Poetry writing is a wonderful adventure, allowing writers to indulge in wild loops of imagination and satisfy some of their deepest yearnings for pattern, mystery, and coherence in their lives.
But while poetry writing allows for great freedom, it also demands mastery of form and structure to succeed. An ability to manipulate form and structure allows a poet to create forms that entrance readers and bring them along for the ride. Have you tried other poetry writing workshops and found them deadly? Here at The Writers Workshop we want you to have an enjoyable experience while learning some of the basics of the craft.
Poetry, it has been said, is a telephone line to the unconscious. In poetry we learn to make wild unorthodox associations leading to the discovery of new connections. In James Wright’s poem “A Blessing,” for example, we read about the magic one might find in everyday experiences. This poem travels a long way—from petting horses in a field to a realization of the possibility of transformation. The poet writes in an uncomplicated syntax that sounds like a voice speaking naturally to us.
If Frances Mayes, the author of our text, The Discovery of Poetry, was speaking to this class, this is what she might say about this poem: First she would ask us, “What is going on in this poem?” And we might reply: Driving along a highway, two friends see horses in a field. The two “step over” the barrier into the pasture. Here Prof. Mayes would continue her lecture: The poem shows what happens when we cross over into the natural world and respond to it. In the final image, the speaker (the narrator of the poem) says, “if” he stepped out of his body, not that he does. Yet in our mind’s eye, we imagine this transformation. A man in a field turns into a blossoming tree. This seems fresh and magical yet is an ancient image. In Greek mythology, Daphne, fleeing Apollo, was changed into a laurel. Now note the dramatic line breaks at the end of the poem. The short line “Suddenly I realize/” prompts us to ask, realize what? We are suspended for a moment. The next line breaks on the very word “break,” another moment of suspension before the unexpected “into Blossom.”
This class will introduce you to the elements of quality poetry and will allow you to practice those elements by writing your own poems. You will learn how to recognize abstract and concrete imagery. You will be able to use simile, metaphor, symbol and personification in your work. You will learn what a dramatic monologue is and how to write one. You will learn how to show rather than tell in your writing. You will learn about line breaks, non traditional punctuation, and white space. You will also experiment with traditional forms and learn to recognize iambic pentameter. I look forward to working with you!
INTRODUCTION TO POETRY WRITING – Poetry, it has been said, is a telephone line to the unconscious. In poetry we learn to make wild, unorthodox associations leading to the discovery of new connections. This online poetry writing class will allow you to explore the delights of poetic form and language while learning the basics of the craft. This online course helps you draft and revise your poetry, sharpens your expertise as a reader, writer, and editor, and encourages you to find your own approach to the art of poetry writing. Six assignments, including a free verse poem, dramatic monologue, nursery rhyme, and sonnet. Text: The Discovery of Poetry, by Frances Mayes. $500. Instructor: Jana Harris.
Jana Harris teaches the poetry writing sequence for The Writer’s Workshop. She is a novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist. Her award-winning books include the novel Alaska, a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection. Born in San Francisco and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she worked for six years as director of Writers in Performance at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York. She now lives with her husband in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where they raise horses. Ms. Harris teaches the novel writing sequence for The Writer’s Workshop and at the University of Washington where she is editor and founder of Switched-on Gutenberg (http://www.switched-ongutenberg.org), one of the first electronic poetry journals of the English-speaking world. Her second novel, The Pearl of Ruby City was released from St. Martin’s Press. In 2001 she won a Pushcart Prize for poetry. Jana is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, PEN, Poetry Society of America, and AWP. Recently she has been writer-in-residence at the University of Wyoming, St. Catherine’s College (St. Paul, MN), and Washington State University.