A Song for Occupations: Poems about Work

A Song for Occupations: Poems about Work

Explore the work we do and how it defines us

In ‘Pied Beauty,’ Gerard Manley Hopkins insists we celebrate ‘all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.’ Yet the truth is that for most poets the day job is a chore, a necessary evil which stands between us and a day writing poems, but also pays for our writing time. There are a number of exciting ways in which poets have written about work, and this course will draw on their approaches to help generate new poems. Firstly, there are the voices of working-class poets like Geoff Hattersley and Fred Voss, in touch with the routines of the shop floor and the rage of class identity. For other poets, as can be seen in poems like Heaney’s ‘Follower’ or Thomas Lux’s ‘The Milkman and his Son,’ work can be an effective way into writing about family. Writers like Matthew Sweeney and Alan Gillis use different forms of work as a way into writing monologues, while the poems of Kathryn Simmonds reflect astutely on everything from office politics to teaching to days spent driving taxis. Lastly, there are the big epics, such as Whitman’s own ‘A Song for Occupations’ or Tom French’s astonishing ‘Pity the Bastards.’ Whether you wish to exorcise the demons of the workplace by writing about them, escape like Mr Benn into a different occupation for as long as it takes to write a poem, or simply use work as a way into writing about your parents, this course will give you the tools to succeed. Through a mixture of close reading, written exercises and feedback, you will seek to develop your own work poems, celebrating – or condemning! – a range of ways of making money or marking time.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. Live chats on Thursdays 7-9pm GMT, first live chat starting 17 October 2019.

More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.

A 10% discount is available to residents local to the Poetry School (anyone currently living in Rotherhithe, Riverside, Surrey Docks, South Bermondsey, Grange or Livesey).
Please contact administration@poetryschool.com for further information.
Image Credit: Jim Surkamp

About Jonathan Edwards View Profile

Jonathan Edwards’s first collection of poems, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014), received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His second collection, Gen (Seren, 2018), is shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year Award. His poem ‘Bridge’ is shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2019. Jonathan has read his poems on BBC radio and television, recorded them for the Poetry Archive, and led workshops in schools, universities and prisons. He lives in Crosskeys, South Wales.

‘I have taken a few courses at the Poetry School and have been impressed on each occasion at the knowledge, artistry and professionalism of the tutors. I have learned a lot about poetry and have also been inspired to experiment in my work.’

– Spring 2019 survey response

Related Courses