English 41: Poetry Writing Workshop, Spring '99

Shelley Reid, Austin College

Standard Operating Procedures, Poetry Workshop

Please read all instructions before attempting to operate your workshop.

Tools Required for Assembly (Four Books Total):

About The Functions of Your Poetry Workshop

Features: This workshop is designed to provide you with time and encouragement to develop your skills as a writer and reader of poetry. Since no two people will use this workshop in exactly the same way, or complete the same goals, individuals will design their own learning contracts (see Appendix 1) to guide their progress.

Group workshops -- time spent commenting on drafts of student-written poetry -- will emphasize specific and constructive critiques of individual poems. Participants will be expected to treat all submissions and authors with respect. Authors should use the workshops to gather feedback and ideas for revising specific poems and developing styles in general. Class members will submit six poems, in alternate weeks, to the full-group workshop.

Peer support groups of three or four students will meet each class period to discuss work-in-progress that is not being submitted to the whole group. Submissions to peer groups may include incomplete poems, revisions of earlier work, reviews/analyses of published poems, or other journal-type exercises. These are informal groups and may be configured to match the needs of individual members. Writing submitted to peer support groups will not be submitted to the instructor except (if desired) as part of an overall journal assignment. Class members will submit drafts to peer groups at least six times, alternating with presentations to the full group.

Sometimes poetry is much more a private act, requiring time for a reader's thoughtful reflection, and provoking direct communication between a single reader and a single author. To satisfy that need, you will by Week 5 be assigned a Poet Partner. Whenever your assigned partner turns a poem in to the large group, you should prepare a brief but thorough written comment (75-150 words minimum) on that poem to give to the author, on the authorÕs draft and/or on a separate sheet of paper. Please try to comment and provide specific suggestions on several features of the poem: structure, language, imagery, meaning, sound, tone, balance, approach, etc. You may include a draft of this comment as part of your journal writings. You will be assigned a poet partner who is somewhat compatible with you as a poet and who will also challenge you as a respondent.

Since poets are always people who read poetry, each class will begin with an analytical presentation by one or more students on a published poem. Presenters will choose a poem that particularly "speaks" to them, provide photocopies for class members if itÕs not in the common anthology, and provide a 6-10 minute reading of the poemÕs highlights and unique achievements. Each student will present and analyze one published poem.

Since poets are most especially people who write (about) poetry, students will keep a journal of their written work. Journals will involve both "creative" and "analytical" work; see Appendix 2 for required and suggested exercises. The length and focus of the journal will be a key part of each studentÕs learning contract; a minimum of 5-7 "quality" pages per week is suggested. The journal assignments may be collected in a notebook or pocket folder; they may be typed and/or hand-written; they may include work turned in for other class assignments. Each student will turn in two sets of journal assignments.

Finally, since poets are members of a larger community, they have a responsibility to present work to the public. Weekly efforts by groups involved in the Poetry Goes Public project will help make this happen. A semester-end poetry reading will provide all writers with a forum for their work. Students will present at least one complete poem in a public forum.

Evaluation: Attendance is required. Final grades will be based upon completion of the requirements outlined above (submissions to workshops and peer groups, analytical presentation, journal assignments, public presentation), as well as on specific fulfillment of the learning contract. A final portfolio featuring your revised poems will be collected at the end of the semester. Active, thoughtful, and respectful participation in class activities will also contribute significantly to the final grade. Grades will be determined based on both achievement and effort; the balance of these factors may vary according to student or assignment.

General Operating Instructions

To Submit a Poem for the Group Workshop (Alternate Weeks):

To Prepare for Participation in the Group Workshop (each week):

To Present a Published Poem to the Class (once per semester):

To Workshop a Poem in Full Group: Protocols

To Run a Peer Support Group: Some Possible Protocols

Further Resources: On Reserve at Abell Library

Brande, Dorothea. Becoming a Writer. Ellman, Richard. The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.
Halpern, Daniel. The Anteus Anthology.
Hollander, John. RhymeÕs Reason.
Madison, D. Soyini. The Woman that I Am: The Literature and Culture of Contemporary Women of Color.
Oliver, Mary. A Poetry Handbook.
Pack, Robert. Touchstones: American Poets on a Favorite Poem.
Ueland, Brenda. If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence, and Spirit.
Wooldridge, Susan G. Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words.

Be sure also to browse through the on-line catalog looking for author-specific collections by authors you enjoy.

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