Richard Wilbur says that to begin writing a poem, “there has to be a sudden, confident sense that there is an exploitable and interesting relationship between something perceived out there and something in the way of incipient meaning within you,” and in this course, we will work through your poems to mine that territory between the external and the internal. We will focus on: how to find a poem’s form; creating complex meanings through line, language and whitespace; and developing rhythm and tension through syntax, punctuation, perspective and repetition. As an advanced poetry workshop, this class assumes that its members are already practicing poets with a grounding in the foundational techniques of poetry-writing. We will work in a spirit of shared experiment, hoping to push our inquiries into this art form further. Readings and assignments will investigate different impulses—formal, textural, tonal, thematic. I will ask you to inhabit, query, stretch, and even resist these impulses as you develop your own poems.
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Gary McDowell's Aflame won the 2019 White Pine Press Poetry Prize and is forthcoming in Fall 2020. He is also the author of Caesura: Essays (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2017) and Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016), among other books. His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, New England Review, and The Southern Review.
"Gary McDowell was an encouraging, knowledgeable and generous instructor. In his class, I not only learned much more about the technical aspects of writing a poem than I had known before but with his help, was inspired to infuse certain of my poems with greater clarity and strength."
"Encyclopedic knowledge of modern American poetry, willing to share what he has learned about writing itself, which is considerable and worthwhile, all this remarkably without ego; Gary creates a stimulating supportive space to learn."
"Gary set a great workshop tone. He was totally supportive and inclusive, expertly steering discussion but also talking to us as peers. He had things to add, but was never overbearing. I loved his way of instructing and would take a class from him again!"