The Quality of Sprawl: Long Poems & Sequences

The Quality of Sprawl: Long Poems & Sequences

Experiment with sprawling forms, large scale works, and ambitious sequences to create a lasting impact.

From Sinéad Morrissey’s ‘The State of the Prisons’, to Glyn Maxwell’s ‘Tale of the Mayor’s Son’, Kayo Chingonyi’s ‘calling a spade a spade’, to Tom French’s ‘Pity the Bastards’, many great poets do some of their best work when long poems and sequences allow them to explore their subjects expansively.  

We will look at a number of approaches in this course, including the way in which writers like Mark Doty and Greta Stoddart have used the long poem to generate huge emotional power, and the way in which Maxwell has picked up the narrative traditions of the long poem from writers like Coleridge. We will look at how history and biographies can be mined for subject matter, as well as the lives of those we know well, as in Heaney’s great sonnet sequence for his mother, ‘Clearances’. We will look at a range of formal strategies, drawing on approaches such as Marvin Thompson’s sestina sequence ‘Severn Sisters’, Tiffany Atkinson’s approach to the lyric essay, and the way the energy of the vernacular becomes a way to sustain longer work in the writing of Tom Paulin and Alan Gillis.  

We will also consider useful publishing outlets for longer work, and the crossover between long poems and other forms, such as the radio play. Whether you want to write a sequence celebrating the birds in the garden, as in Hugo Williams’s ‘Birdwatch’, a prose-poem sequence about the history of a city, or a sprawling terza rima telling a story you’ve been itching to, this course will give you a range of strategies to be ambitious, not just with the scale but with the impact of your work. 

An ‘Interactive Course’ with 5 sessions over 10 weeks, starting 9 May 2022. Feedback on Interactive Courses is delivered via Instant Messenger ‘Live Chats’, running 7–9 pm (GMT) on fortnightly Mondays for this course; first Live Chat: 23 May. 

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected] For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image credit: James Wainscoat

About Jonathan Edwards View Profile

Jonathan Edwards’s first collection of poems, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014), received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His second collection, Gen (Seren, 2018), also received the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award, and his poem about Newport Bridge was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2019. Jonathan has read his poems on BBC radio and television, recorded them for the Poetry Archive, and led workshops in schools, universities and prisons. He lives in Crosskeys, South Wales, and is editor of Poetry Wales. 

‘As a student of the Poetry School I felt to be part of a like minded group. It enabled me to gage the standard of my own writing, and I believe my ability to write poetry has improved exponentially.’

– Summer 2021 Survey

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