Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
english masthead
english masthead
Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Lisa Olstein

Associate Professor M.F.A., 2003, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Lisa Olstein



Lisa Olstein is the author of Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (Copper Canyon Press 2006), winner of the Hayden Carruth Award; Lost Alphabet (Copper Canyon Press 2009), a Library Journal best book of the year; and Little Stranger (Copper Canyon Press 2013), a Lannan Literary Selection and a Coldfront Magazine best book of the year. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Nation, American Letters & Commentary, and New Voices. Recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Centrum, she is also the lyricist for Cold Satellite, a rock band fronted by acclaimed songwriter Jeffrey Foucault. Before joining the poetry faculty at UT Austin, she cofounded and for ten years co-directed the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts & Action at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she served as associate director of the MFA program.


poetry, poetic prose, creative process, interdisciplinary artistic collaboration

E 380F • Literature For Writers

36030 • Fall 2014
Meets M 100pm-400pm CAL 221
show description

Form Mode Mood Ghost

Part reading room, part laboratory, part workshop, part cartographer’s library, this craft seminar will engage in crash-course consideration of poetic forms and modes through classic examples, modern/contemporary reconfigurations, and our own experiments writing in (ghost) forms. Our terrain will include selected modes (e.g. ode, elegy, epistle, pastoral, lyric, long poem, short poem, prose poem, chance operations) and selected forms (e.g. sonnet, sestina, villanelle, syllabics, cento, ghazal, abecedarian), as well as ghost versions of each: contemporary borrowings, (re)interpretations, and riffs. Building historical-formal literacy will be a natural part of the process, but is not our primary goal (this is not a course on prosody, strict form, or historical survey). Instead, maintaining a craft-oriented, practitioner’s perspective, our emphasis will be on exploring the ways in which form and mode act on and in language, how they affect our senses and intellects, and how they’re expressed in the contemporary imagination. Our reading necessarily will be episodic and intensive. Our writing will be undertaken as serious play allowing us to embody and metabolize received forms (rather than to produce “real” work) and to productively riff off of and reinvent constraints. [NB: Poetry-focused in certain obvious ways, many of our explorations will be relevant across genres; prose writers (and attendant adjustments to writing assignments) are welcome.]

E 380F • Literature For Writers

36257 • Spring 2014
Meets W 100pm-400pm UTC 4.114
show description

In this class we’ll examine poetry and poetry/prose hybrids fueled, shaped, and sustained by the playing out of the imagination upon a particular idea, person, or form—that is, book-length works compelled by the author’s extended engagement with an identifiable, external source of deep creative resonance or productive irritation. Located at the intersections of inspiration and execution, form and content, self and other, freedom and constraint, such work forms a unique, often hybrid, tradition and also brings into high relief fundamental issues of craft and process. We’ll take up six contemporary examples of the form, analyzing each collection’s particular method and madness, and explore some of the diverse sources that fuel each project’s fire ranging from artists’ notebooks to philosophical treatises. In addition to close reading, interpretive analysis, and investigative research, students will pursue a creative project instigated by resonant external sources particular to their own imaginations and intellects.

E 386L • Creatv Writ: Wrkshp In Poetry

36080 • Fall 2013
Meets M 100pm-400pm PAR 214
show description

Creative Writing: Workshop in Poetry

This graduate poetry workshop (open to candidates in either MFA program) will focus on members’ new poems: generating and honing them, exploring the ways in which they inspire us to imagine and require us to think, investigating the issues of craft and process they suggest, and considering the sources of poetic resonance that compel them into being in the first place. Published poems, essays, images, and other materials will guide our inquiry. A variety of workshop methods will inform our analysis. Above all, we’ll pursue a practice of rigorous attention—improvisational and deeply considered—to language’s powers and possibilities as manifest (or incipient) in the poems before us.

bottom border