The Grotesque in Poetry: Disgust Mixed with Laughter

The Grotesque in Poetry: Disgust Mixed with Laughter

Explore the dark and grotesque as a means to represent the challenging times we find ourselves in.

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

Are you drawn to horror, the weird, or surreal? Are you enraged and revolted by society and the world we live in? Do you find ‘nice’ poetry fails to reflect your feelings about life in our age of anxiety? Perhaps writing with a wry, sardonic humour helps? 

Whether personal, psychological, or political, there are many reasons why poets write grotesque poetry. The poets we will look at in this class range from the Surrealist Korean poet Kim Hyesoon, whose poetry works against societal gender expectations (that female poets should write pretty, passive, sentimental verse), to the Belgian-born French writer and painter Henri Michaux, who wrote dark, absurd, and often violent work for liberation from an inner ‘intolerable tension’. 

In this course we’ll explore dark, comic irony and learn how to find humour in the grotesque; we’ll consider the Russian absurdist Daniil Kharms, who lived, wrote and died, under the Stalinist regime; we’ll read the strange and distorted mock fables of American prose poet, Russell Edson; we’ll take influence from the horror and scientific hallucinatory poems of Swedish poet Aase Berg and the French-Egyptian surrealist Joyce Mansour, well-known for her erotic intensity and wild humour (accused of vulgarity by some at the time). 

At a time when the world is threatened by environmental crisis, right wing oppression, and a global pandemic, poetry is still too often expected to be beautiful, or a pretty response to nature. This course will help you find a different response to crises, by channelling the grotesque into your writing. 

1 full-day Zoom session, running 10.30am – 4.30pm (GMT) on Saturday 5 November 2022.  

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: Molly Blackbird

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. 

'I have discovered more poetry than I knew existed.'

- Spring 2022 survey response

Related Courses