Interested in creative writing? Here’s how to get involved at the University of Oregon

“I enjoy getting up onstage and doing the poem and performing it and being all emotionally exhausted afterwards,” UO Poetry Slam Team co-captain Dante Douglas said. “It feels kind of like a blur most of the time you’re on.” (Taylor Wilder/Emerald)

“America chugs coffee like Zeus devoured ambrosia: messily, hungrily, knowingly. America tries so hard to impress older Titans.”

Dante Douglas recites his original poetry in a booming baritone, installed confidently behind a microphone, his words emphasized with vitriol.

“With poetry, there’s nothing else on stage,” Douglas said. “It’s a very naked situation.”

He admits he bombed the first time he performed two years ago, but his love of live performance prevented him from shying away from the stage. With a background in stage acting, Douglas found an organic, charismatic transition into slam poetry.

Slam poets often share deeply emotional stories and are required to do so alone on a stage, much like an actor’s soliloquy. Douglas’s theatrical background taught him to project his voice to an audience. Before he began, he warned: “It might get loud.”

“I like people clapping for me,” he said. “Really, in a very shallow way, I like being onstage, I like being a performer and I like being able to show stuff I’ve made.”

Douglas, who is a member of the UO Poetry Slam Team shared original works with Hannah Golden, the co-captain of the team on the evening of March 11 at the opening of the American Pi, a student art exhibition at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

“I enjoy getting up onstage and doing the poem and performing it and being all emotionally exhausted afterwards,” Douglas said. “It feels kind of like a blur most of the time you’re on.”

Slam poetry is just one way for creative writers to share their work on campus. The University of Oregon offers inordinate opportunities through clubs, programs and publications for all creative writers to home in their natural talent and share their stuff in a like-minded community.

Let’s break down the creative writing options at the UO:

  1.  UO Poetry Slam Team

The UO Poetry Slam Team, which was formed within the last year, seeks to develop a collaborative community on campus for all students with a shared excitement for slam poetry. The team, led by co-captains Golden and Alex Dang, will compete at College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, a national competition from March 25–28, 2015 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. The team regularly hosts open mic events and writing workshops on campus.

“We’re not just a team, we’re also a community and a club,” Golden said. “We really want to invite other people to come and participate. If you’ve never written a word of poetry in your life, you’re an ideal candidate. If you’ve written poetry for five years, you’re also an ideal candidate.”

Whether you want to audition to be on the team or simply refine your public speaking skills, the UO Poetry Slam Team offers an opportunity for all student-poets. The team’s coach, Dr. Corbett Upton from the English department, said that the team “works a lot to foster the community and on their own craft.”

Just earlier this week, the team released its winter 2015 collection – a 45-page booklet of original poems by this year’s team members. A copy can be purchased for $8, cash or check, via the team’s Facebook page or in the main English department office, 118 PLC. Proceeds will endorse the team’s trip to CUPSI.

     2. The Kidd Tutorial program 

UO students can enroll in the creative writing minor, which requires 24 credits. Advanced students can apply for the Kidd Tutorial program. Through this one-year immersion course, students choose their writing emphasis, whether it’s in fiction or poetry. Five to 12 undergraduate students are assigned to work alongside one graduate student with corresponding interests. If fiction writing is your focus, for example, you would be paired accordingly with a graduate student with the same emphasis.

“All the students in the Kidd Tutorial attend talks aimed specifically toward our undergraduate creative writing students by our visiting poets and fiction writers who take part in our annual reading series,” said Daniel Anderson, assistant professor from the creative writing department. “We have small class sizes and a very close-knit community of students who get to know one another quite well.”

Application season for the program runs roughly between week 10 of winter term through week 2 of spring term of each year. More information can be found at

    3. An Unbound Collection

Unbound is an online literary arts magazine produced by UO students that publishes undergraduate and graduate student-submitted work in literature, poetry and visual art. Unbound started in 2008 as a Robert D. Clark Honors College thesis project. Online issues for Unbound have been published every fall, winter and spring term since spring 2008. This year, a print issue has been published each term.

“We feel it’s necessary because we’re the only completely submission-based, literary-focused magazine of our type on campus,” said Unbound senior editor Marina Claveria. “Our intention in putting out the magazine is not only to get students published, but to start a conversation around the creative work we put out. We want Unbound to be a chance to give critical feedback and to grow as lovers/makers of creative work.”

“Uneven,” a short fiction piece written by Maddie Dunkelberg, was published with Unbound in its “Collection of Works from 2013-14” issue. This is only one of the 15 works published in the edition that serves as a great addition to any assortment of your coffee table literature. Dunkelberg, whose piece was published in a recent Unbound issue, reflects on her submitting work to Unbound:

“I really wanted to write, but I had no faith in my writing, so when it got accepted, I felt so good,” said Dunkelberg.

She adds that, since publication, she has tailored her focus in playwriting through the theatre arts department and screenwriting through the cinema studies program. “That’s the cool thing about Unbound, that they’ll take pieces from all kinds of students.”

The next issue comes out finals week of winter term. Dates for the next round of submissions hasn’t been decided yet, but can be found online at a later date. Submission guidelines can be found on Unbound‘s website, and original literature or visual art can be sent to [email protected].

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