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Canvas Network

How Writers Write Poetry

University of Iowa via Canvas Network

This course may be unavailable.



How Writers Write Poetry 2015 offers an interactive progression through the principles and practice of writing poetry. The course presents a curated collection of short, intimate talks on craft by two dozen acclaimed poets writing in English. Craft topics include persona, notebooking, the line, the turn, form, and the lyric. The talks are designed for beginning poets just starting to put words on a page as well as for advanced poets looking for new entry points, engagement with process, or teaching tips. The course will be taught by Professor Christopher Merrill, International Writing Program Director, poet, and translator; and Camille Rankine, poet, Assistant Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Manhattanville College, and editorial director of The Manhattanville Review.

Contributing poets' video talks will be contextualized through online discussion and writing assignments. The course moderators (all Iowa Writers' Workshop graduates with university level experience teaching creative writing) will join Camille Rankine in offering online facilitation to participants through course discussion forums. Poets who have contributed video craft talks for the course include former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Kwame Dawes, Marvin Bell, Lia Purpura, Kazim Ali, Kate Greenstreet, Natasha Tiniacos, and many others. How Writers Write Poetry will offer a diversity of answers to the question of how a writer develops and refines the lifelong practice of his or her craft.

Enrollment in How Writers Write Poetry is free and unlimited; there is no cost to participants.

Course Expectations:

Each week, Christopher Merrill and Camille Rankine will present a video class session followed by a pair of writing assignments: one exercise for writers who would like to create new work and/or who are exploring poetry for the first time, one exercise for poets who would like to use this course to examine and refine their work and their approach to poetry writing. Our moderators will lead discussions of the video classes and the writing assignments and will host master classes in which the craft topic of the week may be explored in depth. Participants are encouraged to post their exercises to the course discussion forum for peer feedback and to submit critical feedback on the poems of their fellow writers. The success of the community critique process will depend entirely on the investment made by you and your fellow writers; we encourage you to engage deeply with one another’s work and with the craft principles presented by the course.

Certificate of Completion:

The University of Iowa offers an optional certificate of completion for this course.


For Our How Writers Write Poetry 2014 Alumni:

Welcome back! Wondering how this MOOC might compare to last year's? We're pairing new video lectures with those 2014 videos that we think are worth revisiting from a new angle. We're offering two tracks of writing assignments: each week, we'll have one assignment designed for beginning poets and one assignment intended to push experienced poets to engage more deeply with their processes; to reconceptualize, revise, and expand. And we've restructured our workshop process as a master class-workshop hybrid, supported by a collection of resource readings. We're looking forward to working with you again.



Saturday, June 28

Sketching Techniques
Video Session #1: Robert Hass
Assignment: Exercise #1

Tuesday, July 1

Collecting and Repurposing Lines
Video Session #2: Kate Greenstreet and Lucy Ives
Due: Exercise #1
Assigned: Exercise #2

Saturday, July 5

Building a Poem (Poem As Building)
Video Session #3: Daniel Khalastchi
​Due: Exercise #2
Assigned: Exercise #3

Tuesday, July 8

Mindful Writing
Video Session #4: Sridala Swami and Alexandria Peary
Due: Exercise #3
Assigned: Exercise #4

Saturday, July 12

Prosody (Meter)
Video Session #5: Richard Kenney and William Trowbridge
​Due: Exercise #4
Assigned: Exercise #5

Tuesday, July 15

Inconstancy, Syntax, and Multiple Selves
Video Session #6: Dora Malech and Tarfia Faizullah
Due: Exercise #5
Assigned: Exercise #6

Saturday, July 19

Other People's Words
Video Session #7: Nick Twemlow and Kiki Petrosino
Due: Exercise #6
Assigned: Exercise #7

Tuesday, July 22

Poetry As Pleasure
Video Session #8: James Galvin and Kwame Dawes
Due: Exercise #7
Assigned: Exercise #8

Saturday, July 26

Constraint Based Poetry
Video Session #9: Shane McCrae and Teemu Manninen
Due: Exercise #8
Assigned: Exercise #9

Tuesday, July 29

Sonic Association
Video Session #10: Carol Light and Larissa Szporluk
​Due: Exercise #9
Assigned: Exercise #10

Saturday, August 2

General Advice and Looking Outward
Video Session #11: Michael Dennis Browne and Caryl Pagel
Due: Exercise #10
Assigned: Exercise #11

Tuesday, August 5

Free Verse and the Prose Poem
Video Session #12: Marvin Bell and Mary Hickman
Due: Exercise #11
Assigned: Exercise #12

Saturday, August 9

Course Closes

Taught by

Christopher Merrill


3.4 rating, based on 5 reviews

Start your review of How Writers Write Poetry

  • Karen Rosa

    Karen Rosa completed this course, spending 40 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course was intense. My choice to spend as many hours as I did. I learned a lot from both the videos and from the other poets. The feeling of community was powerful. The other poets' work was illuminating. The moderators were intelligent, gave thoughtful readings of the participants' poems, and were incredibly supportive. Finally the seriousness and care and respect with which the other poets read and commented on each other's work was inspirational . I would recommend it to others who are beginning poets as well as those who have published. The range and quality of both the work and the writers taking and giving this class was breathtaking. Become a better poet, connect with other poets, learn your craft. Take this course.
  • Carol A. Stephen

    Carol A. Stephen completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this course. Took it in 2014. There was a lot of interactive discussion with instructors as well as other students. I would love to take it a second time if the opportunity arises.
  • John Vaughan

    John Vaughan is taking this course right now.

  • Trish Shields completed this course.

  • Nicole Henderson

    Nicole Henderson completed this course.

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