Creative Writing Faculty

The creative writing faculty at Cal Poly believes that the professor's job is to help students identify and enhance that which is idiosyncratically best in their writing while also providing opportunity and suggestions for new areas of exploration. Kevin Clark and Todd Pierce, lead faculty in poetry and fiction respectively, have each won teaching awards, have published widely, and have written creative writing textbooks. All instructors in creative writing are not only dedicated teachers but continually productive artists.


Mary Stewart Atwell (MFA, Washington University in St. Louis, 2002; MA, University of Virginia, 2007; Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis, 2013) is the author of the novel Wild Girls (Scribner 2012).  Her short stories have appeared in journals including Epoch and Alaska Quarterly Review, and in the anthologies Best New American Voices and Best American Mystery Stories.  She is currently at work on her second novel, The Black Room.

self-portrait with expletives by Kevin ClarkKevin Clark (M.A., creative writing, 1979; Ph.D., literature, 1986, University of California at Davis) won the 2009 Pleiades Press contest; his book Self-Portrait with Expletives appears in the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Series, distributed by LSU Press. His first collection of poems, In the Evening of No Warning (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2002), was awarded a publisher's grant by the Academy of American Poets. He has also published three chapbooks, One of Us, Widow under a New Moon, and Granting the Wolf, and he’s won the Angoff Award from The Literary Review. His poetry has appeared widely in such journals as the Georgia, Iowa, and Antioch reviews, Crazyhorse, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, The New York Quarterly, and The Denver Quarterly. His essays have appeared in such magazines as The Iowa Review, Papers on Language and Literature, Contemporary Literary Criticism, The Southern Review, and Poetry International. In 2002, Kevin won the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award. His poetry writing textbook, The Mind’s Eye, is published by Pearson Longman.

Less Obvious Gods by Lisa CoffmanLisa Coffman (M.A. in creative writing, New York University, 1989) is the author of two full-length collection of poems, Less Obvious Gods (Iris Press, 2013) and Likely (Kent State University Press, 1996). She has won grants for her poetry from the National Endowments for the Arts, the PEW Charitable Trusts, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her work has appeared in many journals, including The Southern ReviewBeloit Poetry JournalMid American Review and River City, and in the anthologies MyrrhMothwing, Smoke: Erotic PoemsThe Southern Poetry AnthologyVolume VI: TennesseeA Fine Excess; and Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia. Prior to moving to California, Coffman was an Assistant Professor of English at Penn State Altoona and has twice been a Visiting Professor at Deep Springs College. She also works as a free lance writer.

Pinocchio's Revolution by James CushingJames Cushing (Ph.D., UC Irvine, 1983) was California Faculty Association Distinguished Lecturer for 2004-05 and Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo for 2008-2010. Winner of Renegade Magazine’s 1994 “Warlord of the Subculture” Award, Cushing has published four full-length collections of his poetry with Cahuenga Press of Los Angeles: Pinocchio’s Revolution (2010), Undercurrent Blues (2005), The Length of an Afternoon (1999), and You and the Night and the Music (1991). His poems and essays have appeared in such publications as Antioch Review, California Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, RATTLE, Massachusetts Review and Yabolusha Review, as well as in The Second Set, a jazz-poetry anthology edited by Yusef Komunyakaa (Indiana UP, 1996). He joined the faculty in 1989. Since 1997, Cushing has hosted a jazz program on Cal Poly’s radio station, KCPR.

Chez Chance by Jay GummermanJay Gummerman - Retired (B.S., Cal State Humboldt; M.F.A., UC Irvine, 1988) is the author of a collection of stories, We Find Ourselves in Moontown (Knopf 1988), and a novel, Chez Chance (Pantheon 1997). He is currently working on a novel entitled The Participants.

David Kann (MFA, Vermont College of Fine Arts; MA, NYU;  PhD, Occidental) is former chair of the English Department and past director of the university's writing program. A renaissance intellect, David teaches courses in poetry writing, the American Renaissance, science fiction, horror fiction, deep ecology and literature, and quantum theory and literature. Among other places his poetry has appeared in Apercus. Author of a composition textbook, The Literature Writer: A Rhetoric with Readings Across Four Genres. (Mayfield). He's published essays on Robert Frost and Stephen King.

Tlas vegas noir by Todd James Pierceodd James Pierce (M.F.A., UC Irvine, 1995; Ph.D., Florida State, 2003). A native of the central coast, Todd left a permanent job at Clemson to teach Cal Poly. Joan Didion selected Todd’s book of short stories Newsworld (University of Pittsburg Press, 2006) as winner of the prestigious Drue Heinz Award. He has published a novel, The Australia Stories (2003); he’s the editor of two anthologies of short stories (Las Vegas Noir and Dead Neon). His stories and poems have appeared in over 70 magazines and journals, including American Short Fiction, The Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Fiction, Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, North American Review, Shenandoah, Story Quarterly, and Willow Springs, as well as being anthologized in various college- and high-school literature textbooks. An award-winning teacher, he is also the author of a book on writing, Behind the Short Story: From First to Final Draft (2007, Pearson Longman). He’s earned both a Kingsbury Fellowship and the Angoff award. Presently, he directs WriterSpeak, the university’s visiting writers program.


Leslie St. John (MFA, Purdue University) served as poetry editor for the Sycamore Review. Her chapbook Beauty Like a Rope appeared in 2013, and her poems have appeared in Cimarron ReviewCrab Orchard ReviewIndiana ReviewLinebreakOxford AmericaPinchRougarou, and Verse Daily. Her nonfiction has appeared in Opium Magazine. She won the MacGuffin Prize, judged by Thomas Lux, was runner-up for the Florida Review prize, and was nominated by Lisa Lewis and Ai for a Pushcart Prize. Mark Doty chose her poem, "Filling the Egg Carton" as a finalist for the Inkwell prize. As a modern dancer and yogi, she is interested in the intersections between the body, movement, and poetry.


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