Jenny Factor, MFA

Core Faculty, Poetry
MFA in Creative Writing
(310) 578-1080 ext. 227

MFA in Literature and Poetry, Bennington College
AB in Anthropology, Harvard College, Summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
Teaching Credential, Montessori

Jenny Factor became interested in poetry from a very young age. In first and second grade, she began to study seriously with Poet-in-the-Schools, Myra Cohn Livingston, who sharpened her eye for imagery, and ultimately helped her practice sonnets, pentameters, iambics, and falling meters with daily exercises on the page.

At Harvard College, where she was the only incoming freshman admitted to Seamus Heaney’s master class, Factor received an AB summa cum laude, studying Anthropology on Heaney’s advice, and completing special projects in Spanish translation and writing for young people. Later, she supported her family and her writing as an archaeologist, a preschool teacher, and a Web editor and journalist.

Jenny received her MFA in Literature from the Bennington College Writing Seminars. Her graduate thesis became her first volume of verse. Her second collection is almost complete.

Jenny’s (poetry) poem collection, Unraveling at the Name (Copper Canyon Press), won a Hayden Carruth Award and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Factor’s poems and reviews have appeared in the Paris Review and more than a dozen anthologies, including The Best American Erotic Poems (Scribner, 2008). Her work has been supported by an Astraea Grant in poetry.

I believe in Generosity. Writers, at their least blocked, feel such a deep sense of celebration in the stream of language (or of story-telling, or of truth-telling) that the success of anyone’s language feels like everyone’s success. The best readers think “Oh. What a cool effect. How can I learn from that?” before they feel a more personal, winnowing hunger. To that end, I support the playful potentialities of in-class and take-home exercises, and I encourage careful reading of poetry and prose models and constructive concrete and specific feedback. For me, the best seminar dynamics are at once serious, festive and generous. Of course, every student’s journey of language is uniquely his or her own. I always teach that the obscure, difficult parts of drafts are almost certainly the most creatively important. We all find our tongues a little numb when we try to broach the unsayable. So there is reason to value risk. In spite of the confidence it takes to make poems, I believe highly in Humility. Richard Pettibone, an artist who incorporates language into his paintings, puts it well. He writes of “crawling on our knees as we do before a line of verse.” So, hands-and-knees to the ground, we complete the cycle.

2000 $10,000 Astraea Grant in Poetry
2001 Hayden Carruth Award
2002 Finalist for a Lambda Literary Award

  • A brief glossary and typology of rhyme
  • The long, sequenced, and fragmented poem
  • The poem as essay or as philosophy through aesthetic ends
  • Queer poetries
  • Poetry Workshop, Masters of Fine Arts Program
  • Poetry Workshop, BA Program
  • Seminars on John Donne, Jorie Graham, Meter & Verseform, The Five Senses, The First Book, Queer Poetries

Jenny Factor, West Coast Correspondent to the Best American Poetry blog
Jenny Factor Reading at the Annenberg Community Beach House