‘Do I deserve this? I suppose I must’: Dramatic Writing in Lyric Poetry

‘Do I deserve this? I suppose I must’: Dramatic Writing in Lyric Poetry

Learn how to develop and sustain individual voices in your writing, as we explore dramatic monologues, personae, and character poems.

The dramatic monologue has appeared to be out of fashion since the modernist period began, with notable exceptions (‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’), after taking off with the Romantics and enjoying a vigorous heyday among Victorian poets – famously Robert Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson, but also Matthew Arnold, Charlotte Mew, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 

But dramatic poetry more generally – also encompassing “persona” poems, like those that appear in Ezra Pound’s Personae or Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, and dramatic verse from Shakespeare to Mike Bartlett – has never been far from the mainstream. Arguably, contemporary criticism’s separation of a poem’s speaker from its author makes most modern lyrics tacitly dramatic. By engaging more deeply with actual dramatic monologues and related genres, poets may acquire useful tools for enacting and expressing character in other kinds of lyric. 

In this course, we will explore the mechanics of developing individual voices in poetry, via texts including: Browning’s monologues, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s conversation poems and Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Crusoe in England’; Henrik Ibsen’s dramatic verse (in Geoffrey Hill’s translation), W. H. Auden’s libretti, and Anne Carson’s Norma Jeane Baker of Troy; and Thomas Hardy’s 1912–13 lyrics in the voice of his late wife, Robert Lowell’s controversial Dolphin poems and the ‘Orphans’ in Don Mee Choi’s DMZ Colony. 

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

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to administ[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: Cintia Matteo

About Camille Ralphs View Profile

Camille Ralphs is a poet, critic and editor. Her first book, After You Were, I Am, will be published by Faber in 2024. Her poems and translations have appeared in magazines including the New York Review of Books, The Poetry Review, The Spectator, and The London Magazine, and she has released three pamphlets: Malkin (The Emma Press, 2015), which was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award; uplifts & chains (If A Leaf Falls/Glyph Press, 2020); and Daydream College for Bards (Guillemot Press, forthcoming 2023). She has written or is writing critical articles for outlets and publications including The Poetry Foundation, The Telegraph, The Poetry Review, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, produces a regular column for Poetry London and conducts an interview series for Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal. She is Poetry Editor at the Times Literary Supplement. 

‘I have attended several courses at the Poetry School and all have been of a very high standard. The tutors have been well prepared and provided a wide range of material to generate discussion and ideas for writing poetry. Fellow students have been supportive and offered constructive criticism. I would recommend The Poetry School to any aspiring poet, whatever their level of expertise.'

– Spring 2023 School Survey

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