Dreaming Awake on the Page: A Surreal Narrative Workshop

Dreaming Awake on the Page: A Surreal Narrative Workshop

Dive headfirst into Surrealism and learn to push your writing into strange new places.

This will be a fun and playful workshop, which will start by exploring lineage of ‘Surreal Narrative’ – looking at French Surrealist, Benjamin Perét’s extreme, non-coherent, surreal narratives, which influenced the Pulitzer Prize-winning Neo-Surrealist James Tate, who is considered a master of the Surreal narrative. 

Looking at Tate’s poem, ‘The Cowboy’ – the perfect introduction to the Surreal Narrative – we’ll consider the poem as a ridiculous, absurd lie. We’ll also look at writing in the ‘Pseudo ‘I’, in the vein of Tate and Max Jacob, the French Symbolist-Surrealist poet, exploring the aspects of ‘dressing up’ involved in this practice, seeing how Surreally freeing it can be to take on the persona of someone else in our writing. 

We’ll look poetry and artistic statements of contemporary UK poets working in Surrealism, including Luke Kennard and Caroline Bird; we’ll do some in class writing, based around dreams, half-remembered or otherwise, and look at poems from Kennard’s pamphlet MISE EN ABYME, which demonstrates this technique. We will then move on to ‘Dreaming awake on the page’, a method of the late American Prose Poet Russell Edson, sitting down to write with a blank page and blank mind, where each new poem is an experiment and exploration of the subconscious/unconscious mind – nodding back to the original Surrealism movement and its celebration of chance. 

We’ll also delve into the animal and inanimate object worlds of Jane Yeh and Lila Matsumoto. Looking at Matsumoto’s Allegories from the Kitchen and Jane Yeh’s The Ninjas, before doing some writing of our own, taking Surreal approaches to household appliances, cats, pandas, and rabbits. Lastly, we’ll look at images – reading some Surreal Prose Poems by Tom Jenks from his book A Long and Hard Night Troubled by Visions and the spoof instructions and absurd advice of Mark Waldron in his most recent book Sweet, Like Rinky-Dink, before producing new work of our own, inspired by these poets. 

So, if you’re interested in developing the Surreal side of your writing, this is the workshop for you! 

1 full-day Zoom session on Saturday 23 July 2022, 10.30am – 4.30pm. To apply for a concession rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. More information about how our Video Courses work can be found on the Video Courses page. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. 

Image credit: Hofmann Natalia 

About Vik Shirley View Profile

Vik Shirley‘s chapbook, Corpses (Sublunary Editions), was published in 2020. Her collection, The Continued Closure of the Blue Door (HVTN Press), her book of photo-poetry, Disrupted Blue and other poems on Polaroid (Hesterglock Press), and her pamphlet, Grotesquerie for the Apocalypse (Beir Bua Press), were published in 2021. Her work has appeared in such places as Poetry London, The Rialto, Magma, 3am Magazine, Shearsman and Tentacular. She edits Mercurius Magazine‘s ‘Surreal-Absurd’, is Associate Editor of Sublunary Editions, and is studying for a PhD in Dark Humour and the Surreal at the University of Birmingham. 

'As a student of the Poetry School I felt to be part of a like minded group. It enabled me to gage the standard of my own writing, and I believe my ability to write poetry has improved exponentially.'

- Summer 2021 Survey Response

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