Phil Levine


Philip Levine, 1928-2015

The Creative Writing Program, the Department of English, and the College of Arts and Humanities would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of responses upon the passing of our friend and colleague, Phil Levine. Mr. Levine died Feb. 14 at the age of 87. No funeral services have been announced.

Dr. José A. Díaz, interim dean of the College, asks for continued patience and privacy for the Levine family and close friends. Dr. Díaz says the college would be honored to pay public tribute to Mr. Levine in the future, if the Levine family so chooses.

Read the University's updated news release.


M.F.A. in Creative Writing


The M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing offers advanced training to students who wish to gain expertise in the writing of poetry, fiction or creative nonfiction.

As in music or the visual arts, the best education for the artist includes: training in the history and traditions associated with the student's discipline, training in the theoretical and formal approaches to the craft, and extensive practice with critique of student work by peers and faculty writers. The program combines studio and research approaches, providing the student with substantial critical workshop experience and a solid background in theory and literature.

The soul of the Creative Writing Program is its nationally and internationally acclaimed faculty, whose writing as well as their commitment to teaching lie at the heart of the program's ability to attract the best students from across the nation and beyond. Our award winning faculty has over 20 published books to date.

For more information, please read the MFA Program Handbook

(Check the Forms link for downloads pertinent to the MFA Program.)


Our university has enjoyed a thriving graduate creative writing program for over thirty years. The M.A. Option was directed for many years by Pulitzer Prize winning poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, and later by poet C.G. Hanzlicek, who supervised the program’s transition from M.A. to M.F.A in 1996.

Alumni from the program’s earlier days include such distinguished writers as Sherley Anne Williams, Luis Omar Salinas, David St. John, Larry Levis, Roberta Spear, Lawson Inada, Kathy Fagan, and Gary Soto.

Others are actively publishing in journals and magazines including Atlanta Review, North American Review, Poetry Motel, The Greensboro Review, The Chariton Review, The Blithe House Quarterly, and The New Yorker.


The rich literary culture in California’s Central Valley is well known because Fresno was the home of William Saroyan, and is still the home of Philip Levine. It is also the home of the Fresno Poets’ Association, a decades old community organization that hosts monthly poetry and prose readings in conjunction with the creative writing program. A wide variety of poetry and prose readings occur regularly at coffee houses and book stores around town, and several excellent anthologies over the years have focused exclusively on the work of writers connected with California’s Central Valley, many of whom are former or current students and faculty in the creative writing program.


Because we believe that the best artists are necessarily well educated in the history and practice of their art, we offer a substantial 54-unit degree program, which gives students the opportunity to focus acutely on their writing while gaining a strong background in literature. We expect a lot of our students, and we try to give them all the help they need to accomplish it. We offer small intensive workshops and seminars taught by award-winning poets and prose writers; we work very closely with individual students, and we bring prominent visiting writers to our campus each year.

The creative writing faculty is dedicated to fostering the growth of a vital community of writers, and to offering a variety of experiences to help the emerging writer embark on a successful writing life. Students are encouraged to participate as editors, organizers, and workshop leaders in the annual Young Writers’ Conference; they are encouraged to serve on the editorial staff of The Normal School or the San Joaquin Review; they are asked to give at least two public readings of their own work while they are here; and they are encouraged to enroll in our publishing and editing course in which they help to select the winner of the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry, a national poetry book contest sponsored by the M.F.A. Program and Anhinga Press. Many also take part in various events hosted by our student organizations, such as the San Joaquin Literary Association, the San Joaquin Review, Chicano Writer's and Artists Association, and others.

What our M.F.A. students seem to appreciate the most is the intimate and supportive atmosphere at Fresno, combined with rigorous requirements and professional expectations. This is a place where writers meet the friends and the literary community they will have for a lifetime. Soul Vang, a recent M.F.A. graduate in poetry, says about his experience here: “We were a family. The writing workshops were places we could open up and share ourselves without fear of unjust criticism, rejection, or pettiness. My poetry was born in this loving and creative environment.”


We award the Edward & Alberta Brown scholarships in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Poetry, the Whitney Fisher Scholarship, the Benck Family Scholarship, the C.G. Hanzlicek Fellowship in poetry, and student writing awards to selected students. Two Andrés Montoya Memorial Scholarships are awarded every year to talented Chicano/Chicana student writers, and a limited number of out-of-state tuition waivers are available to eligible students for their first year. Three writing conference fellowships to the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley are awarded along with select funding to national writing conferences. There are also two Student Assistant positions to help run our annual book prize for poetry, the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry.

Many of our students work as Teaching Associates for the English Department’s Composition Program, as tutors for the Writing Center, and several teach beginning creative writing classes each year. There are also three graduate assistantships awarded each year to incoming students.

Tuition Information:

For current tuition information, please click here.