Thanks for your interest in this program. It will be a learning experience for all involved.

Below you’ll find some guidelines on how things are going to be organized, a calendar of dates, some “rules” for contribution, and a few miscellaneous tidbits.

Tips for a successful Workshop

I’ve outright stolen some sage words from other workshops’ syllabi. Here’s a pretty spot-on intro from Mary DiLucia’s Intermediate Poetry Workshop at NYU:

“Poetry is a conversation—with ourselves, the soul, the heart, the sidewalk; it is also a conversation with all the other poems out there, the musings of other poets as they move to and fro in the universe. Simply by showing up in this workshop, we have made our intention to be part of this conversation, in the unique way in which each of us partakes of it. The very notion to write a poem at all is such an irreverent and joyous gift from the universe—who are we kidding? We are doing this for the sake of that joy, and for whatever ways we can finagle from the universe the permission, space, time, paper, breath to make more poems!

“Now we get the permission to pay our closest attention to it!

“Some practices for the term:

Keep a notebook, large or small and write in it on a regular basis—be aware of how your creative process comes to light, bring it to class and be ready to write in class
Keep a folder of your poems and any revisions
[Email me if you have any questions or concerns. Feel free to contact me if you have a criticism you’d rather not make in public, or a question about the appropriateness of a comment or poem.]
Talk to each other …
Take some risks; the structure of this workshop will evolve based on the directions we move in together, how well we prepare in reading each other’s work, your willingness to experiment with poetry hand-outs and exercises throughout the term
Be willing to break all of the rules.”

And one more gem from Advanced Poetry at University of Nebraska-Lincoln with Benjamin Vogt:

The key aspect to make this workshop valuable for you is “your effort, constructive feedback and ideas, and effort. Effort. Effort. You will be expected to push yourself, to be open to experimentation, and to load up your poetry tool belts instead of just having one tool”.

Workshop Calendar

We’ll write one poem from scratch for this workshop.

Your poem will be on the topic of PERCEPTION.

Fundamentally, what we’re talking about here is how one perceives a thing and/or how a thing may be initially perceived to be one thing but then radically changes.

You’re expected to write one poem of any length on this subject and to revise it substantially at least twice. You should not delete the original and subsequent revisions of the poem. Keep everything so we can track the work’s progress.

Your poem is due on August 17. We will begin critiquing the first poem on August 18.

Additionally, in order to “load up your tool belt,” you should try to write poetry for at least 30 minutes everyday and You should try to read poetry for at least 30 minutes everyday. Both of these light-lifting tasks will sharpen your skills and enable you to get the most out of this class.

To kick things off we’re going to all read and critique Wallace Stevens’s “Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself”.

Here’s the Calendar:

August 11: Read “Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself”
August 17: Everyone’s poem is due.
August 18: Begin Critique 1
August 24: Written Critique 1 Due
August 25: Begin Critique 2
August 31: Written Critique 2 Due
Sept. 1: Begin Critique 3
Sept. 7: Written Critique 3 Due
Sept. 8: Begin Critique 4
Sept. 14: Written Critique 4 Due
Sept. 15: Begin Critique 5
Sept. 21: Written Critique 5 Due
Sept. 22: Begin Critique 6
Sept. 28: Written Critique 6 Due
Sept. 29: Begin Critique 7
Oct. 5: Written Critique 7 Due
Oct. 6: Begin Critique 8
Oct. 12: Written Critique 8 Due
Oct. 13: Begin Critique 9
Oct. 19: Written Critique 9 Due
Oct. 20: Begin Critique 10
Oct. 26: Written Critique 10 Due
Nov. 2: Final Revisions Due

Keys to a Successful Critique

The following guidelines are adapted from Vince Gotera’s syllabus for the Craft of Poetry at University of Northern Iowa. I think they’re pretty keen:

“To prepare for class, read each poem at least [three times] and write comments [in the comments section below each poem] (both specific line-oriented remarks … and a general response to the poem as a whole in a paragraph at the bottom.)”

Here are some good questions (again, from Gotera) to ask yourself when reading these poems:
•   Do you like the poem? Why? Or why not? Favorite section, phrase or line?
•   Does the title help ground you as a reader in a dramatic context? If there is no title, why do you think it’s untitled? Does it need a title? Suggest one?
•   Who is the speaker? Do we need to know? If the poem is spoken by someone other than the poem (a dramatic monologue,) is the persona identifiable?
•   Do the poem’s images evoke emotions? Do these advance the poem’s import?
•   Consider language. Is the diction effective? Surprising? Or predictable?
•   Does the poem use rhythm and meter? If so, does this enhance your reading?
•   Think about the poem’s music. How well are rhyme and sonic devices used?
•   Do line breaks impart suspense, tension, hurry? Do they aid understanding?
•   Consider content and theme. How would you paraphrase the poem?
•   Does the poem’s tone seem appropriate for the apparent sense and subject?
•   Does the poem seem unified? How do the poem’s various parts contribute to unity? Narrative? A visual pattern? Repetitive motifs?
•   Does the poem make a meaningful comment on the tradition and history of the form, meter, or stanza it is using?
•   Any specific and/or global suggestions for the writer to resolve problems?
These are just suggestions, please feel free to be creative with your constructive criticism.

Gotera: “As we workshop others’ poems in class, try to balance tough criticism and praise. We’ll begin by asking “What’s working in this poem?” and “What do we like?” Subsequently, we’ll point out any difficulties in reading and understanding the poem, and suggest changes.”

You must have your poem submitted to BogotaHorribLe by August 17.

Defending the poem is not allowed, as no defense will change the fact that the poem wasn’t received as you expected. The important goal is to figure out why and then apply that lesson to revisions or future work. You might ask how people read this or that device. Better yet, simply say thanks. You will then receive the copies annotated by everyone. Make sure to save the copy of each poem bearing my annotations.

1 thought on “REDDIT POETRY WORKSHOP 101”

  1. Hi! Thank you for quoting my course syllabus here. Even years later, it feels truer than ever to me. Feel free to get in touch–I am of course curious as to how you found this…I don’t recognize your name, but were you a student of mine? Sincerely, Mary

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