Why just write poems when you can write better ones? This course is built on the notion that the most exciting writing begins after the first draft. It is specifically for folks who believe that writing poems just to express oneself is like using the Internet just for email. After all, poetry can change the way you and your readers think of the world and its inhabitants; it can break new ground for language; turn a blank sheet of paper into a teeming concert of voices and music.
Though any of us may have the potential to make that happen, having an understanding of how several tools of poetic composition can be used (and audaciously “mis-used”) gives you more ways to try (and if we do this right, we might surprise ourselves most of all).
We'll cover key poetic terms and devices by studying poems by a handful of modern and contemporary poets and then get a chance to try our own hand at writing new poem drafts from a select number of prompts. Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to workshop your poem drafts and get feedback on your work, working towards a more polished poem.
Introduction and the Poetic Line
Poetry orchestrates its music, arguments, tensions, and environment via arrangements of language into lines and stanzas. This week we’ll address the importance of the line break, perhaps the most conspicuous, signature tool in the poet’s toolkit. Do you break more for sound, for sense, visual effect, shape, a mix of several? We’ll participate in several line break exercises and remix found poems. Also: prepare for your first quiz and a fun first writing prompt.
Abstraction and Image
Abstraction doesn’t mean “deep,” and image doesn’t mean “picture.” Images are typically understood as anything you can literally touch/taste/see/hear/smell, and abstractions are those things for which we have symbols (a clock for “time,” a heart for “love”) but no image. Abstractions and images may fill our poems, but how can you tell what’s what, and how can you leverage them to compelling ends? This week we’ll work at finding new symbols to replace clichéd ones for abstractions and we’ll work at crafting images that do more than add furniture to a poem, but create systems of relationships, moods, and even style.
Metaphor and Other Formulas of Difference
Most of us think of simile and metaphor, personification and other similar figures of speech as being about similarities between objects, concepts, and entities. But the juice in these formulas comes from how different the two things being compared seem to be. This is why writing: “the shark moved like a fish” is, alone, a lot less interesting than saying “the shark moved like a squad car.” We’ll talk about how playing with difference via juxtaposition can create a range of poetic effects. Then you’ll write a poem built of one robustly developed or several contrasting juxtapositions.
We'll end this module with yet another quiz, and our first poetry workshop -- facilitated through a peer assessed assignment.
This week we’ll explore how rhyme leverages patterns of sameness and how we can estrange similarity for compelling poetic effects. We’ll check out examples of “rhyme”—sonic, visual, conceptual—from outside of poetry too.
All spoken language has rhythm, the trick is working the rhythm in such a way that drives your poem toward the effects you’re after. Maybe you want a fluid, seductive, propulsive rhythm. Perhaps something that halts or stutters. We’ll use traditional western concepts of meter as a means to open the door to this discussion, but we may leave them at the door upon entry.
Sharpened Poetry: Revision Strategies
When you revise a poem, you are not trying to dull the emotional flash of your first draft. You must, instead, intensify it. In this, our final week, we’ll discuss the difference between revision and editing, the art of reading your own work critically, and the beauty of drafts. For your final peer review, you’ll turn in (and in turn, assess) a revision of one of the poems from the preceding 5 modules.
I have taken Robert Pinsky's very engaging "Art of Poetry" and Eavan Boland's 10 Premodern Female written poems MOOCS, and both were solidly foundational for me. But what "Sharpened Visions" is doing is helping me develop my self-understanding as a poet while helping me gain conscious awareness of some writing strategies which poets writing today use.
Abhijeet Krishnan is taking this course right now.
A highly engaging and entertaining course which goes into a good amount of depth on the formal art of poetry (but it perhaps could have gone a bit deeper). The instructor is energetic and charismatic and it is very easy to watch his videos. The writing prompts provided at the end of each week are varied and challenging, and focus on the particular aspect of poetry focused on for that week. Overall, a very worthwhile course for me.
Katy S Waxbom
The professor is wise as well as entertaining. He makes sense of the basics of poetry and keeps the attention of the student even while examining the differences between simile and metaphors. He chooses sample poems that are a wonderful examples of the points he is teaching each week. It was an amazing class and I learned a lot. I highly recommend it!
Anonymous completed this course.
great class, well paced. the peer review process was ok up to a point, but my last assignment never got reviewed, and no one besides other students looked at my work.
the lectures were easy to understand in digestible chunks, yet packed with good information and examples.
I definitely recommend this class.
Anonymous completed this course.
This course is excellent with serious content delivered in a clever (a little corny) way. The quizzes and assignments should not be taken lightly. I took copious notes throughout the course and when it was done, I went back and reviewed all the lessons.
Jackie Fox completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
Excellent course. I’ve taken undergraduate and graduate level poetry writing workshops and I learned about forms that were new to me. This course was the equivalent of anything I’ve taken. Doug Kearney is a very engaging and energetic instructor. The discussions and facilitators are great too. I highly recommend it.
Suzanne P Tyrpak
Suzanne P Tyrpak is taking this course right now, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
Going through the class on my own until it officially starts, I'm on week three. I've dabbled with writing poetry for years, but never took a formal class. Pieces of the puzzle are coming together for me in this informative and inspiring course, and my writing and comprehension of the form has already improved.
Douglas Kearney is a wonderful teacher; concise, with a great sense of humor, he makes understanding poetry accessible and fun.
Anonymous is taking this course right now.
Kudos to Douglas Kearly for having conducted this workshop! I had no clue,whatsoever,about poetry writing.i liked and loved the way he explained the nitty gritty of poem writing.he did not rush us which helped me sail through easily.Also,there never was a dull moment!learnt a lot ,beyond the rhyme scheme,which i thought was the only requisite of poetry writing.Thanks a ton for igniting my mind with the right perspective.God bless!
Anonymous completed this course.
Focused and concise while remaining engaging and entertaining throughout. Excellent use of peer-assessed assignments with an active community of learners and mentors. Could have gone into more depth for my taste, but I think it absolutely excelled at what it set out to do-a quick and inspiring introduction to writing poetry.
Jennifer E. Rogers completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
I have written poetry for a number of years and taken a couple of classes in Creative Writing at my community college, but this class was very helpful in that it gave me another take on the same concepts, exposed me to new poetry, and used more modern examples as models. I found the basic concepts of poetry were well explained and the other students provided timely and helpful feedback.
Diane Schofield completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
I loved this course, it was presented really well and had lots of information new to me. It was easy to understand and I enjoyed the tasks. I felt inspired by the whole thing! Absolutely recommend and I hope he does another course!
Jason Podur completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
Prof. made easy to understand and entertaining videos. Content was easily learned and applications challenging enough to be worthwhile. Great course to get you writing.