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The Poetics program at New College of California (ca. 1980-2000s) was a distinctly alien presence among graduate-level academic programs in North America. Focused solely upon the study of poetry, it offered a truly alternative approach to that found in more traditional academic settings. Throughout the program's history few of its faculty possessed much beyond an M.A. degree, if that, (indeed the longest serving core faculty member David Meltzer possessed no degree whatsoever) yet the vast majority—and all of its core faculty through the years—were published poets actively publishing and pursuing further opportunities outside of academia. An early program brochure outlines Poetics as being "that which treats of the science and art of poetry in all its dimensions and questions, all of what may be said to be proper to poetry." The program thus sought to bring together faculty and students aligned, as well as allied, under this broad mandate. In order demonstrate and preserve evidence of various endeavors undertaken within the confines of this unique program we have assembled an anthology of critical writing by alumni and faculty. We have gathered material contributors produced during their time of association with the program, including samples of coursework alongside extracts from theses, in addition to lecture notes and documents (such as interviews) contributed to outside publications edited by students during their tenure in the program. This paper presents an outline of the project along with a brief history of the program and explores the thinking around poetics which defined the parameters of the program's curriculum and structure.

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Poetry Commons