Five College Creative Writing supports collaboration and community among writers on all five campuses.
The Five Colleges have always been home to a vibrant literary community, counting legendary figures like James Baldwin, Emily Dickinson, and Sylvia Plath as some of their own. That tradition continues today, stronger than ever, through bountiful writing course offerings, celebrated faculty, and a wide variety of resources, events, and opportunities for community.
On this page, you will find information about current faculty in creative writing, upcoming courses, events calendars, and resources for those hoping to learn more about creative writing on the campuses and in the greater Valley area.
Formerly Five College PoetryFest, the Five College Prose and Poetry Prize celebrates the quality and range of student creative writing, with two writers representing, respectively, Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the Care Center/Bard Micro-College. PoetryFest was created in 2003 by Lorna Peterson, former executive director of Five Colleges, Inc., and Ellen Doré Watson, former director of the Smith College Poetry Center, and originally recognized student poets chosen by faculty nomination.
In 2022, a collaborative decision by creative writing faculty and staff on each of the campuses reimagined the event, the Five College Prose and Poetry Prize, as a celebration of all genres of creative writing, with an open submission call and winners chosen by a panel of judges from the MFA for Poets and Writers at UMass Amherst.
The inaugural reading and reception will take place at 7pm on April 20th, 2023, at the Powerhouse, Amherst College.
Amherst’s annual literary festival celebrates the College’s literary life by inviting distinguished authors and editors to discuss the pleasures and challenges of verbal expression — from fiction and nonfiction to poetry and spoken-word performance.
The Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Contest honors Kathryn Irene Glascock, a promising young poet who died of pneumonia.
Poet-contestants from invited institutions are nominated or chosen by their own schools. The poetry contest is judged by a panel of three distinguished poets.
The competition weekend includes a series of public events over the course of a weekend: a Conversation With the Judges, the Student Poetry Competition, and the Judges’ Reading and Announcement of the Contest Winner.
Many Glascock contestants have gone on to literary renown, such as Muriel Rukeyser, James Agee, James Merrill, Kenneth Koch, Diana Chang, Sylvia Plath, Donald Hall, Katha Pollit, and Maggie Nelson.
Bard Microcollege Holyoke is a tuition-free college for women, inclusive of trans and non-binary students, whose education has been interrupted by parenting, financial challenges, and other family responsibilities. Developed in partnership between Bard Prison Initiative and The Care Center in Holyoke, the unique program allows students to earn a Bard College Associate in Arts Degree by taking courses at The Care Center, a community-based organization with a long tradition of bringing higher education to young mothers and their families. They also provide the necessary support services such as transportation and childcare.
With its curricular emphasis on writing and the humanities, Bard Microcollege Holyoke extends The Care Center’s tradition of placing liberal arts at the center of the student experience. Students from both Bard Microcollege and The Care Center benefit from workshops in poetry and creative writing, and publishing opportunities such as Nautilus II Magazine. Through dedicated arts and literary programming, The Care Center brings poet laureates and awarded authors, both internationally and nationally, to read, speak, and work with young writers in the program.
In 2012 The Care Center was selected as one of twelve in the country to receive the Presidential Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. In 2019 The Care Center was awarded the Commonwealth Award, the highest honor given to cultural organizations in Massachusetts.
Five College faculty often take part in readings and other literary programming at the Care Center, and Bard Microcollege and Care Center students participate in the Five College Prose and Poetry Prize.