the poem is a house i build then live in
August 1-22, 2023
6-8:30 PM ET
"To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now."
The Italians called the building blocks of poems stanzas, their word for rooms. Charles Olson imagined the poem as an open field, a space where the breath makes all the moves. But whether we imagine poems as houses, fields, or universes, to get to the moving we need to feel out the space. Is it the size of a postage stamp, or does it seem to yearn outward forever? Does it have nooks, crannies, and hideaways, or is it something spare, cool, and illuminated, where no syllable can get away?
This workshop focuses on the forms of poems and the ways form sets expectations——and opens up new possibilities——for sound, shape, and, ultimately, meaning. Our method will be both tactile and imaginative: How might a poem function if it were a shopping mall, a hand mirror, a basketball game, a cul-de-sac? We'll return to traditional forms like the sonnet, ghazal, haiku, villanelle, and others——including the exciting ways poets have broken from tradition to disrupt and subvert it——and look at contemporary innovations like Jericho Brown's duplex and Kayleb Rae Candrilli's marble run. We'll study what makes all these forms work——how they look, move, and tick——and discuss the room their various constraints make for wildness and surprise.
This is a generative workshop that is open to poets of all levels. Students will learn how to build poems in a range of forms that vary in origin and age; break their rules and invent forms all their own; workshop their peers' poems and have their own poems workshopped; and leave with three workshopped poems.
Week 1: Rooms with Doors / introduction to class and content
Week 2: Trad Forms / those ancient shapes of grief, faith, desire
Week 3: Bad Form / breaking from tradition
Week 4: Inventing Forms / accommodating the mess
- Learn about and practice writing in a range of old and new poetic forms
- 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 poems by giving and receiving feedback during weekly workshop sessions
- Leave with three workshopped poems
- 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 beginning the second week, you will be expected to submit a poem to be workshopped; review assigned readings, including your peers' workshop submissions; and give written feedback on your peers' poems ahead of class time. 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.