Poet, Author Joins Rensselaer Faculty To Teach Creative Writing


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November 27, 2013

Poet, Author Joins Rensselaer Faculty To Teach Creative Writing

Shira Dentz, a new creative writing lecturer in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is building a community of writers and readers in her creative writing and rhetoric courses.

An experienced writing instructor and the author of two books, black seeds on a white dish, a book of poems, and door of thin skins, a collection that is a hybrid of prose, poetry, and visual elements, Dentz structures her courses around workshops for students to share their writing with peers and critique each other’s work. At the end of each semester, students showcase their writing at two public readings.

“In a workshop environment, there has to be a sense of camaraderie and commitment to share what you’ve done and get constructive criticism,” she said. “It is a model that builds trust and self-confidence among the students.”

Dentz received a master’s of fine arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and a doctoral degree in creative writing and literature from the University of Utah. Her work has been published in numerous journals and recognized with awards including an Academy of American Poets’ Prize, The Poetry Society of America’s Lyric Poem Award and Cecil Hemley Memorial Award.

Prior to joining Rensselaer, Dentz was an instructor at the University of Iowa and the University of Utah, and in the spring of 2012 and 2013 she was Writer-in-Residence at the New College of Florida.

“We are very fortunate to have a writer of Shira Dentz’s caliber join our community. Her appointment is testimony to the Institute’s commitment to inculcate the art of creative writing and rhetorical studies into the lives of our students,” said Mary Simoni, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Dentz said she hopes Rensselaer students who take her courses will find writing and reading to be creative outlets throughout their lives. “When they finish the class, it doesn’t have to mean that they’re done writing,” she said. “Students here do have an appetite for creativity.”

Helping students get in touch with their creative selves will benefit them in their future work, regardless of their chosen field, Dentz said. “Inventive thinking, in general, comes from being in touch with creative thinking, one’s dream mind.”

“Much of the work that I do is trying to get students to be less controlled by their inner censors,” Dentz said.

The end-of-semester public readings are an important part of that process and serve as “kind of an identity shift for the students that they are now writers,” she said. “It gives them a sense of respecting themselves and taking what they’re doing seriously.”

The end-of-semester readings are open to the campus community. Dentz’s students will read their works of fiction from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3, and students will read their poems from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6. Both readings will be held in West Hall room 326.


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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.