Columbia College Chicago

Poetry, MFA

Our Poetry MFA program emphasizes a small, intimate graduate experience while encompassing a wide breadth of poetic and literary traditions and facilitating close working relationships with accomplished, award-winning faculty. These elements come together to promote a nontraditional experience that aims to shape you into a poet who doesn’t fit a certain mold—instead, you’ll learn to develop the high level of skill and critical thinking necessary to produce creative, effective poetry in your own unique voice. 

To top it all off, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in the resources of poetry institutions you won’t find anywhere else, from the Poetry Foundation (headquartered in Chicago) to an array of literary publications. You’ll have the opportunity to forge your own path, from serving as a graduate school instructor or teaching assistant to immersing yourself in publishing and portfolio opportunities.

Application Information

What to Expect Your First Year

In your first year of this two-year MFA program, you’ll take your first workshops with other students as part of your initial graduate school studio experience, and you’ll dive into craft seminars and literature courses to study other types of writing.  If you intend to be a graduate student instructor, you’ll take composition theory and learn how to teach. If you plan to work on Columbia Poetry Review—the student-edited, nationally distributed literary journal—you’ll jump in right from the start.

What to Expect Your Last Year

As you conclude your MFA program, you’ll take a thesis development seminar to learn how to compile and promote your writing, while working one on one with a faculty member to develop your writing and shape your thesis into a substantial manuscript. You’ll also continue to take craft seminars that challenge you to explore your unique voice. A final poetics class will look at how other poets have shaped the genre—and where you’ll fit in to that shape versus where you’ll push the boundaries.

Detailed Program Information
For More Degree Requirements and Transfer Plans, Visit the Catalog

Real-world Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

Our Poetry MFA program is all about community: your community of fellow MFA students, the arts and communications community you’ll form at Columbia, and the Chicago writing community at large. No matter your end game, you’ll be presented with incomparable opportunities for networking and collaboration:

  • Participate in the Creative Writing Reading Series, which attracts prestigious, award-winning poets. As a student, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with writers and discuss your work.
  • Hone your teaching skills by working as a graduate student instructor or teaching assistant.
  • Delve into the world of publishing with additional classes and opportunities to work on Columbia Poetry Review, the student-edited, nationally distributed literary journal now in its thirtieth year. 
  • Participate in the student-run 33 Reading Series, which features readings by MFA students in Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry.
  • Create reading series, journals or presses of your own.
What are my internship options?

Employers in a variety of fields look for experienced, competent and confident employees who are strong communicators. The internship opportunities that Columbia’s Poetry MFA program can help you land are vast; in addition to the graduate student instructor opportunities available at Columbia, there are numerous positions available at newspapers, trade magazines, banks, personnel firms, legal firms, television companies, advertising agencies, Chicago-area poetry institutions and more. Companies and organizations get your strong writing skills, and you make professional contacts and create a portfolio of real-world work at places like The Daily Show, Disney, Pitchfork Media and Time Out Chicago.

See the Career Center website for more information.



Graduate Counselor
Emily Schmidt

Ready to Apply?

We’re happy you’re thinking of joining our creative community. We work hard to make our application process as simple and fast as possible, but should you run into any concerns, we're here to help at any time.

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