Keeping Our Wits

Keeping Our Wits

Sharpen your wits with a look at 17th century poetry through contemporary eyes and at contemporary poetry through 17th century eyes.

In the 17th century, amid unprecedented social change and conflict, it felt to many like the world was being turned upside down. At the same time, poets were writing with new freedom, with a new wit, delighting in the cleverness of their art. On this course will re-visit this remarkable and overlooked period – one that saw the rise of some of the greatest metaphysical, mystical, amatory and satirical poetry ever written – and experiment wildly with different forms from the period: debate poems, rants and scurrilous pastorals among them – in an effort to find new ways of shaping (or sharpening) our wits and generating new work. Looking at 17th century poetry through contemporary eyes and at contemporary poetry through 17th century eyes, we’ll discover what Richard Lovelace’s poems about snails can teach us about metaphor, how poets like Thomas Campion, Richard Crashaw, Alexander Pope, John Donne, Andrew Marvell and Thomas Traherne radically twisted conventional usage (and wisdom) out of place to show up the gaps in – and possibilities of – language, and how modern poets (unthinkingly or not) have sought to extend their wits. We’ll also consider what of the art of wit we have possibly lost to irony and our modern sense of humour, and where intelligent repartee departs from mere ‘banter’. If the world today seems increasingly topsy turvy, our need for wit – for poems that can be light-hearted and fancy while also explosively squaring up to complexity – must be at its greatest. More than ever, we need to keep our wits about us.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. Live chats on Wednesdays, 7 – 9pm GMT, first live chat starting 31st May.

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

About Will Harris Profile photo of Will Harris View Profile

Will Harris was born in London, of mixed Anglo-Indonesian heritage. He has worked in schools, as a tutor and run a series of poetry workshops at the Southbank Centre. He co-edits the small press 13 Pages and helps organise The Poetry Inquisition. His poems have been published in The Poetry Review, The White Review and The Rialto, where he is Assistant Editor. His chapbook is forthcoming from HappenStance. He is also a fellow of the Complete Works III, and will be published as part of the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: Poets of the New Generation later this year.

"My work is continually improving as a result of the Poetry School and my knowledge and yearning for a still deeper understanding of the art and craft of poetry continues to grow. Thank you so much."

– Summer 2016 survey response.

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