The Movement of the City, the Movement of the Mind: Writing Prose Poetry

The Movement of the City, the Movement of the Mind: Writing Prose Poetry

Playing with Prose; peer into, and produce your own, prose poetic.

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

So, what exactly is a prose poem? David Lehman describes them as poems that ‘use the means of prose to achieve the ends of poetry’, whereas Carrie Etter prefers the definition: ‘a poem that develops without going anywhere’. In this course we will read a diverse range of poems that reject line breaks, that seek to disguise their own ‘poetic’ nature, and that make full use of this elusive, meditative form.  

Starting with the prose poem’s origin in 19th Century Paris, we will trace the development of this most urban of forms; a form that mirrors the movement of the city, and the movement of the human mind and memory, at work. Traveling through the 20th Century, we will explore what can happen when we remove the ‘air’ that comes with line breaks, resulting in claustrophobic panic attacks of poems. Often surreal and dreamlike in nature, we will study the prose poem’s evolution over time to the present day, and consider the intersection of prose poetry, short fiction and essay in the work of writers such as Lydia Davis and Claudia Rankine. 

The course will aim to strike a balance between reading and writing, study and creativity, and you will be encouraged to write and workshop your own poems inspired by those studied. 

Throughout the course will read poems from writers spanning over a century of prose poetry, including Charles Baudelaire, Stéphané Mallarmé, Mary Ruefle, David Ignatow, Lydia Davis, e.e. cummings, Robert Bly, Claudia Rankine, Wayne Holloway-Smith, and Luke Kennard. This course is suitable for both newcomers to prose poetry, and for writers with an established practice in the form. 

 5 fortnightly Zoom sessions on Thursdays, 7–9pm (BST), starts 1 February 2024. 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: @jontyson

About Natalie Whittaker View Profile

Natalie Whittaker is a poet, editor, and secondary school teacher from South East London. She is the author of two pamphlets: Shadow Dogs (ignition press, 2018) and Tree (Verve Poetry Press, 2021). Both pamphlets have recently been translated into French for L’Ours Blanc. Natalie was a London Library Emerging Writer 2020 – 2021, and holds an MA in Writing Poetry (with Distinction) from the University of Newcastle with the Poetry School. Her first full collection is forthcoming in 2025.

‘One of the best workshops I have attended, and that was down mainly to Natalie’s teaching, enthusiasm, and ability to get the whole group discussing and involved. The subject matter was specific without being too narrow and incredibly valuable and well delivered. Natalie’s preparation and course materials were excellent and there isn’t a single thing I would have changed about this course. Based on my experience I would take a course delivered by the Poetry School again and I would not hesitate to attend a course led by Natalie. Excellent!’

- Summer 2023 survey response

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