How do I poetry
October 11, 2020 3:38 PM   Subscribe

I would like to write better poetry. What is the right class for me to take? I am in the SF Bay Area but I suppose doesn't matter in the COVID/Zoom age.

Feeling my mid-life-ness right now and feeling like writing more poetry might help me process everything that's going on internally and externally.

I have a history of writing professionally but no particular background in poetry - just what I've read for pleasure. I am not attempting to make a career out of poetry (LOL at that idea in 21st Century USA anyway). Still, I would like my poetry to be good instead of sucking.

I'm afraid I can't narrow down a specific style or school as I'm not super educated about poetry. Partly I'd like to learn more about what I'm reading when I'm reading poetry.

Do you have a specific poetry teacher or class or workshop to recommend?
posted by latkes to Education (6 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Not a class, but the Book of Forms helped me immensely to put my ideas onto an actual frame.
posted by Young Kullervo at 4:34 PM on October 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not a class but this book by Stephen Fry might be just the thing : Ode Less Traveled
posted by onebyone at 6:06 PM on October 11, 2020

The Poetry Project has a free series called Dis/Course that is good for inspiration--I've taken two of them in the past and will be taking the one in November. Some of their regular (not-free) workshops sound amazing, but I've never taken one before.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:35 PM on October 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I was also going to suggest "ModPo" if you just wanted to learn more about poetry, and then coursera pointed me toward Sharpened Visions: a Poetry Workshop, which looks like it's just starting. It's free, so you could try it and drop it if it doesn't work for you.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:45 PM on October 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Beyond Baroque is a community literary arts center in Venice, California renowned for their poetry workshops. They are offering free workshops and paid ones, all online, right now.

Also, another not a class a book: John Hollander's Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse. In it verse forms are explained in those very verse forms themselves. So, the rondel form is explained in a rondel, the sestina in a sestina, et cetera. It's an extremely fun approach.

Learning to scan in general may be more crucial than learning all the details of all the English verse forms up front. A good exercise is to take a bunch of poems and a pencil, and -- reading aloud -- go along marking the long and short syllables and other rhythmic elements on the text and analyzing what kind of feet are being used.

Also a good book by Hollander that surveys such formal aspects of English verse across many poets in a more conventional way and includes discussion of the history of metrics is Vision and Resonance.

What poets who are not academics write about poetry and writing poetry can be inspiring and enlightening. Wallace Stevens' The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination is a case in point.

Yale has put video of a complete undergraduate course in Modern Poetry on youtube. (I've found other online courses from Yale very helpful.)
posted by bertran at 8:16 PM on October 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don't have specific course recommendations, but I would strongly suggest that learning by doing should be the main component of your efforts. Learning various forms is great, but only if you're setting yourself an assignment to write a couple of pieces in each form you learn. Studying other poets is great, but only if you are writing your own poems alongside each poet or poem you study - either imitating them or inspired by them in some way.

On a side note, I would also strongly suggest that you let go of trying to evaluate your own poetry. You may or may not suck; if you're anything like me, you will literally never know. As a self-taught poet myself (the last time I formally studied anything remotely related to literature was in middle school), I find I am incapable - absolutely incapable - of assessing the quality of my own poetry. A poem I thought was pretty dull recently sold for $50 to a prestigious mag, while another I had submitted in the same set which I thought was freakin genius has been rejected eleventy times. I don't even *try* to assess anymore. I just bulk-submit everything I write and let other people decide if they like it.
posted by MiraK at 7:20 AM on October 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

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