Spring 2025

Writing Poetry I

Listed in: English, as ENGL-221


Poetry is an act of discovery. We write to discover what we don't know or understand about ourselves and the world around us. To make these discoveries we must pay attention: practice close observation, question our assumptions, and test our truths. 

We must also pay attention to what’s happening in our bodies as we write: the breath, pulse and heartbeat that gives poetry life. When we practice embodied writing we include our whole selves in our creative work. 

In many ways, poetry is a kind of research, and not so different than other fields. In this class, we'll look at poems that have curiosity and attention at their core: scientific, historic, cultural and social. We'll develop our abilities as researchers and writers through on-site exercises, the cultivation of a writer's notebook, close readings and regular writing practice. 

We'll look at poems by poets such as Natasha Trethewey, Tishani Doshi, Aracelis Girmay, Chet'la Sebree, Layli Longsoldier, Danez Smith, Ross Gay and others, and make our own curious, embodied poem collections. 

The majority of our time will be spent practicing: there will be multiple writing assignments each week. Reading will be a crucial component of our efforts. Writing assignments and discussions of technique will be based in assigned texts. Both reading and writing assignments will address issues of form, musicality, syntax, imagery, diction and tone. 

The workshop format requires the constructive, critical attentions of each and every member of the class.  We will discuss the ground-rules and work out the logistics of our workshop during the first class. Everyone should expect to read their work aloud, and the work of others, in class, many times during the semester. Class participants must be willing to read deeply, write regularly, and engage in class discussions with energetic curiosity.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Lecturer Kapur and Writer-in-Residence Abraham. Spring semester: Merrill Visiting Poet.

How to handle overenrollment: The instructor will seek to achieve representative equity (majors, class years, gender, background, etc.).

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on written work, readings, oral presentations, artistic work.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025