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Sharpen Your Pencil: Elements of a Poem in Revision

January 20, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - March 11, 2021 @ 9:00 pm PST


Do you want your poems to sing more sweetly? Resonate more deeply? Read more beautifully?

In this 8-week craft workshop, you will learn structured techniques for writing and revising poems in a small-group setting. Each week, we will focus on one specific element in poetry, and use that topic as a guiding principle for revising our poems.

Often, we’re given feedback on our work but might not know exactly what to do next. This class will combine theory with practice. The goal is to equip you with the tools to revise your own poems with grace and ease in order to take your work to the next level.

What You’ll Get Out of This Workshop:

  • 8 lesson packets to help you revise poems, each focused on a different poetic element, with example poems and short essays
  • MANY prompts for revising poems that you can use any time
  • Small-group witness of your revised poems to encourage positive learning
  • A fun, supportive environment with other awesome poets
  • Sensitivity and integrity toward your voice and process
  • Real-time inspiration and feedback from the group

What You’ll Need:

  • A handful (4-8) of written drafts that you feel have some promise, but aren’t quite “there” yet, and you’re not sure what they’re missing or what to do next
  • Some time each week to practice a revision technique outside of class (30 minutes minimum)
  • Ability to detach from the work so you can revise (and create anew!) with pleasure
  • Desire to make your poems the best they can be at this moment in time without judgment
  • A beginner’s mindset (no matter how long you’ve been writing)
  • A sense of adventure and openness to discovery
  • Non-attachment to a specific outcome (this is the magic!)
  • Respect, integrity and playfulness with your peers (we are all learning, writing and practicing together!)

8-Week Schedule

Workshop A will be offered on Wednesday evenings from 6-9pm PST starting January 20 and ending March 10. Workshop B will be offered Thursday mornings from 10am-1pm PST starting January 21 and ending March 11. Please see the calendar for full dates.

  • Week 1: From First Draft to Finished – How to approach revision, editing, and the creative flow.
  • Week 2: Lines Lines Lines (& Stanzas) – Line breaks, line lengths, units of meaning on the page.
  • Week 3: Exploding the Image – Sinking deeper into metaphor & meaning.
  • Week 4: Word Choice & Diction – Words are pretty important to poems.
  • Week 5: Repetition & Patterns – Let’s investigate how refrains can change the game.
  • Week 6: Sound & Rhythm – Poems are music! Can you make them siiiing?
  • Week 7: Titles & Endings – Let’s not overlook these important bookends!
  • Week 8: Final Workshop – Recap and Review

Workshop Structure:

We’ll spend some time in the first meeting talking about what revision is, how to do it, and what our blocks/goals are. You’ll be invited to bring a working poem in to share with the group to introduce your work and receive productive feedback. Then, at the end of the first class, you’ll receive the prompt for the week to try out some revision techniques for that poem. When you return next week, bring both the earlier draft and the revised version to share!

Because the focus is on revising our work, each week you will be given the opportunity to revise a piece, and then share both versions. The purpose of this is to get feedback from the group about how the poem has evolved to reinforce what you are learning. If the poem feels “done,” great! If not, we celebrate a step in its development.

BONUS: For anyone writing toward a manuscript right now, this class provides a great opportunity to revise your 8 poems toward a specific theme, topic, narrative or question, if you choose to, with a bonus prompt for guidance.

Critique Style as Witness:

In this style of workshop, we practice “witness” as our mode of giving comments on each other’s work rather than “criticism.” This means that we speak from our personal viewpoint (own your “I”), make observations rather than criticisms (what we notice rather than what’s “wrong”), ask productive questions, and give all feedback with the intent of helping the writer learn more about their own process of writing that poem.

Writing poetry is an act of discovery, and it is a privilege to be able to take part in each other’s discovery process. In this way, we cultivate an atmosphere of trust, respect and integrity. We never tell another writer the “correct answer” to their poem; rather, we act as believing mirrors for each other’s work and help each other recognize nuggets of beauty to be explored.

Motivating Philosophy:

Structure allows room for experimentation. Add elements of craft to your unique aesthetic, stir, and see what happens. Taking our work seriously doesn’t mean taking ourselves too seriously! Invite surprise onto the page. Have fun! Poetry is discovery. What else is there to do but create?

Limit 6 per group


January 20, 2021 @ 6:00 pm PST
March 11, 2021 @ 9:00 pm PST
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