Program Director, BFA in Creative Writing Program
Residency Site: Plainfield VT



Janet Sylvester’s books of poetry are That Mulberry Wine (Wesleyan), The Mark of Flesh (Norton), After-Hours at the Museum of Tolerance (finalist at Paris Press) and a chapbook, Visitor at the Gate (Shinola). Her poems have been published in Best American Poetry, Pushcart Prize XXVIII, Boulevard, Colorado Review, Harvard Review, Triquarterly, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among many others. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize, a PEN Discovery Award, and multiple fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference. She directs the low-residency BFA in Creative Writing Program at Goddard.


PhD in Creative Writing and Literature, University of Utah
MFA in Poetry, Goddard College
BA in Literature, Goddard College

Areas of Expertise

The Epic (Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Wordsworth); Feminist Theory; Poetry and Poetic Forms (particularly Renaissance, Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary); Craft of Poetry; Introduction to Literature; American Literature; Romanticism; Modernism

Personal Statement

Like a number of women writers, my academic path hasn’t been conventional. For ten years, I worked full-time in reprint publishing in NYC Press while I completed my BA and MFA degrees at Goddard. Afterwards, I spent several years at Harvard Magazine.  I wrote my first book of poems (That Mulberry Wine) while I acted first as Fulfillment Manager (a tough title to live down) and then as a member of the editorial department. Following my first teaching job, as the Margaret Banister Writer-in-Residence at Sweet Briar College (VA), I earned a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Utah.

I’ve taught in many creative writing and literature programs, undergraduate and graduate: Old Dominion University, Ohio University, University of South Carolina, Harvard, MIT, and Lesley University’s low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing.

I gratefully offer the skills and discipline that I’ve learned through decades of writing, teaching, and living, so that passionate students can use the power of imagination to write toward peace and justice in the world. In BFAW, the study of genres, theory, cultures, eras, and craft will, as the fifteenth century Indian poet Kabir said, teach us to “ride [our] runaway mind[s]/ all the way to heaven.”



  1. Sylvester, Mark of Flesh book
    The Mark of the FleshW.W. Norton and Company1999
  2. Sylvester, Mulberry Wine book
    That Mulberry WineWesleyan1985


  1. Experiments & Disorders: A Reading Featuring Janet Sylvester and Laurie FoosDecember 15, 2015 7:30 pm