Creative/Critical Ph.D. Students

Please see the Literature Ph.D. Program overview for more information on the Creative/Critical Writing Ph.D. program. 

    Conner Bassett

  • No alternative textC Dylan Bassett’s books are The Invention of Monsters / Plays for the Theater (2015) and A Failed Performance: The Collected Short Plays of Daniil Kharms (forthcoming 2018). His recent work appears in The American Reader, Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, and Washington Square. He lives in Santa Cruz.

  • Mia Boykin

  • No alternative textMia Boykin is a daughter of California, originally born and raised in Los Angeles and currently finds home in The Bay. Known mainly by her stage/pen name, Mimi Tempestt, she is a multidisciplinary artist and poet. She is the creator of the wonderful archival interview series Black.Queer.Alive. which highlights the personal narratives of Black and queer people throughout the world. Her debut collection of poems, The Monumental Misrememberings, is forthcoming with Co-Conspirator Press. She was chosen for Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices for poetry in 2021, and is currently a creative fellow at The Ruby in San Francisco.

  • Whitney DeVos

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    Whitney DeVos is a writer, translator, and scholar specializing in 20th and 21st century poetry of the Americas. Her dissertation is a hemispheric study of documentary from 1945-1994, and related scholarly writing can be found in ASAP/Journal and Chasqui: revista de literatura latinoamericana. Author of a chapbook, On Being Blonde (Slug Press, 2017), she has published poems in ENTROPY, Whiskey Island, THE DESTROYER, and elsewhere. She is also the translator of Notes Toward a Pamphlet by Sergio Chejfec (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020) and The Semblable by Chantal Maillard (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020), and co-translator of A Year in the Sky (Triana, 2019), a collection of twelve poets from across the Americas and their writings about the zodiac. Her short-form (co-)translations have appeared in AGNI, Denver QuarterlyLatin American Literature TodayFull Stoptripwire: a journal of poetics, and Copper Nickel, among other places. Other (co-)translation projects, or portions thereof, are forthcoming in AzonaLColumbia JournalMichigan Quarterly ReviewModern Poetry in Translation, and with Ugly Duckling Presse. An assistant poetry editor at Asymptote, she lives in Mexico City. 
    Dissertation title: Documentary Poetry of the Americas: 1945-1994

  • Kendall Grady

  • No alternative textKendall Grady is a poet!scholar working the couplet as microsystem-- contact zone--associative monad-- elective affinity-- allocentrism-- affective capillary—baroque structure of intimacy. Selected poems live with Jupiter 88, Dusie, and The Atlas Review.

  • Jared Harvey (Ph.D. 2020)

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    Jared Harvey, who publishes under Jared Joseph, is interested in Translation Theory, Abrahamic Literatures, Southern Cone Literatures, Contemporary American Poetry. Jared received his Ph.D. in 2020. 

    Dissertation title: The Currant

    Dissertation topic: The Currant is framed as a “found manuscript,” one particular instantiation in a text network “originating” in the Aljamiado manuscript tradition. Aljamiado was a 16th and 17th century textual code whereby a romance language was transliterated into Arabic script, practiced as a covert gesture by persecuted Muslims, or Moriscos, in Inquisition-era Spain. Many Aljamiado manuscripts were miscellanies – “memory palaces,” the literary critic Rosa Menocal calls them, encrypting the most essential Qur’anic prayers, tales, and poems – a textual response to the necessity of cultural preservation and to the loss of the ability to speak Arabic, but not to write it. The Currant, in keeping, is a multigeneric work of translation, poetry, prayers, and stories, written in a mixture of English, Spanish, Arabic and Aljamiado – in order to honor this multicultural and multilinguistic practice – pointing toward a lost culture that honored religious pluralism and that celebrated cultural exchange. 

  • Courtney Kersten

  • Kersten Portrait

    Courtney Kersten is the author of Daughter in Retrograde: A Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press, 2018). Her essays have been published in River Teeth, Hotel Amerika, and Prairie Schooner, among other journals, and have been awarded the Bellingham Review’s Annie Dillard Award, the Southern Indiana Review’s Mary C. Mohr Award in Creative Nonfiction, and been listed as “notable” in the Best American Essays series. 

    Dissertation topic: Hybrid biographical project 

  • Chacko Kuruvilla

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    Chacko Kuruvilla has a BE in Electrical Engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology, India; a BA in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota; an MA in Liberal Arts from St John's College (Annapolis and Santa Fe); an MBA from Carlson School, University of Minnesota; and an MFA in Literary Non-Fiction from Columbia University. He is currently a fifth year PhD candidate in literature here at UCSC, where he teaches creative writing and American literature. He is working on a semi-autobiographical novel set in his native city, Bombay, India, and on a collection of essays on Emersonianism and nineteenth-century American literature.
    Dissertation title: "At Interminable Oceans": The Bible of the Tropics and Aspects of Emersonianism in American Literature 

  • Melissa Mack

  • No alternative textMelissa is a poet, author of The Next Crystal Text (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2017), the chapbook Includes All Strangers (Hooke Press, 2013), and poems that have appeared in anthologies, journals, and other ephemera. In addition to a long-held day job in social policy research, since the Occupy Movement Melissa has been involved in helping organize free schools such as the Bay Area Public School and the Oakland Summer School. Melissa is interested in poetry, collaborative study, capitalism, radical traditions of struggle. Melissa lives in Oakland with her partner.

  • Madison McCartha

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    Madison McCartha is a poet, critic, and multimedia artist whose writing appears in Black Warrior Review, BOMB, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, The Spectacle, and elsewhere. Their poetry has been exhibited with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Center, was shortlisted for the 2019-2021 CAAPP Creative Writing Fellowship, and has received support from The Millay Colony, Winter Tangerine, and (soon) from the Blue Mountain Center and Ucross Foundation.

    Madison holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, where they received the Samuel and Mary Anne Hazo Award in Creative Writing. Madison's debut book-length poem, FREAKOPHONE WORLD, is forthcoming from Inside the Castle Press in 2021. Their second book of poetry, THE CRYPTODRONE SEQUENCE, is forthcoming from Black Ocean.

    Madison's scholarship takes both a visual cultures and critical race studies lens to investigate 20th and 21st century experimental and avant-garde poetry, with a special interest in the histories of the Artist’s Book and Electronic Literature.

    Topic of qualifying exams and dissertation: Virtual Poetics

  • Kiley McLaughlin

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    Kiley McLaughlin grew up in Massachusetts and is the author of three poetry chapbooks. After finishing her M.F.A. in poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is proud to have spent the last several years teaching creative writing at 826 Valencia, a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting under-resourced students. She is interested in the construction of subjectivity by contemporary writers of color, particularly when these representations of self expand into other forms and genres, including visual media and performance art. She is especially interested in exploring these threads in the work of members of the Asian-Pacific and other diasporas in the U.S.

    Title of spring 2021 qualifying exams: Mawmaw: Imperial Disavowal and the Diasporic Maternal

    Topic(s) of spring 2021 qualifying exams: 1) Creative Writing, Twentieth and Twenty-first Century American Experimental Literature (with a focus on poetics, hybrid work, and speculative fictions) and 2) Transpacific Critical Race and Empire Studies (with a focus on Asian American and especially Filipinx theorizations of gender, labor, and U.S. empire).

  • Tha├»s Miller

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    Thaïs Miller is the author of the novel Our Machinery (2008) and the collection The Subconscious Mutiny and Other Stories (2009). She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Literature with a Creative/Critical Writing Concentration at UC Santa Cruz. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz, she taught creative writing and literature at UC Berkeley Extension and the Gotham Writers Workshop, wrote dialogue for a healthcare robot, and volunteered as an editorial reader for Francis Ford Coppola’s literary magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. She received her M.A. in Creative Writing for Social Activism from New York University in 2011, and her B.A. magna cum laude with Honors in Literature from American University in 2009.

    Topic(s) of fall 2019 qualifying exams: 1) late twentieth-century and twenty-first-century American fiction with a focus on the novel and short story forms, particularly historiographic and speculative metafiction and 2) post-Holocaust Jewish novels, short stories, films, and television, with a focus on Jewish humor.  

    Dissertation title: California Kvetchin', a novel and "Vaudeville to GLOW: One Hundred Years of Jewish Humor, Women, and Trauma in Los Angeles (LA)," a critical monograph. 

  • Kristen E. Neslon

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    Kristen E. Nelson is a queer writer and performer, diviner, teacher, and community builder. She is the author of the length of this gap (Damaged Goods, August 2018) and two chapbooks: sometimes I gets lost and is grateful for noises in the dark (Dancing Girl, 2017) and Write, Dad (Unthinkable Creatures, 2012). She founded Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona, where she worked as the Executive Director for 14 years. Kristen has been teaching creative writing since 2010 at Pima Community College, Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, University of Arizona Poetry Center, the STEP College Prep Program, and community workshops. Kristen has been studying divination for 28 years and runs Four Queens, a platform centering divination and divinatory poetics, with Selah Saterstrom. She wants to talk to you about SCUBA diving in kelp forests, Italian witchcraft, autotheory, and cats.

  • Nathan Osorio

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    Nathan Xavier Osorio is the son of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he became interested in the intersections of creative writing, translation, and political activism among Spanish, English, and indigenous speaking communities. In 2014, he moved to New York City to pursue his M.F.A. in poetry at Columbia University, where he had the opportunity to coordinate and facilitate writing workshops in the local public school system. After graduating, he worked as a community organizer partnering with parent leaders to improve the educational experiences of Latino, immigrant, and indigenous families in the South Bronx.

    Title of spring 2021 qualifying exams: Making in the Borderlands: Transdisciplinary Decolonial Poetics as Resistance/Vitality.

  • Matt Polzin

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    Matt Polzin holds an MFA in Creative Writing from California Institute of the Arts. Their fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Bathhouse Journal, and DittoDitto’s RRA (Recording Reading Archive) amongst other places, and their work was a finalist for the Arkansas International Emerging Writer’s Prize. They are currently finishing a first novel about a group of animal rights activists. Since spring of 2021, they have also served as a Graduate Student Researcher with the Astrobiology Initiative.
    Topics of qualifying exams: 1) Contemporary Fiction; 2) Feminist, Queer, and Trans Speculative Fiction

  • Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez

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    Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez was born and raised in South Central LA and now lives in Seattle. Her research focuses on translation and contemporary indigenous Mesoamerican poetry, especially from Iximulew (Guatemala). Her dissertation is a critical introduction to the work of Rosa Chávez (Maya K'iche' and Kaqchikel) with an English translation of her third collection, El corazón de la piedra (Heart of the Stone). These translations have been featured in Asymptote, The Against Nature Journal, and are forthcoming in CentroMariconadas: A Queer and Trans Central American Anthology. Gabriela’s own poetry and essays have been published in literary journals and anthologies, including The Wandering Song: Central Americans Writing in the United States.

    Dissertation title: Heart of the Stone: A Critical Introduction to the Poetry of Rosa Chávez

  • Angie Sijun Lou

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    Angie Sijun Lou is from Seattle and Shanghai. Her work has appeared in the American Poetry Review, FENCE, Black Warrior Review, the Adroit Journal, the Asian American Literary Review, Hyphen, the Margins, and others. She is a Kundiman Fellow in fiction. Her research interests include experimental Asian American poetry, the counterfeit electronics industry in China, and (in)authentic relationships between diaspora and homeland.

  • Eric Sneathen

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    Eric Sneathen is a poet, publisher, and literary scholar living in Oakland, CA. His primary research areas include postwar USAmerican poetry, LGBTQ studies, small press and San Francisco literature, New Narrative, social movement literatures, and queer archives. At UCSC, he was awarded a teaching fellowship for his class “Queer Lyrics: LGBTQ Writing in the United States.” His archival work has been supported by fellowships and travel grants from UCSC, UC San Diego, the University of Buffalo, as well as UCSC’s Center for Archival Research and Training. He has worked with the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco since 2018, directing the San Francisco ACT UP Oral History Project. His first poetry collection, Snail Poems, was published by Krupskaya in 2016, and two new books are forthcoming: Minor Work (Mo(o)on/Io, 2021) and Don’t Leave Me This Way (Nightboat, 2022). With Daniel Benjamin, he organized the first academic conference dedicated to New Narrative in 2017 and edited The Bigness of Things: New Narrative and Visual Culture. With Lauren Levin, he edited Honey Mine, the selected fictions of New Narrative writer Camille Roy.  Since 2019, he has been publishing and editing books as one-third of Dogpark Collective.

    Dissertation title: "The Future Unites Us: A Gay Poetics of San Francisco."

    Dissertation topic: Eric's dissertation reconstructs the history and evolution of a self-consciously gay tradition of avant-garde poetry and poetics. Gay poetics recenters the long history of activism and idealism that shaped both American poetry and avant-garde literature, thinking through fundamental questions about literary and social value, within and beyond literary cutlure. Individual chapters are devoted to overlooked-yet-influential figures like Donald Allen and Paul Mariah, as well as New Narrative luminaries Robert Glück and Kevin Killian. By juxtaposing archival findings with literary scholarship, Eric suggests the means by which literary scholarship and even queer studies have under-valued certain people's experiences and modes of expression, as well as a record of homophobia that first censored then dismissed then ignored the accomplishments of vibrant and vital gay literary culture.

  • Cathy Thomas (Ph.D. 2018)

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    Cathy Thomas received her Ph.D. at UC Santa Cruz in Literature with a designated emphasis in Creative Critical writing. She is now a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow working with Nalo Hopkinson to figure out simple ways to “semantically-neurochemically induce” Afrofutures into our “higher-level living autopoietic system.”© Her interests lie in the Caribbean diaspora, carnival culture and practices, decolonial feminist thought, and discovering modes of play and resistance in comic books, cosplay, and pop culture. When she is not writing, or cos-playing, or wining up at carnival, she procrasti-makes short films, linocuts, things that satisfy her love of chemistry, and things that evoke memories of the South Bronx like tiny gardens and Guyanese dishes she loved as a child.

    Dissertation title: Poco Mas/A Poetics of Salvage and Speculation in the Caribbean Diaspora

    Disseration topic: In this hybrid dissertaion, “Poco Mas/A Poetics of Salvage and Speculation in the Caribbean Diaspora,” I address broader questions of how the concept of salvage,—in its conflicting dualism of its ability to describe the prior experience of wreck and loss or to describe an experience of recovery and repair—engages the ways blackness and sexualized embodiment take up space in the Western imagination. I look at racial and gendered representations of (mostly) Afrodiasporic bodies of the Anglophone Caribbean and the material realities they experience(d) as diasporic subjects to generate discussions interested in exploring a historically unprecedented "post-human" future attentive to long histories of racialization, colonization, and enslavement. 

  • Nghiem Tran

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    Nghiem Tran was born in Vietnam and raised in Kansas. He is interested in Asian-American literature, speculative fiction, and contemporary poetry. He especially enjoys reading ghost stories. He is a graduate fellow of Kundiman, an organization that promotes community among Asian-American writers. He has spent the majority of his life in the Midwest and the East coast, and so he is excited to reside on the West coast for the first time in his life.

  • Jose Antonio Villaran

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    Jose Antonio Villarán has bilingual fluency (English - Spanish) as a writer, scholar, translator and instructor. He is the author of two books of poetry: la distancia es siempre la misma (2006) & el cerrajero (2012); one book of translation, Album of Fences (2018); and creator of the AMLT project (, an exploration of hypertext literature and collective authorship. His third book, titled open pit, is forthcoming from AUB in 2021. Areas of focus include: Creative Writing, Poetry/Poetics, Cross-Genre Literature, Literary Translation, US-Latinx Literature, Critical University Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. He holds an MFA in Writing from UCSD and he is currently a PhD Candidate in Literature at UCSC.

    Dissertation title: open pit; a story about morococha and extractivism en las américas

  • Kirstin Wagner

  • No alternative textKirstin Wagner is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Literature’s Creative/Critical Writing Program. Her research concerns inherited trauma in families organizing around domestic violence, and she writes weird poems about bodies, mothers, daughters, and the ocean. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz, she received an M.A. in Communication and Culture from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University, where she also served as Manager of the Naropa Writing Center and as a Curriculum Consultant for the Undergraduate Writing Program. She has also served a CITL Graduate Pedagogy Fellow in the Literature Department and focuses on animating the embodied aspects of teaching and learning.

  • Nicholas James Whittington (Ph.D. 2020)

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    Nicholas James Whittington is a poet, scholar, editor, educator, printer, publisher, and father, among other things, born and raised in San Francisco. He has lived in Oakland since 2012, but continues to edit and publish the roughly annual AMERARCANA along with the occasional small book under the auspices of his family bookshop, Bird & Beckett, in the city, while teaching literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he is completing a dissertation on the initial incarnation of the Masters in Poetics Program at New College of California. Recent chapbooks include Provisions (2017, PUSH Press) and Indefinite Sessions(2016, Gas Meter Books). His first full-length collection of poems is Resolution of the West (2019, Bootstrap Press). At Impart Ink, an errant studio, he designs, typesets, and prints books both digitally and via letterpress –  

  • Emma Wood

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    Originally from New York City, Emma Winsor Wood holds a BA from Harvard in Russian History & Literature and an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she taught literature and poetry writing. Her recent work appears in Fence, ZYZZVA, jubilat, and DIAGRAM, and Her first book, A Failed Performance: Short Plays and Scenes by Daniil Kharms, a collaborative translation with the poet C Dylan Bassett, was recently published by Plays Inverse Press. Her poetry manuscript, Preferred Internal Landscape, has been named a finalist in the CSU, BOAAT, Switchback Books, Noemi Press, Zone 3, and the University of Wisconsin book contests.  She currently lives, with her husband and their two dogs, in the Santa Cruz mountains, where she also works as an editor for Stone Soup Magazine. 

    Topic(s) of spring 2021 qualifying exams: writing that troubles the borders between poetry and memoir, especially a form that I have named the "lyric diary."