Poetry Practice Viewed Through the Lens of Craft, a weekly class and workshop taught by Marin Poet Laureate Emerita Rebecca Foust
Long before there were MFA programs and even colleges and universities, people were writing and enjoying poetry. The time-honored method for learning to make poems has always been imitation; that is, reading great poems, then trying to figure out what elements of craft makes them work and how to use those techniques and strategies in our own writing.
Each session will open with a reading and discussion of two poems—one from the canon, and one more contemporary—chosen by the workshop leader to illustrate use of a particular poetic device or form. Most sessions will be led by Rebecca Foust, but there may be occasional substitutions or guest appearances by other local poets. The leader will offer a short talk on the element being studied and the two poems will be read aloud and discussed with special attention to how that element works in each one.
Following this discussion, the leader will deliver a prompt asking students, after the workshop, to imitate one of the exemplars or otherwise use in a poem of their own what was learned; the plan is to generate new poems that can be workshopped in future sessions.
The second part of each session will be devoted to an MFA-style round-the-table workshop, with a goal to allowing 5-10 minutes for each student poem. Best practices for workshops will be explained and followed. Students should come to each class with 12 copies of a poem they would like to have critiqued. Any original poem works, but poems generated in past workshops and attentive to some element of craft are encouraged. The workshop leader will divide the time left in the class among the number of students, allocating the same amount of time to each student and designating a timekeeper to keep track. Students will read their poems aloud and, if time permits, will hear them read a second time by someone else. Afterwards the leader will conduct a discussion on the poem’s strengths and possible points for revision, ideally going around the table to make certain each student has a chance to give feedback.
At the end of each session there will time for questions, including questions about the writing life, MFA programs, and publication and, if time permits, a free write at focusing on the prompt.
Registration required. Register here.