Writing Badly: A Poetry Workshop

In the essay collection The Virtues of Poetry, James Longenbach describes what he calls "dilation," where poets pile up words, abstract images, and colors in a way that risks the reader's boredom. "Reading poems, we expect the language to hold our attention, because the syllables create dense patterns of sounds, reinforcing a similar density of meaning," he writes. How then do we recognize bland writing? How then can we say with certainty that a line is brilliant or boring? Longenbach concludes that a line's success depends on its relationship to other effects. "We slow down, our thoughts wander, and we're gripped by what we're reading because we've drifted away from it." Our workshop will consider more deeply Longenbach's concept of writing badly, and more importantly, we will attempt to get beyond the notion that there is any bad writing at all—the often paralyzing effect that prevents poets from putting down words in the first place. 

  • Instructor: Win Bassett
  • Length of workshop: 3 hours
  • Date:  Saturday, March 11
  • Time: 2 - 5 p.m.
  • Cost: $55 non-members; $48 members
  • Location: The Skillery, 1323 6th Ave. N