Retropoetics: Four Billion Years of Inspiration (Autumn 2020)

Retropoetics: Four Billion Years of Inspiration (Autumn 2020)

Adventure away from personal experience and delve into the treasure chest of history

‘We don’t reproduce the past, we create it’ – Hilary Mantel.

This course invites you to adventure away from personal experience and delve into the treasure chest of history: an inexhaustible storehouse of inspiration with the potential to refresh our outlook and recharge our vocabularies. Over five sessions we’ll learn how to raid museum collections, plunder literary sources, analyse historical objects and appropriate anecdotes from the past to forge original poetic material. Of course, there’s no such thing as an objective account – which is why the collective past is the ideal starting point for an act of imagination. With four billion years of planetary history under our feet, and five thousand years of human documentation at our fingertips, we will charter the fascinating and perplexing boundaries of fact and fiction as we ‘try to know things about yesterday that yesterday didn’t know itself’ (Mantel, again). Through exercises and assignments we’ll cover aspects such as spotting a good story, conducting and incorporating historical research, handling narrative and drama, experimenting with point of view and finding a voice (or assuming a voice long since passed). Along the way we’ll look at the work of a range of writers (including DH Lawrence, Rita Dove, John Keats, Tara Bergin, Miroslav Holub, Elaine Feinstein, Thomas Lux and Kei Miller) who are adept, in different ways, at turning old material into urgent, exciting and timeless poems that speak both to past centuries and centuries to come.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. Live chats on Wednesdays, 7-9pm GMT, first live chat starting 14 October

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

(Image: Jouwen Wang)

About Rebecca Watts View Profile

Rebecca Watts’s debut poetry collection, The Met Office Advises Caution, was published by Carcanet in 2016 and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. It also featured in the Guardian and Financial Times ‘Best Books of 2016’ lists and was shortlisted for the 2017 Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. Rebecca lives in Cambridge, where she works in a library and as a freelance editor. Her second collection, Red Gloves, was published by Carcanet in June 2020.

'The Poetry School has been an incredible discovery for me - I have attended free workshops and ongoing courses, both of which have been fantastic. The courses I've attended have been instrumental in opening up the horizons of what I can write, and have introduced me to many brilliant contemporary poets. Because of the Poetry School's affordable prices, I have been able to return for multiple terms and am excited about the prospect of continuing to develop my craft through more courses in future.'

Autumn 2019 survey response

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