The Poetry of Pain

The Poetry of Pain

Create your personal pain-language and find healing through poetry.

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

What is your pain on a scale one to ten? Does it burn, or tingle, or linger? Or how about this: Is your pain more like a cat or a dog? Is it an ocean, a forest, a river? If your pain were a film genre, would it be a hardboiled detective drama or a tedious comedy? And is it even ‘your pain’ – or is it your arm’s pain? Does it live somewhere else entirely? 

Elaine Scarry’s writes in her seminal book, The Body in Pain, that ‘whatever pain achieves, it achieves in part through its unsharability. Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it’. This course is a five-part series that seeks to creatively investigate how we can create a pain-language that seems concise, personal, and liberating through poetry.  

We will read a diverse range of poets who grapple with pain in their work, from Sylvia Plath’s perverse delight in slicing ‘her thumb instead of an onion’, to Emily Dickinson’s insistence that ‘after great pain / a formal feeling comes’. A range of contemporary poets like Jo Shapcott, Don Paterson, Danez Smith, and more, will all help us delve into the nascent and indescribable world of pain. 

Over five sessions, we will learn how poetic devices such as metaphor, line break, rhythm, sound, and more can strengthen our own conception of a ‘pain-language’. And how, through creating a pain-language that is personal, we can find healing. 

Five fortnightly Zoom sessions between 11 January and 8 March 2022, from 7–9pm GMT

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: Photo by CHUTTERSNAP

About Sarah Fletcher View Profile

Sarah Fletcher is an American-British poet researching a PhD on pain and figurative language in Aberystwyth. Her poetry has appeared in The White Review, Poetry London, The Poetry Reviewand The RialtoHer third pamphlet, Caviar, was published in 2021 by Out-Spoken Press. 

'It has been a truly enriching and therapeutic experience to reconnect with my creative side within a nourishing educational environment. I feel that a special community evolved within our class and that we will continue to support each other's poetic efforts and to exchange ideas and information.'

- Summer 2021 Survey Response

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