SAMPLE LETTER OF APPLICATION
[USE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT LETTERHEAD – OBTAIN IN MORGAN 103]
September 4, 2004
[Name used in ad for who to send applications to]
[Title of said person, e.g., Search Committee Chair, or Professor, or whatever it says in the ad]
Department of English
13 Tweed Jacket Way
Valhalla, PA 12345
Dear Professor Soandso:
I am writing in response to your advertisement in the [AWP Job List, MLA Job Information List]
for a [use language from the ad]. I believe that my background is in concert with the
requirements and therefore write to you to apply for the position.
My first collection of poems, Petals on a Wet Black Carburetor, was selected by Famous Poet
for the 2003 Large Donor Prize of the Distinguished Press, and will be published this month.
Individual poems from the book have appeared in or been accepted for publication by Fancy
Journal, Extremely Fancy Journal, Fancy Quarterly, and Cat Fancy, among other publications.
Many of the poems in the book also appeared in a chapbook entitled Sparkplug, Mon Amour,
published in 1998 by Art’s Generator Press.
I have a great deal of experience teaching [whatever it is they’re wanting you to teach]. I am
currently a Lecturer at the University of Alabama, where I am teaching [what you’re teaching]. I
have also [Name the places you’ve taught, and the courses you’ve taught in those places, and
how long you did so].
Two essential principles govern all my writing classes. First, I seek to demonstrate to students
that writing is a process, not a product. I often bring to class copies of the drafts of a well-known
poem, and work with students to trace the author's process of composition. (Bishop's "One Art"
and Yeats's "The Second Coming" work well, since the first drafts of each are surprisingly
awful.) This exercise lends authority to my insistence that students revise their own work
continuously. Second, I stress that writing is a craft, a system of tactics which writers must learn
to employ with precision and grace. This view pervades all our discussions of student writing, to
which I devote at least half of every workshop. Each week I hand out a worksheet on a
particular element of prosody (e.g., lineation, stanza, meter, rhyme), and encourage students to
focus on that concept while reading and writing over the following week. With these two
principles always in mind, I strive to show each individual student specific strategies to improve
his or her writing.
Because I believe that the ability to write well is inextricable from the ability to read well, I
emphasize critical study of literature in all my writing classes. In one of my classes this term, we
are reading five recent volumes of American poetry, as well as four substantial critical essays
(Marianne Boruch on Sylvia Plath, Rita Dove on Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney on Zbigniew
Herbert, and Randall Jarrell on Wallace Stevens). A typical class begins with a discussion of the
book or essay at hand, with specific emphasis placed on craft: what effects is the writer seeking
to produce, what strategies does he or she use to create those effects, and how successful (or
un-) are those strategies? I assign the essays not only for the sake of their content, but also to
provide students with examples of belletristic prose style and criticism. In addition to a portfolio
of poems, students in this course must write an essay on a contemporary poet of their choosing.
It is my hope that learning to write lively, engaging criticism will both deepen my students’
knowledge of literature, and also return them to their own creative work with a sharper, more
This is an area where I strive to practice what I preach. I regularly contribute essays and book
reviews to Hardnose Quarterly, which awarded me its annual prize for excellence in reviewing in
1999. I am currently at work on a long essay for Scorched Earth Review that addresses the
uses of history in contemporary American poetry.
In closing, I should say that I love teaching, and my enthusiasm is not lost on my students. They
know I will be well-prepared for our meetings and excited about the material. They know I am
available to work with them outside of class and that I consider one-on-one conferences a
crucial part of the learning process. They know their ideas and input are indispensable to the
course. They know they're why I'm there.
I have enclosed my curriculum vitae, which includes the names and telephone numbers of
several references. My dossier, including letters of recommendation, student evaluations of my
teaching, and academic transcripts, is available upon your request from [your placement
service]. Should you wish to examine additional materials, such as creative or critical writing
samples, or sample syllabi, please let me know. I plan to attend the MLA convention in
[wherever it is that year], and would be pleased to meet with you there for an interview.
Thank you for your attention and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Placement Attaché for MFA Affairs
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions