The MFA Program in Creative Writing at Boise State University supports two award-winning literary magazines. Graduate students have the opportunity to take hands-on, practical classes in Writing, Editing, and Design for Professional Advancement (which includes work with The Idaho Review).
The program also publishes Free Poetry featuring essays and poetry from today’s leading poets.
THE IDAHO REVIEW
Editor Mitch Wieland founded The Idaho Review in 1998 with the intent of creating a national, high-quality literary annual. Since that time, The Idaho Review has consistently won praise and awards. Stories published in the magazine have been reprinted in The Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, New Stories from the South, and Best of the West. Contributors to the review have included Richard Bausch, Ann Beattie, Rick Bass, Joy Williams, Madison Smartt Bell, Pam Houston, Stuart Dybek, and Edith Pearlman. MFA students may participate in the magazine’s production through a graduate assistantship and coursework. See The Idaho Review website for more information.
Boise State University’s Ahsahta Press was launched in 1974 by three Boise State English professors as a press that would resurrect and republish the poetry of Western American writers that had gone out of print. Soon, however, the press began publishing the work of contemporary Western writers as well, including poets such as Sandra Alcosser, David Baker, Linda Bierds, Gretel Ehrlich, and Leo Romero. Wyn Cooper’s poem “Fun,” which became a number-one hit song for Sheryl Crow, appears in his Ahsahta Press book The Country of Here Below. In 2000, after Ahsahta Press came under the aegis of the MFA Program, director Janet Holmes expanded Ahsahta’s reach beyond the West.
Ahsahta Press Closing
Janet Holmes, Professor in the Department of Theatre, Film, and Creative Writing, will be retiring at the end of the 2019–2020 academic year. As a poet there, and previously in the Department of English, Holmes taught graduate and undergraduate workshops in poetry, courses in the New York School and Objectivist schools of poetry, seminars in the work of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov, and a graduate course in small press editing and production. That last course served as an editorial board for Boise State’s Ahsahta Press, which has been an all-poetry publisher at Boise State since 1974. Graduate students in the Creative Writing MFA Program read the hundreds of submissions that came in to Ahsahta’s Sawtooth Poetry Prize contest each year and worked with an outside judge to select the winner of the annual $1500 award. Founded in 1974 by Tom Trusky, the Press initially focused on poetry of the American West, publishing, amongst others, David Baker, Wyn Cooper, Cynthia Hogue and Katharine Coles. In 1999 Professor Holmes took over the job of editor, expanding the scope of the Press and introducing the Sawtooth Poetry Prize for first books and a chapbook series. In addition to the prizewinning books, Holmes published over one hundred volumes at Ahsahta, which is described as championing and promoting “surprising, relevant, and accessible experimental poetry that more commercially minded small presses avoid.” Ahsahta Press titles often appeared on the monthly best-seller lists of Small Press Distribution.
For the past twenty years, Professor Holmes has overseen one of the most respected independent poetry presses in the country, garnering a national and international reputation. Ahsahta has been home to a wide range of extraordinary books, including many prize-winners such as Anne Boyer’s Garments Against Women (CLMP Firecracker Award, 2016), Vincent Toro’s Stereo. Island. Mosaic (Norma Farber First Book Award, 2017), Brian Teare’s Pleasure (Lambda Award for Gay Poetry, 2011) and most recently Jonah Mixon-Webster’s Stereo(TYPE), which won the prestigious PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award last year.
With the retirement of Prof. Holmes, the University will be closing Ahsahta Press on June 30, 2019. The Creative Writing program will start a search this year for a one-year replacement professor while it reassesses the instruction needs and priorities of the MFA degree and of the recently introduced three undergraduate degree programs, which are seeing rapidly increasing enrollments. Although the Creative Writing program is not in a position to continue operations of the Press immediately after this year, all efforts to revive the Press will be considered if and when it becomes possible.
Prof. Holmes has published five collections of poetry, including The ms of my kin (Shearsman) and f2f (University of Notre Dame). Her work has been discussed in MLA papers and panels on erasure poetics, explored in Emily Dickinson studies, and included in international anthologies of poetry. In 2018, her work was included in a gallery show of erasure poetics in New York City. She was a Fulbright Fellow in Budapest, Hungary, during the spring of 2015, and received fellowships for her writing from the Fondation Ledig-Rowholt (Switzerland) and Fundación Valparaíso (Spain), as well as the American residencies MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. Her work was twice collected in The Best American Poetry volumes.
The Boise State Creative Writing program and School of Arts would like to thank Professor Holmes for the energy and vision she has dedicated to the MFA Program and the Press, and for the support she has given to poets and poetry locally and nationally for the last two decades.