Speaking Out: Finding Your Public Voice

Speaking Out: Finding Your Public Voice

Poetry is a platform, not an altar

How can we reflect on the ‘now’, in poetry, and still ‘tell it slant’ enough to be interesting? How do we absorb the passions of the moment, but avoid the formulaic, sentimental, or merely journalistic, and still write about what’s going on around us, with clarity and perspective, avoiding the didactic or, as the workshop phrase has it, with too much ‘telling’ and not enough ‘showing’? As contemporary poetry appears ever more rooted in personality and the ‘confessional’, and the political landscape ever more bipartisan, how can we write into those elements of shared public experience, such as Grenfell, Trump, climate change, mass migration, Brexit – even the World Cup – yet still produce poetry that is not only about personal indignation, pain or ‘protest’- though anger, dissociation and alienation may be key elements of the work – but more than this, poems that attempt collective bearing witness? Considering ‘public’ poetry themes, we will look at how we use historical precedents, descriptive detail, myth and fable, image or diction, to breathe fresh life into the ‘given’, and how to make it memorable. Using lots of examples from Auden and MacNiece’s intuitions of war in 1939 and the often overlooked WW2 poets such as Keith Douglas, to work that addresses the Irish ‘Troubles’ (however obliquely), through the Vietnam and other ‘social issues’ poems of Adrian Mitchell and others’,  up to poetry such as Simon Armitage’s ‘Black Tulips’ and #MeToo, or the recent Tony Walsh response to the Manchester Arena bombing, we will learn to write ‘public’ poetry that resonates.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. Live chats on Mondays 7-9pm GMT, first live chat starting 15 October.

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

(Image credit: ‘Pedro Ribeiro Simões’)

About Ken Evans View Profile

Since gaining a Distinction in his Poetry Master’s from Manchester, Ken Evanss first pamphlet, The Opposite of Defeat (Eyewear) included work shortlisted in the second Nine Arches Press/Poetry School’s ‘Primers’ Competition, which also shortlisted in Bare Fiction’s debut competition, in the same year. Ken won this year’s Kent & Sussex Poetry Competition, and The Battered Moons Competition in 2016. He featured in an anthology of ‘50 Best New English & Irish Poets’, edited by Luke Kennard, in 2017. He has been a runner-up, 3rd placed, and Commended in The Poets & Players Competition, since 2014. Ken’s poems have appeared in Under the Radar, Envoi, Interpreter’s House, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The High Window, Obsessed with Pipework, The Glasgow Review of Books, and The Morning Star. He has contributed to Human Rights and refugee anthologies and reviews poetry for the Manchester Review. True Forensics, his first poetry collection, is out next year.

‘I do not have a community of poets around me, and as a new poet, this was the first time I shared my work with anybody. The Poetry School is very supportive environment for newbies!’

Spring 2018 survey response

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