Nathan McClain

Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing & African American Literary Arts
Nathan McClain
Contact Nathan

Mail Code HA
Nathan McClain
Emily Dickinson Hall 27
413.559.5427

Nathan McClain, visiting assistant professor of creative writing and African American literary arts, received an M.F.A. in creative writing from Warren Wilson's M.F.A. Program for Writers.

He is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017), a recipient of fellowships from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, The Frost Place, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Previously, he taught creative writing at Seton Hall, Drew University, and St. Joseph's College, as well as poetry workshops for the Cave Canem Foundation. His poems and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New York Times Magazine, upstreet, American Poets, The Rumpus, and Hunger Mountain, among others. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

Personal Website

Recent and Upcoming Courses

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  • Increasingly, it would seem to be the preference of readers in our neo-narrative age, age of biography and memoir, age of the talk show: an appetite for story. For narrative. But the lyric poet might just as easily say that every narrative poem obscures a lyric and suspends time. What happens when a poem is more concerned with "how something felt" than "what happened"? In this course, participants will investigate such questions, as well as the lyric poem at various levels of craft and technique. Students will draft and revise lyric poems of their own and consider, in written responses, the merits of the lyric over the narrative mode. Students may read work by Charles Wright, Donald Justice, Donika Kelly, Sandra Beasley, and Emily Dickinson, among others. (keywords: #creativewriting #time #poetryworkshop #narrative)

  • The late poet and essayist, Reginald Shepherd, in his thought-provoking essay, "The Other's Other," writes "I am just as much a black person when I write about spring snow and narcissus blooms as when I write about the South Bronx or the slave trade, and I am as much not." Poet, essayist, and editor Camille Dungy adds, "To bring more voices into the conversation about human interactions with the natural world, we must change the parameters of the conversation." For centuries, our writing about the living world has been defined by Anglo-American perspectives, though African American poets and writers have offered unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of ecocriticism and ecopoetics. In this course, students will consider and examine the literature of nature from the lens of poets and writers of color as well as explore their unique relationships to the living, natural world through original poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and hybrid forms. Students may read and consider the work of Aimee Nezhukumatahil, Jericho Brown, Lucille Clifton, Jennifer Chang, and Ed Roberson, among others. As part of the Environments and Change Learning Collaborative, we will have the opportunity to engage in collaborative work and projects with a cohort of classes at Hampshire College addressing similar questions from different perspectives to form a learning community. (#creativewriting, #naturewriting, #environmentaljustice)

  • Fredrick Douglass famously writes, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." That struggle, for African Americans, has often been managed or mitigated through the solace of music, of song, from spirituals to rhythm and blues. In this course, we will approach this topic by reading and discussing a selection of songs, poetry, prose, drama, and film to determine the targets of African American dissatisfaction, and to understand how assumptions about race can tear the social fabric among and within groups. Related themes include religion, assimilation, gender, and art; and notice how many of our literary readings use or are about music. Students should expect readings to be organized historically by song genre, taking us from the antebellum period to the contemporary period. But we will also move around within periods to see how later authors have written about the past that, in part, defined them. Students should expect to draft essays and reading responses exploring the relationship between music and texts and may read and consider work by Audre Lorde, Sam Cooke, Phyllis Wheatley, Spike Lee, and W.E.B. DuBois, among others. (keywords: African American literature, creative writing, music)

  • While I absolutely believe revision can be taught, and reading can be taught. Probably the only sound pedagogical tool for poetry is imitation. Writing can be introduced to people, but ultimately, only poems can teach poetry. Received forms such as sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, pantoums, and ghazals, can understandably appear difficult, daunting even, so, in this workshop, students will extensively read, examine, imitate, and workshop poems that adhere to as well as rethink common received poetic forms and conventions. How do formal poems negotiate the relationship between form and content? When is a particular formal constraint most appropriate? And when should a poet amend or alter a received form? My hope is that this class can be a nice warm greenhouse for new poems. Students may read and consider poems and prose by George Herbert, Julia Alvarez, Gerald Stern, Agha Shahid Ali, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and William Meredith, among many others. (keywords: poetry, creative writing, form, prosody)

  • Full Title: Environments and Change: Addressing Climate Change in a Changing Social, Political, and Environmental World Main Question: What are the ongoing and growing concerns associated with climate change and how can we take meaningful, positive action to address them? Course Description: The challenge of creating a just and sustainable future in the face of climate change is arguably the greatest challenge yet to face humankind. Why haven't we as individuals or governments or societies begun to act as if our very lives and cultures are threatened by climate change? Countries across the world were able to enact rapid and massive behavioral change when faced with COVID19, but have failed to do so when faced with climate change. What are the implications of environmental and climate change in relationship to privilege, accessibility, and race? How does one live a sustainable life in an ever-changing world? Join us to brainstorm potential solutions to current local and global environmental and related social problems. This seminar will be co-taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty and staff and will include guest lectures from experts across a breadth of areas related to climate change, environmental justice, and sustainability. The course will be divided into modules focused on specific problems and potential solutions, such as why humans are so resistant to changing our habits, and how massive societal change can be motivated; how we can learn to communicate around hard topics and differing beliefs; how ecopoetics and ecocriticism can engage not only climate justice but racial justice as well; how applied design can help us create accessible tools; and how other animals are responding to climate change and biodiversity loss. Modes of working will include brainstorming, hands-on design and fabrication work (#making), reading, researching, communication, dialogue, and restorative practices. Approaches: #sustainabledesign #environmentaljustice #creativewriting #biodiversityconservation