‘Blank Page & Blank Mind’: Joyful Refusal in the Surreal Narrative (Spring 2023)

‘Blank Page & Blank Mind’: Joyful Refusal in the Surreal Narrative (Spring 2023)

Let your poetry think for you as we take a break from the day-to-day.

The late great poet John Ashbery once said, ‘I don’t write about experiences, I write out of them’. For some poets, writing confessional poems that directly explore their personal lives or the state of the world is unappealing and depressing; by joyfully refusing to write about the world straight on and instead ‘write out’ of your experiences, you can escape the complex day-to-day world and seek out what is in your unconscious mind to shape, play with, and, in the process, find out more about being human.  

The American Prose poet, Russell Edson wrote with a ‘blank page and blank mind’, something he called ‘dreaming awake on the page’. In this five-session course, we’ll see how arriving with no preconceived ideas can be very freeing. So have a break from yourself, and the world, put on a pseudo-‘I’ and see where it takes you.

In this fun and playful course, we will purposely avoid writing directly ‘about’ anything and let the imagination and psyche dictate where our poems end up. We will turn to, and experiment with, the psychological, as we write surreal narratives that grant us a holiday from the world around us. On writing his surreal narrative poems, James Tate once said, ‘you don’t know where you’re going, and you hope to reach some kind of truth or epiphany’; so, let the poems do the thinking, take a dive into the subconscious, and discover your own truths. 

Throughout the course we’ll read work from James Tate, John Ashbery, Russell Edson, Kim Hyesoon, Jane Yeh, Caroline Bird, Luke Kennard, Tom Jenks, Jennifer L. Knox, Ian Seed, Russell Edson, Mark Waldron, Lila Matsumoto, Zachary Schomburg, Cassandra Atherton, Charles Simic, and Michael Earl Craig, amongst others. 

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks, starting 10 January 2023. Live Chats on fortnightly Tuesdays, 7–9 pm (GMT); first Live Chat: 24 January 2023. 

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image Credit: Andrej Lisakov

About Vik Shirley View Profile

Vik Shirley is a poet from Bristol now living in Edinburgh. Her chapbook Corpses was published by Sublunary Editions in 2020. Since then, her collection The Continued Closure of the Blue Door (HVTN), her book of photo-poetry Disrupted Blue and Other Poems on Polaroid (Hesterglock) and her pamphlets Grotesquerie for the Apocalypse (Beir Bua) and Poets (The Red Ceilings), have also been published. Her work has appeared in such places as Poetry London, The Rialto, Magma, Shearsman, Tentacular, Perverse, Tears in the Fence and 3am Magazine. She is currently studying for a PhD in Dark Humour and the Surreal in Poetry at the University of Birmingham and is Editor of ‘Surreal-Absurd’ for Mercurius magazine.

‘The Poetry School courses have been a lifeline for me. I have felt part of an international community of students, have learned a great deal, and have been given motivation to continue writing.’

- Spring 2022 survey response

Related Courses