Instructor: Ellen Birkett Morris
Maximum Enrollment: 10
Class Term: 08/24/2022 - 09/07/2022
SCN Member: $100
Class synopsisWhether it is Robert Frost’s walk through the woods on a snowy evening or Billy Collins’ creation of a lanyard at camp, specific events often serve as an anchor for poems that capture the mystery, majesty and humor of life. In this seminar, we’ll examine several poems that use specific experiences to bring the reader to universal conclusions, and help you create your own.
We will analyze and discuss sample poems and explore topics including imagery, use of detail, tone, setting, rhythm, and theme. We look at how these elements work together to create a poem that has universal appeal. We’ll use prompts and memory exercises to help writers mine their life experience and begin developing poems that use the techniques discussed in class.. We’ll discuss revision strategies. Poems will be workshopped.
Students will come away with at least one completed poem, as well as tips for revision and publication. I will provide poems, prompts, video clips and articles to help along the way.
Class communication methodI will provide copies of articles and poems including Jane Kenyon's Otherwise, T.R. Hummer's Where You Go When She Sleeps, Matthew Dickman's Slow Dance. Richard Wilbur's The Write, Ted Kooser's So This is Nebraska, and Billy Collins' The Lanyard. We will communicate via Google groups and on Zoom on Wednesday from 6 - 7:30 Central Time.
Week One: The Experiential Poem, Imagery and Metaphor
In our first week we will examine poems that focus on life experience to tell universal truths. We’ll discuss the pitfalls of writing from your own experience and talk about how to develop the creative and emotional distance needed to write poems with a broad appeal. We’ll talk about where poets get their ideas and do writing exercises design to tap into each writer’s life experience and generate topics for poems. We will offer feedback on in class writing. Then, we’ll discuss how the appropriate images help build the world of a poem and how the objects that populate that world can work metaphorically to deepen the meaning of the poem.
Week Two: Tone, Setting and Rhythm
Poems have a particular feeling from the melancholy world of Sylvia Path to the expansive world of Mary Oliver. We’ll discuss how tone is created and its role in drawing the reader in, creating expectations, and fulfilling or subverting those expectations. All poems happen somewhere. We’ll explore how setting a poem in your kitchen versus outdoors can change the poem’s scope and focus. We’ll also explore rhythm and pacing as a way to draw readers in and keep them reading. We will work on prompts and offer feedback for in class writing.
Week Three: Turns and Theme, Revision
We’ll discuss how to convey theme (what your poem is really about) without being heavy handed. We’ll also discuss turns, the delight twists that some poems have and how to use them in your own work. We will discuss strategies for review and how to submit your work. We will work on prompts and offer feedback for in class writing.
Class time commitmentOne to two hours a week to read poems/articles and work on prompts and revision.
Ellen Birkett Morris is the author of Lost Girls, winner of the Pencraft Award and finalist for the Clara Johnson, IAN and Best Book awards, and the poetry chapbooks Surrender and Abide. Her poetry has appeared in The Clackamas Literary Review, Juked, Gastronomica, and Inscape, among other journals. Morris was a finalist for the 2019 and 2020 Rita Dove Poetry Prize. Her fiction has appeared in Shenandoah, Antioch Review, Notre Dame Review, South Carolina Review, and Santa Fe Literary Review, among other journals. She is a winner of the Bevel Summers Prize for short