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Frostburg Poetry Professor Publishes Student-Friendly Poetry Textbook

Frostburg Poetry Professor Publishes Student-Friendly Poetry Textbook

Gerry LaFemina, Frostburg State University English professor and Pushcart Prize-winning poet, has taught the writing of poetry for more than two decades. During that time, he has published more than a dozen books of poetry and gained significant insight into the effective teaching of poetry.

LaFemina found much of that insight lacking in popular textbooks about writing poetry. Textbooks focused on writing prompts – finding subject matter – or on the various poetic forms, such as sonnets, villanelles, sestinas and more. He found none that focused on the way a poem “thinks,” or how poets’ thought patterns echo through poems to engage audiences.

“If I had,” he said, “I wouldn’t have written this one. I would have bought that book a long time ago.”

LaFemina recently collected his lessons and musings and compiled them into his first textbook, “Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically,” which is available now from publisher Kendall Hunt.

“It’s very conversational and student-friendly,” said LaFemina. “It’s designed to be engaging to the student reader, and it’s also kind of perfectly structured for a semester-long poetry writing course.”

The textbook is also affordable at less than $30 – a student-friendly price LaFemina sought from the outset.

“I have to thank a lot of poets and a lot of publishing houses who either waived their fees or reduced them to make this book a reality. That was a real belief, I think, from a lot of people, in the right-mindedness of this project,” he said.

The book offers foundational knowledge about the writing of poetry, including some writing prompts, examples of poetic forms and an anthology of suggested readings, intended to help students find their own poetic voices.

“If instructors focus on having students write in each one of these modes, you get basically 10 or 11 poems and then time to revise,” LaFemina explained. “I think it’s unique – it’s doing something different.”

Several poetry professors around the country have already elected to use LaFemina’s book for their courses, leading to an unexpected (and desirable) issue. Kendall Hunt has already had to extend the initial print run to meet greater-than-expected demand.

The book is available through his publisher at or online booksellers.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit or Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.


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