing on particular issues or currents in contemporary fiction and poetry, with topics selected from various international literary traditions (e.g., “City as Fiction,” “Poetry’s Public,” “Political Fictions,” “Literature and Evil,” “Writing From Life”).

Translation Seminar

This course is a study of translation and its impact on English-language poetry and fiction. Poetry or fiction translation is an option for the course’s critical essay. Students, in either case, acquire firsthand knowledge of literary traditions outside that of Anglo-American literature.

Visiting Writers

A bi-weekly reading series featuring poets, fiction writers, and essayists from the U.S. and abroad. Students are required to attend the readings.

Publishing Practices

An optional year-long course directed toward the world of contemporary publishing, as well as working on our graduate program’s literary tabloid OR and the Otis Books/Seismicity Editions imprint.


Students, supervised by the program director or faculty, complete a publishable, book-length work of fiction, poetry or creative non-fiction. The work is submitted to a faculty committee of the student’s choosing for final approval.

—Lauren Walker

Damned if Those Santa Anas Won’t Quit A filthy window yawns under blinds. Long strips of light roll across the desk. A print on the whisky glass flares up between shadows, goes out again. Chipped letters on the door punctuate chaos, the silhouette reaching, the drawer long sealed with dust. ...We took classes on criticism, translation, beat poetry, medieval poetry, form and theory, thematic problems—and ultimately learned how to better control our own texts,...

— Linda Lay, The Unmet Man

...our own creations.

Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the “Founding Manifesto of Futurism,” Otis College of Art and Design, 2.20.2009

“That the house is mine, and some other things, you know, blah, blah, blah. The guy totally seems like someone William would have hired. They all remind me of Satan.” At that moment I realized my observation was not helping express to Stuart how safe I felt. “But it’s fine, I’m fine, I’m just being... I’m meeting with the police tomorrow.” “Jesus Liv, I don’t know why you agreed to all this.” As he spoke I noticed that the fireplace had been used recently. Dry logs were stacked beside it. I sat down next to them and with the hand that wasn’t holding the phone...

Otis College of Art and Design Graduate Admissions (310) 665-6820 (800) 527-OTIS (6847) Apply Online at Send application materials to: Otis College of Art and Design Attn: Admissions Office 9045 Lincoln Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90045 Questions about the Graduate Writing Program

GW 2011 Viewbook  

Graduate Writing 2011 Viewbook