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poetry as play


8-Week Workshop

Location: Virtual

Spots: Limited

Cost: $240-320

Last Session:

July 5-August 23, 2023


6-8:30 PM ET

Next Session:
TBD / Subscribe

"I want to write a poem

because I don't feel very boring!"

–Chelsey Minnis

William Carlos Williams thought of the poem as a field of action. I like this spatial representation and emphasis on happening, but I substitute action with play. As a field of play, the poem becomes a world where collaboration is not only possible but critical. The poet demarcates the space and invites readers to enter and respond——effectively, to play, a prerequisite for meaning-making.

In this workshop, we take the spirit of playfulness as our entry into poems. You could also say that this workshop is for pranksters, jokers, and rascals——for poets who can take a joke and readers who like to be in on them. We'll look at poems that tease, riff, goof around, and break the rules; poems that have a mischievous premise or prompt, that muddy our expectations of poems and offer us new ways of making them; poems that have a bite, that deploy humor to cut against seriousness, earnestness, and pain; poems that take literary devices to a delightful extreme; and poems that draw on aspects of comedy, satire, irony, and camp to say what they need to say. The reading list for this workshop will include work by Chase Berggrun, Sommer Browning, CAConrad, Sasha Debevec-McKenney, Mark Leidner, Bernadette Mayer, Angel Nafis, Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué, Ted Rees, Jack Spicer, and many others.

This workshop is open to poets of all levels and is most suited to those in the beginner to intermediate range. Students will read and discuss work by a mix of contemporary and canonical poets; generate material for new poems every week using the provided techniques, activities, and prompts; workshop their peers' poems and have their own poems workshopped; and leave with the beginning of a submission packet of three workshopped poems, including one that has undergone a significant revision.


Week 1: Introduction / welcome, class goals, community guidelines

Week 2: Forms and Formulas / rules and breaking them

Week 3: Remixed Poems / finding, collaging, substituting, erasing

Week 4: Making Sh*t Up / bad translations, lies, and other speculations

Week 5: Lightening Up / letting humor into the serious poem

Week 6: Being So Dramatic / hyperbole, absurdity, excess, glee

Week 7: Publishing and Performing / sharing as another way to play

Week 8: Conclusion / revision workshop and publishing Q&A



- Learn new techniques, activities, and prompts for generating material for poems by looking at work by a range of contemporary and canonical poets

- Strengthen your craft analysis and close reading skills by reading assigned work, thinking critically and creatively about it ahead of class time, and participating in class discussion

- Become a better editor of your own work by spending time thinking constructively about your peers' poems and receiving feedback on yours during workshop

- Leave with three workshopped poems, including one that has undergone a significant revision

- Build community with fellow poets, take risks together, and become more comfortable navigating workshop dynamics and discussion


Class meetings are two and a half hours. Every week, you will be expected to review assigned readings, try out some of the week's writing prompts, and give feedback on your peers' poems ahead of class time. Every other week, you will be expected to submit a full draft of a new poem to workshop. Depending on how quickly you read and write, the time commitment for this workshop outside of class will be about two or three hours per week.

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