‘O Soft Embalmer’: The Poetry of Sleep

‘O Soft Embalmer’: The Poetry of Sleep

Delve into the obscured world of sleep, as we explore its rich creative possibilities in exciting new work.

* This course will take place on video-conferencing platform ZOOM *

Are you out like a light? Dead to the world? More like a rock, a log, or a baby? The language we use around sleep, dreams, and bedtime is rich with creative possibilities. Let’s delve together into this obscured world, drawing inspiration from a range of poets, from Williams Wordsworth to Sharon Olds to Lucille Clifton.  

We spend about one third of our life sleeping: it is a third of our life that is often left unexamined creatively, philosophically, and more. How real are the visions behind our nightmares? Where do they come from? Can we, as poets, manipulate sleep, through writing lullabies and songs?  

For some poets, in sleep we hover dangerously, balancing only just above death. (Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson). For others, sleep is a sanctuary, a ‘soft embalmer of the still midnight’ (Keats) in which we may be reunited with lost loves.  

In this course, we will talk about the allure of sleep in fairytales (such as Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Princess and the Pea); how we may capture the horror of sleep paralysis in verse; the symbolic richness and horror of our dreams. Furthermore, we’ll discover how sleep has a strong link to creativity: how can we harness a good night’s rest into good poetry? What techniques have psychologists and scientists devised to help us unlock our poetic potential, even while unconscious? 

5 fortnightly Zoom sessions on Thursdays, 7–9pm (BST), starts 5 Oct 2023.

To apply for a concession rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to administ[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:Kostiantyn Trundaiev

About Sarah Fletcher View Profile

Sarah Fletcher is an American-British poet currently researching a PhD on pain at Aberystwyth University. Her debut collection PLUS ULTRA was published in 2023 by Cheerio Publishing. Her work has appeared in The Poetry Review, Poetry London, The White Review, and other publications. Her third pamphlet Caviar was published by Out-Spoken Press in 2022.

‘I have been introduced to the writing of poets I may never have otherwise come across, both in terms of the study materials and my fellow poetry students. It has been life changing on a really intrinsic level. I have met and formed friendships with poets across the world and across generations - hugely enriching!’

- Spring 2023 survey response

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