Class Profile: English 201: Students explore creativity in the least likely of places

Class starts with a "roll question" rather than a roll call, assignments involve turning the backs of shampoo bottles into literature or writing love poems about blenders and best of all, the professor is Cori Winrock, visiting English professor and talented poet. This is English 201: Creative Writing.

Students who have the privilege of studying under Winrock at Geneseo have the unique opportunity of incorporating their own current studies, from English to science, into their creative writing.

"My goal is for students to be awestruck by language and their everyday experiences" Winrock said.

She particularly stressed her belief that English classrooms can offer an "environment of exploration" similar to the experimental environment that fields like science offer. Therefore, she has chosen to assign her English 201 students unconventional coursework, granting them the opportunity to experiment and arrive at something remarkable through unusual means.

Winrock's teaching style is based, in part, on her scientific background. She is a neuroscience whiz turned poet who received bachelor's degrees in creative writing and psychology from Oberlin College and a master's in fine arts in poetry from Cornell University. She said she was particularly inspired by her professor at Cornell, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, who set Winrock on her "trajectory as a poet" when she went to graduate school unsure of what she wanted out of her poetry.

"Lyrae reinforced in me that a teacher's roll in creative writing is never to intervene with the intentions of a piece," Winrock said. "A teacher should help a student learn how to be her own editor and language-whisperer."

Winrock is surely putting this philosophy into practice in her section English 201. She works to inspire her students rather than to control their writing. Freshman Katie Waring, a student currently enrolled in Winrock's class, spoke excitedly about a past assignment in which students were asked to bring a strange object into class and explain it in the context of concepts like love or friendship.

Waring also told of a writing exercise in which she wrote an entire poem with quotes from her MacBook instruction manual.

"The class is unique and fun; I'm already surprising myself with the things I've learned," Waring said. "There's no such thing as an average class."  

If you are interested in reading some of Winrock's poetry or finding out more about her, check out or