Singing about The Dark Times: Poetry as Protest and Resistance
9/19/17 – 12/12/17 | Tuesdays, 6:00—9:00 pm
(no class Thanksgiving week)
“In the dark times will there also be singing?” asks Bertolt Brecht in “Motto.” “Yes,” he answers, “there will be singing. About the dark times.” Speaking truth to power remains a crucial role for poets who, vigilant to the ways that political and media rhetoric silences, manipulates and discredits, write poems that talk back to the systems that harm and threaten. The world of “resistance” poetry is vast, and during this class we will read and discuss a selection of poems and essays from South and North America, Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe; poems and essays that sing about/against political, social and cultural oppression; against war, atrocity, and the legacies of colonialism; against greed that puts profit before people or land; about the dangers of Empire and the terrifying possibility of planetary destruction. All these poets rail against complacency, using various techniques and devices to control and heighten their message. Using “model” poems as springboards, you will write and workshop your own poems of resistance employing formal devices that best carry your songs against The Dark Times. Class capped at twelve. Reading packet provided. Please buy Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now (Knopf: May 2017).
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Poetry Master Class: Memory and Imagination
1/24/17 – 4/11/17 | Tuesday 6:00 – 9:00 pm
This class is an intensive opportunity for advanced poets to explore the relationships between memory, imagination and “autobiography” in their poetry. We live in an age of memoir, but in debates over the blurring of fiction and nonfiction poetry is rarely included; and yet, more than 40 years after the rise of “confessional” poetry, poets are still struggling with issues of poetic truth-telling and responsibility.
This class is for advanced poets who have identified that they are working the borders between poetry and autobiography; poets whose work circles and re-enters—at different points in time and often with a different “I”—a particular event and/or place; poets who are questioning the boundaries/relationships between emotional and literal truth, memory and imagination, person and persona in poems that have an autobiographical imperative.
This class is a combination of reading/discussion of essays, writing, and workshopping. We will also look at several elements of craft: the line and the sentence, the use of syntax, issues of poetic “opening” and “closure” and the magic and chaos of the creative process itself.
Please obtain After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography edited by Kate Sontag and David Graham (Graywolf Press: 2001). Copy fee of $5 payable to the teaching artist.
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The Beautiful Exchange: Deepening the Poetic Experience
1/24/17—4/11/17 | Tuesday 1:00 – 3:00 pm
“The reader,” claimed Whitman, “will always have his or her part to do, just as much as I have mine.” But what is the part, or role, of the reader? As writers, what can we learn from reading poems and discovering what Edward Hirsch calls “the soul in action”?
In looking closely at a poem we begin to see how its technical accomplishments create our physical, emotional and ecstatic responses to it: to learn about the nature of poetry we must go to the poem. Using How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch, a weekly essay, selection of poems and a weekly writing activity, we will explore the relationships between technique and the “shining body” of the poem, between the poem and the reader, and between the reader and the writer. We will discover what we need to do in order to enter and experience a poem completely, and how we can take what we find there and use it to inform and deepen our own writing while letting the larger issues and concerns of poetry emerge as we do so.
Please obtain How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch. Copy fee of $5.00 for supplemental readings payable to the teaching artist.
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The Craft of Poetry: A Primer
6/14/2016—8/9/2016 (no class Tuesday 5th July) | Tuesday | 6-8 p.m.
What skills do we need to acquire if we are to express, in words, something of our marvelous complexity? This class is an introduction to the craft of poetry: it is designed for those with little or no experience. We will experiment with the line, the stanza, devices of sound, metaphor and simile, meter, syllabics, Anglo-Saxon verse and poetic forms; we will explore the relationship between poetic content and form and look at the difficult, and critical, process of revision. The emphasis of this class is on readings, in-class discussions, and the workshopping of our own poems. The word “workshop” implies saws, noise, grease, and dust; implies that the work itself, the making, is the pleasure. Please obtain a copy of the The Poet’s Companion by Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio.
Join me for
The Art of Imitation: Using the Works of Master Poets to Explore and Develop Craft
6/13/2016—8/8/2016 (no class Monday 4th July) | Monday | 6:00-8:00 p.m.
The painters and sculptors of the Renaissance began their careers as apprentices, copying the work of master artists before attempting their own work. This class takes this concept as its starting point and is a combination of writing, discussion, sharing and serious play. While every poem has its own formal imperatives, imitating another poet’s strategies allows us to practice technique and gain insights into the relationship of form and content. What, for example, can we learn about tone and pacing by imitating the syllable count, line length, rhyme and punctuation pattern of Masefield’s “Up On the Downs”? When we imitate the syntactical and grammatical moves in a poem by Eamon Grennan, what do we discover about narrative suspension and lyric depth? Weekly discussion of two/three poems will allow you choose one poem and isolate two or more of the strategies you would like to imitate; weekly in-class writing will generate new material to use in your imitations; and because learning poems by heart is yet another way of embodying language, you will be encouraged to memorize a poem of at least twenty lines to recite during our last meeting. Weekly reading will come from Master Class: Lessons from Leading Writers.
Join me in Iowa City at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival where I’ll be teaching:
Walking in the Field of Words: Using the Natural Landscape in Poems
Saturday, July 16 through Sunday, July 17, 2016,
Barry Lopez claims that landscape is a “shaping force” and that our physical experience of the landscape is integral to the meaning of the landscape itself. Landscape, then, is internal as well as external, and there is an intimate relationship between the physical and emotional terrains. In this workshop, we will look at how modern European and American poets have used nature and the landscape, looking at a variety of poems by poets such as James Wright, Caitlin Cowan, Paul Celan, Pattiann Rogers, Elizabeth Bishop, Ken Smith, Wilfred Owen, Andrew Hudgins, Ted Hughes, Andrew Feld, Henry Reed, Lewis Hyde, Leslie Norris and Gillian Clarke. Most of these poets are not what one would call traditional “nature poets,” and they have been chosen specifically because of this fact: they illustrate how many (if not all) poets use the natural world as a way to reveal and complicate larger human, ethical and spiritual concerns. Through focused, in-class writing prompts, you will generate your own lyric and/or narrative poems that use nature and the natural world to carry and embody the poem’s concern/s. We will workshop these new poems as well as “nature” poems you bring from home. Poets at all levels and work at all stages welcome!
Join me in Iowa City at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival for a week-long workshop:
Chasing the Poem: A No-Fear Boot Camp for Poets
Sunday July 17-Friday July 22
Are you suffering from writer’s block and needing a push to jump start your writing? Do you need the structure of a predetermined time and place in order to write? Do you work best in a small community of supportive, focused writers; or do you simply want the opportunity to generate new material, workshop new work and discuss the mysteries of the poetic process itself?
In this workshop, you will generate material for new poems through a series of writing prompts, and the idea is to hold your inner critic in check and keep the ideas flowing; to resist staying too wedded to the initial idea and to follow the tangents and side paths down which, as Robert Frost rightly claimed, the true poem often lies. Writing prompts will use poems by master poets as their starting points, and discussing these poems will enable us to explore various aspects of poetic craft and technique. As “homework,” you will be encouraged to work and revise your poems and bring drafts in for workshopping.
This workshop is designed for beginning poets who are familiar with basic poetic terms and techniques.
Join me at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival Sunday, July 12 through Friday, July 17, 2015, where I’ll be teaching:
Wrestling the Angel: Writing your Obsessions
The word “obsession” comes directly from the Latin verb obsidere meaning “to besiege or blockade,” and every poet knows what it is to be besieged by a recurring idea, image or object. Obsession is a passion, and a poet with a true obsession, claims Tony Hoagland, is never “mildly obsessed.” But where do our obsessions come from, and what larger aesthetic and philosophical functions might they serve? During this workshop will look at a selection of “obsessive” poems by master poets and, as “homework,” you will be encouraged to observe, eliminate, empty, seduce, argue with, banish, re-cast, and abandon your poetic obsessions through a variety of assignments, because paradoxically, it is often through contention, or through contemplating the absence of something, that we arrive at a fuller understanding of its necessity. Workshop time will be devoted to critiquing/discussing both appropriate work you bring from home and new work generated by the assignments; you will be encouraged to work and revise your poems as much as possible outside of the workshop and bring drafts in for critique. Poets of all levels are welcome but a working knowledge of basic poetic craft and technique would be helpful.
I’ll be teaching at the Loft:
Chasing the Poem (Part 2): The Long Journey from Inspiration to Completion
06/16/15–08/11/15 | Tuesday | 6:00-8:00 p.m.