Reading as a Writer

By Heart: Essential Poems and Practices {edition: 1, 2 }

Each week, we’ll take poems into our bodies through learning them by heart. Then, we will then share them by recitation and performance. But most importantly, by living with great poems day by day, we’ll explore and be inspired by master poets of exceptional craft. Exercises, experiments, and your own poems will follow. In a practice shared by Jean Valentine, Robert Pinsky, and others, learning poems by heart will make you a better poet. Learn poems by Emily Dickinson, Philip Larkin, and Robert Hayden. This is a generative and active class where you’ll absorb craft and make drafts rather than receive critiques. (Anxious learners: You’ll receive the seven poem list as soon as you sign up.)

Lynn has found a remarkable teaching technique—a way to reach the intellectual, emotional, and technical heart of a poem. And what’s more remarkable, a way to mold technique to our own creative purposes. This was truly a “Reading Like a Writer” experience.

M.M.

Blog post from 2018 class

Discovering Emily Dickinson Through Her Letters

The wit, soul and humanness of Emily Dickinson comes through loud and clear in her correspondence and reading her letters opens doors to her poems. One of our best American poets, “the only kangaroo among the beauty,” we will discover a more human side to Dickinson and delve into her poems via her Selected Letters, compiled and edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Beginning with her 15-year-old self and ending with a note written weeks before her death, Selected Letters breaks through the myths of the Belle of Amherst and illuminates her genius.

Required texts: Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters, Belknap Press; and an edition, preferably Johnson or Franklin of Emily Dickinson Selected Poems [Bibliography]. Blog post.

The Emily Dickinson Experience

In this class we will recreate Emily Dickinson’s poems in the way that she made them: from the repurposed envelopes she received, with multi-directional writing, cross outs and revisions. Then we will do some wild writing of our own with the multiple sizes, styles, and shapes of the material Emily used. Based on the book The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems by Jen Bervin and the recent Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them, we will experience and play with the what and how of Dickinson’s genius.

Required Text: Envelope Poems, by Emily Dickinson (Author), Jen Bervin (Editor), Marta Werner (Editor) [Bibliography]

Reading as a Writer: Jane Kenyon & Donald Hall

Jane Kenyon was a poet of exquisite, lyrical, aching charm. “Gravity balanced by a neat wit” said Maxine Kumin. Donald Hall is a master of plain spoken song and scrutiny on rural life, loss and baseball. Together Kenyon and Hall made a life in poetry, a marriage that lasted 23 years until Kenyon’s death from leukemia at age 47. In this class we will examine the stunning strength and magic of their best poems and practice some of the moves of these two superb writers make. Get ready for “Having It Out with Melancholy” and learning the “Names of Horses” and more. [Bibliography]

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