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All the groups in our Network.

How a Poem Begins (an International Course)

Private Course Group with 16 members

Doesn’t inspiration feel good? The rush of language, the flash of illumination, the racing to the notebook or computer or phone to write it down as if taking dictation from a god or muse? It happens, like lightning, but poets can’t count on it, even if they persistently wait in the rain. We have no way of knowing how our best work is going to practices that might get us there. Each week, we’ll explore poems that seem driven by various modes, experiences, and procedures, such as poems driven by narrative, by sound, by form; poems that have something urgent to communicate; poems that happen mathematically (through addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division); and poems that come about by jazzing around with language. Then we’ll try out all of these approaches and make them our own. Poets represented in the readings will include Gertrude Stein, Harryette Mullen, John Ashbery, Joe Brainard, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Jane Yeh. This workshop is designed for students at all levels of experience.

The Poetry of Parenthood (an International Course)

Private Course Group with 14 members

Is writing about your child always boring or saccharine? Or can poems about parenthood say important things about love, life and death? Was Cyril Connolly right to claim that ‘there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,’ or can children actually be a rich source of inspiration? Each session, you will look at parenthood from a different angle – through pregnancy, identity, language and letting go. We’ll discuss lullabies and Lorca; Sharon Olds’ ‘Brag’ about childbirth and Coleridge’s sleepless nights; Edward Lear’s ‘Dong with a luminous nose’ and the politics of parenting. There will be lots to read and a writing exercise each week to (hopefully) prove Connolly wrong. (This is a repeat of a course that has run previously).

Making Birds: New Poetic Forms Summer 2016

Private Course Group with 11 members

In The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction, American poet Dean Young urges us to play apart from obsessions with ‘craft’ when we write. He exclaims ‘We are making birds not birdcages’. Let’s take that as our rallying cry. The lifeblood of these sessions will be encounters with innovative contemporary poems, cycles of generative ‘obstructions,’ and conversations about what you create. Expect that ours will be an unconventional, provocative space devoted to experimentation and the invention of new forms.

Routes into Poetry 2014

Private Group with 20 members

This is a Campus group associated with Tamar Yoseloff’s Routes into Poetry course, a place for course members to share work, resources and conversation.

Course description: This course is appropriate for beginners and those who have written some poetry but who would like to take a more structured approach to their writing. You will examine the basics of rhyme, metre, verse forms, lineation and stanza structure. Through exercises, reading, writing and feedback, you will also begin to construct a voice, to create shapes on the page and develop your first drafts with confidence. (If you are
a complete beginner, we recommend you download our course How to Write Poetry.)

Irony and Edge (an International Course)

Private Course Group with 14 members

In a letter, Robert Lowell once told Elizabeth Bishop that ‘Irony is being amusing about what we can’t understand.’ Lowell’s description might chime with many poetry fans who find contemporary poetry quirky but hard to grasp. This course will explore the increasingly fraught relationship with sincerity and self-expression that poetry has developed over the last 60 years, from Frank O’Hara and Paul Muldoon to millennial poetry on either side of the Atlantic and work showcased in the anthology ‘Dear World and Everyone in It’. Readings and related writing exercises will help you to appreciate writing that questions itself and pushes back against tired convention, both in poetry and the wider language. It will be a perfect fit for anyone looking to bring some contemporary edge to work that might currently feel too safe and traditional to grab an editor’s attention. (This is a repeat of a course that has run previously.)

Radio, Radio: Making Poetry Sound

Private Course Group with 12 members

Spoken word and film poems are on the rise, celebrated artists are working with voice, script and sound in innovative ways, and Radio 4 – the most famous talk radio station in the world – now even has an official Poet in Residence. But what are the skills needed to make poems or poetic drama for sound alone (either live radio or recording), when the performer is not entirely present? In this course, we are each others’ audience. You will make recordings with and for each other, memorise our poems as actors do, and learn to convey images and sounds that are dramatic to the ear, formalising what we’ve done into scripts. Inspired by work from sound installations by Lavinia Greenlaw for Artangel to Dylan Thomas’s original radio verse play Under Milk Wood, from spoken word shows on the radio to the inclusion of a spoken word segment in the magazine show Saturday Live, we will write new radio-ready poems and mini verse dramas sensitive to changes of pitch and tempo, mutter and oration, utilising stage directions, sound effects, and recaps for listeners tuning in late – all while never straying too far from voice and the play of voices, and always being respectful to the raw conditions of sound.

New Myths and Legends: Building a World through Poetry

Private Group with 11 members

Worldbuilding is the lifeblood of narrative, and as poets and storytellers we spend the best part of our time thinking about the places, history, culture and mores of our own fictional worlds. On this course, you will create your own poetic ‘storyworld’ and use poetry to gradually reveal its details – money, clothing, territorial boundaries, tribal customs, building materials, what people eat, what it smells like after it rains, etc. We will look at classic examples from the genres of fantasy and science fiction as a starting point, such as Westeros, Middle-earth, Earthsea, Zembla, Narnia – each of which has its own poetic culture that serves to bring the main narrative to life – and write poems and text, draw maps, and imagine the lost works of our imaginary canons, inspired by our imaginary places. We will also look at the influence of folk songs and traditional poetry on writers such as Borges and Tolkien, while examining other mythopoeia created by Blake, Eliot and less well known poets, to create a body of work that questions the notion of authorship and makes new connections in your poetry.

Pangaea Poetry

Public Group with 11 members

A group for sharing poetry created during Pangaea Poetry’s #PROMPT videos, or for discussing the topics in #SOCIALCALL videos. Or just for the community in general. Come see who’s here!

‘Make Your Own Filmpoem’ (Open Workshop)

Private Group with 11 members

Have you ever thought of turning your poems into a short film or Youtube video? Poetry films – or ‘filmpoems’ – merge two genres to create a new piece of art, and through the hybridisation, augment and extend both genres.

In this Open Workshop, Eleni Cay will cover basic techniques for creating poetryfilms, and video poetry, and will challenge you to create your own poetry video. We will jointly explore which poems are most suitable for filmpoetry, how to identify the right platform to create your own filmpoem and the right channel for sharing it with others. This Open Workshop is open to all poets, particularly those with minimal knowledge of making films or feeling less comfortable with technology.

Mixed Borders – poets in residence in London gardens

Private Group with 17 members

The Poetry School and the London Parks and Gardens Trust have hybridised! As part of London Open Gardens Weekend (13-14 June) we are offering the chance for you to take part in your own garden-based residencies. You’ll be paired up with anything from an allotment to a garden square, and you can use the opportunity to write, perform, inspire or otherwise create poems following your own skills and interests. During the morning of the April session, Sarah (poet and Event Manager for London Open Garden Squares Weekend) and Julia from the Poetry School will explore some residency options and styles with you, and allocate the gardens. In the afternoon, we’ll work on some garden-themed writing exercises to propagate your green and leafy poetry ideas. You don’t need to have had previous poet-in-residence experience to take part in this project, but you do need to be writing at an advanced level and be able to organise and carry out the particulars of your own residency.

The Lyric iPod: an Online Reading & Listening Group

Private Group with 21 members

We often talk about the musicality of poems, but it’s rare to see that many poems directly inspired by music. An offshoot of Rishi’s ‘Call and Response’ Summer School workshop, this online reading group – or rather, online listening group – aims to remedy that. Over ten weeks we’ll range across a variety of different styles and genres – hip hop, jazz, indie, pop and much, much more – listening to some hits and some maybe some misses too. And we’ll delve not just into the lyrics of great songwriters, but also think about the traditions they reflect, the subjects and themes they articulate and the sonic landscapes they work in. Each time we’ll cue up a new playlist and use what we listen to, and some writing prompts, as the basis to inspire new poems. And when you next hear a song, you might even think, “There’s a poem in that.”

Fragments, from the Thought to the Page (Spring 2016)

Private Group with 14 members

In this genre-bending course, we will look at poets, fiction writers, philosophers and psychoanalysts who think and write in fragments, use modes of interruption or whose work simply survives in fragment form. Fortnightly reading and writing assignments will aim to broaden your ideas of what is and isn’t a poem, demonstrate the value of omission and the unstated, and suggest new ways of observing yourself and the world, and of communicating those observations. The course will include texts by Sappho, Lydia Davis, Kimko Hahn, Simone Weil, Adam Phillips, Wallace Stevens, Theodor Adorno, Gertrude Stein, Sam Riviere, Nuar Alsadir, Simon Smith, Anne Carson and others. (This is a repeat of a course that has run previously.)

What Work Is

Private Group with 14 members

Effort, toil, task, job, labour, slog, chore, drudgery, exertion. In an article published by Jeremy Seabrook in The Guardian in 2013 he argues that “Words indicating labour in most European languages originate in an imagery of compulsion, torment, affliction and persecution”. How has our concept of work changed and how have contemporary poets tackled this subject? Using Philip Levine’s beautiful poem ‘What Work Is’ as our touchstone, we will set off exploring this question to expand our definition of what work is or can be. We will look at how poets have written about work and write our own poetry about this thing that we will spend, on average 90,000 hours of our lives doing. We’ll also be thinking about useful and meaningful work, and how the right work can be essential to poets, exploring the ideas of the Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez on what the true ‘work’ of a poet is. Throughout the course we will be moving towards creating our own ‘poetics of work’.

Trust the Image

Private Group with 14 members

The image is a poem’s engine; for poets, writing fresh and powerful imagery, encouraging the reader to think about the content of a poem in more than one way, is a joyful experience. On this course we’ll look at how poets use figurative language; how to avoid safe/predictable tropes in favour of daring/surprising imagery; the role of the physical senses; simile and metaphor, synecdoche and how/when to use these devices; the role of symbolism in poetry, and how certain poets – e.g. Wallace Stevens – use encoded symbolism in their work; image clusters; the extended metaphor; and audacious metaphors/the conceit. We’ll read lots of examples of published poetry and try different strategies/approaches to push ourselves out of our comfort zones to create whole new ‘image banks’ for new work.

‘The Word Made Fresh’ — Restoring the Bible to English Poetry

Private Group with 12 members

The late mediaeval/early modern English translations of the Bible are among the fundamental texts — alongside Beowulf, Chaucer, and Shakespeare — of English literature, comprising an unrivalled treasure-house of content, themes, forms and techniques that contemporary poets might appropriate and incorporate into their work. On this course, you will identify characteristic Biblical literary techniques such as parallelism, repetition, rhetorical questions, precise lexis, compression and economy, patterns of imagery, distinctive approaches to conjunctions/prepositions and much more, writing your own poems under their influence, as well as considering the distinctive content of the various texts and the parallels between the verse structures of the original Biblical languages and Old English prosody. Key texts, pre-sessional reading and other necessary contextual material will be made available before the course starts.

Hearing Voices: World Poetry in Translation

Private Group with 10 members

If the normal intelligible outdoor range of the male human voice in still air is 180 metres (Guinness World Records), how will the voice of a Sudanese poet reach us with poems steeped in the tradition of Sufi mysticism? And if a Tamil poet in Chennai publishes a book entitled ‘Breasts’, provoking death threats and a public suggestion that she be doused in kerosene and set alight, will her voice reach us still? In this course your poetic practice will be invigorated by work which springs from diverse cultures and aesthetics, crossing landscapes and languages. We will read work by some of the most compelling poets writing today including Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi [Sudan], Kim Hyesoon [South Korea] and Kutti Revathi [India] as we investigate what do we write for? and what do we write against? Each session will generate new work inspired by texts in translation. In collaboration with Modern Poetry in Translation magazine.

Fortnightly Feedback with Jonathan Edwards

Private Group with 17 members

Do you have a heap of discarded poems which just won’t work no matter how many revisions you make? The Poetry School’s Online Feedback Workshops provide a place for the general improvement of left-for-dead poems in need of resuscitation. Bring poems of any shape or size once a fortnight and receive detailed feedback from your tutor and general advice from fellow students. These courses are ideal for those looking to ready poems for magazine submission.

‘The Art of Ventriloquism’ (Open Workshop)

Private Group with 15 members

Originally, ventriloquism was a religious practice. The name comes from the Latin for to speak from the stomach, i.e. venter (belly) and loqui (speak). The noises produced by the stomach were thought to be the voices of the unliving, who took up residence in the stomach of the ventriloquist. The ventriloquist would then interpret the sounds, as they were thought to be able to speak to the dead, as well as foretell the future.

This Open Workshop with Clare Shaw looks at examples of ‘ventriloquism’ in contemporary poetry. Putting our mouths, hearts, stomachs and minds to work, we’ll read poets who have dug deep, spoken out and given voice to an array of inanimate objects, works of art and animals, as well as those who have projected their voices onto silenced people in mythology, social and personal history. We’ll identify the possibilities this opens up for us as writers and the practical strategies that we may draw on; and then we’ll have a go ourselves!

For more information and to book your place:

Online Feedback Course with Catherine Smith

Private Group with 18 members

Do you have a heap of discarded poems sitting on your sideboard or desktop which just won’t work no matter how many revisions you make? The Poetry School’s online feedback workshops provide a place for the general improvement of your left-for-dead poems, your work in need of refreshment, and your brand new pieces. Bring poems of any size or shape to these sessions for detailed written feedback once a fortnight from a tutor, and general group feedback from fellow students. This group will be especially good for those with a large batch of poems that they are looking to ready for magazine submission.

To book your place on this course, please go to:

A Life on the Edge: Hinterlands and Homelands

Private Group with 14 members

Most of us have grown up made our homes in the suburbs, those small towns, hinterlands and no-places on the ‘edge of the ordinary… cast between what is and what might be’ (Gallery Press on Alan Gillis). But where are ‘the’ suburbs? For many of us our memories are made of these spaces, places that walk a tightrope between urban and rural, dramatic and tedious, often tucked into the corner of larger conurbations, unsure how much of local identity remains. On this course we will explore half-hidden areas of our homelands, their edges and contradictions, peeking under the hood of the overlooked and almost everyday. We will learn from poets who thrived in small towns, suburbs and the bits beyond ring roads and found poetry in allotments, railways, brownfield sites, empty business parks, run-down markets, landfills and driveways. We will also be influenced by those who chaffed in against their surroundings, trapped on the brink of Metroland and the wilds. Taking a lead from poets including Kay Ryan, Glyn Maxwell and Fiona Dowling, we will create our own poems and investigate the secrets of where we have all once lived.