The Pleasure Principle: Poetry & The Wild Culture of ‘Want’ (International)

The Pleasure Principle: Poetry & The Wild Culture of ‘Want’ (International)

Dive deep into the language of 'want' in your poetry and explore desire’s integral role in forming culture, identity, and creative authentic tools for survival.

‘Paradise is a world where everything is sanctuary & nothing is a gun.’ – Danez Smith

In Bill Moyers’s collection of interviews, Language of Life, former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass carries this concept further by saying: “Even in the middle of wanting, we want it”. Desire is prepositional, personal, and universal, part of a vocabulary of belonging to and escaping from. We live in a world defined and controlled by desire – a culture where this power-driven lexicon of want & need establishes its dramatic influence in commerce, advertising, politics, education, and on the anonymity stage of social media platforms.

Language is always the heart of the matter. Language is Eros, a verb according to poet Anne Carson and language is a skin for French writer Roland Barthes. We will identify and explore the vocabulary of “want” and how it can be redefined and used in poetry. During the course, we will read from a diverse selection of poets including Emily Dickinson, Ocean Vuong, Pascale Petit, David St. John, Ishion Hutchinson, Tracy K. Smith, Prageeta Sharma, Shakespeare, Pablo Neruda, Brendan Constantine, alongside many others, to explore desire’s many forms and learn the various ways that poetry can shape, express, and even obfuscate these. Let’s venture away from the “norm”!

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

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

Image Credit: david-matos

About Elena Byrne View Profile

Elena Karina Byrne is a multimedia artist, private editor, lecturer, Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club, and the annual Poetry Consultant & Moderator for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Former appointments include her position as the 12-year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America, one of the 2016-2018 final judges for the Kate and Kingsley Tufts Awards in Poetry, and one of three poets chosen to lecture for the ten university consortia in the 2018-2019 Georgia Poetry Circuit. A former guest editor for The Los Angeles Review and 2006 judge for PEN USA’s Literary Award in Poetry, Elena now sits on the advisory board for the collective, What Books Press, is a Contributing Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the West Coast Editor-at-Large for Terminus magazine. She also develops ekphrastic poetry programs with the Craft Contemporary Museum and teaches for numerous institutions like The Poetry Barn and Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center.

Elena’s books include her fourth collection If This Makes You Nervous (Omnidawn, 2021); the chapbook NO, DON’T (What Books Press, 2020); Squander (Omnidawn, 2016); MASQUE, (Tupelo Press, 2008); The Flammable Bird (Zoo Press, 2002) and a just completed volume of hybrid, “interrupted” essays: VOYEUR HOUR: Meditations on Poetry, Art & Desire.

'Feel part of poetry community and gained great friends. Even more obsessed with poetry.' 

– Summer 2019 survey response

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