‘Concept Books’ & Cumulative Writing (International)

‘Concept Books’ & Cumulative Writing (International)

Explore writing around a unifying idea to create a multi-faceted, cumulative 'concept book’.

During a work such as this,
the building of a blue world out of nothing
from the tip of a pen, I just had
to sit very still, a grateful stone in my lung. 

– Martha Sprackland, ‘The Work’, Citadel 

Many poetry books are collections of discrete poems, compiled by virtue of the period in which they were written, or clustered under a loose theme; but there is another way! In music, ‘concept albums’ – like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Beyonce’s Lemonade, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, or Janelle Monae’s Metropolis series – use individual songs to reference, riff, and expand on an original idea, resulting in a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. 

In this online course, we’ll take inspiration from poets who approach their books in the same way – using leitmotif, harmony, and refrain to explore an idea over their duration – and consider how this opens up the possibilities for layers of meaning in individual poems within the context of that unifying concept. Students can expect to read work from poets including Sophie Collins, Terrance Hayes, Louise Glück, Kim Hyesoon, Ilya Kaminsky, Anne Carson, Harryette Mullen, and Jay Bernard. 

Generative writing prompts and assignments will inspire you to develop new poems exploring a concept and you’ll be guided through methods of bringing these together into a unified whole, which encourages engaged, cumulative reading across all its parts. Students may bring their own concept to the course, or explore new ideas through guided exercises. 

Are you looking to expand a sequence into a collection, explore a concept from many angles, or learn how create a longer, connected experience from your poetry? Then this is the course for you! 

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

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

Image credit: Med Badr Chemmaoui

About Shazea Quraishi View Profile

Shazea Quraishi is a Pakistani-born Canadian poet, playwright and translator whose poems have appeared in UK and US publications including The Financial Times, The Guardian, Modern Poetry in Translation and Poetry Review. Her collection The Art of Scratching was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2015, and she is adapting her chapbook The Courtesans Reply as a play. In 2015, she was the recipient of a Brooklease Grant from the Royal Society of Literature, and an Artists International Development Fund award. She teaches with English PEN, Translators in Schools and The Poetry School, and is an artist in residence with Living Words. 

‘I really enjoyed Shazea’s programme, she led the group well, and was pertinent and probing of works throughout the course. She was keen to include the whole group, and created a positive dynamic. I would definitely book another course with Shazea again, and the content she selected was inspiring and helpful in my exploration of poetry.’

– Summer 2019 survey response

Related Courses