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UA alumni theses find a home at the UA Poetry Center’s MFA Thesis Collection

Nick Smallwood

A look at graduate student Sarah Kortemeir’s MFA thesis collection “ganbatte” on display at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Kortemeir’s collection of works will be among more than 600 MFA creative writing theses available for the public to read, the oldest works dating back to the 1970s.

Adding to the exclusivity of the UA Poetry Center, the MFA Thesis Collection is now available in the Center’s library catalog, completely available to the public.

The collection is made up of 672 (and counting) published theses from UA Creative Writing MFA grads.

“[The theses] were all originally admitted to the graduate school here at the UA,” said Sarah Gzemski, the publicity and publications coordinator for the Poetry Center.

Gzemski said most universities keep records of the student theses, but the Poetry Center here at the UA has cataloged the collection as part of the library, which is unique to the university system worldwide.

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The collection, consisting of published theses from the 1970s to the present, contains graduate theses in creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry.

The collection even includes early work from UA alumni such as David Foster Wallace, Nancy Mairs, Richard Siken, Agha Shahid Ali and many others.

Gzemski said all but one of David Foster Wallace’s short stories from his MFA thesis are published.

“Its cool to see where some of your favorite writers started by reading their theses,” Gzemski said. “Through this collection, its probable that people will discover new writers, as well as inspiration for their own writing.”

Trying to build the collection even more, Gzemski hopes more MFA grads submit their theses to the Poetry Center.

“[The theses] have been lost or never submitted, so if MFA grads want their theses here in our library collection, we urge them to get in touch,” Gzemski said.

A lot of work from the the Poetry Center’s staff is also included in the library collection.

“It is such a thrill to see [the theses] in such a large grouping like the library collection,” said Poetry Center Library Specialist Sarah Kortemeier. “There are so many interesting voices in the collection and that really adds to what makes it so special.”

Kortemeier is a 2010 alumna of the UA who graduated from the MFA Creative Writing Program. Kortemeier’s thesis is also part of the collection.

Kortemeier said this collection really helps to inspire writers.

“A lot of MFA students come to look at the structure of how other writers set up their own theses,” Kortemeier said.

Kortemeier said she has been greatly inspired by the collection and appreciates gaining exposure to such great works of other writers.

The collection, which is completely free and available to the public, is comprised by different types of writing ranging from fiction, to creative nonfiction to poetry.

There is really something there for everyone.

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“We are so excited to be able to present this collection to the public and we want people to have a chance to come and read them,” Gzemski said.

With works spanning over five decades, the thesis collection remains a pinnacle part of the Poetry Center’s library.

By studying the history of creative writing, writers are able to improve their own work.

“These are such fascinating documents and they are truly a valuable resource for anyone,” Kortemeier said.

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