I meet a lot of poets — I mean a lot — in my work as a lecturer and tutor, and in my own literary, writing-related travels. I like hearing and talking about other people’s writing processes, and in particular, their creative comfort zones. I believe that good creative writing teaching is all about encouraging students to venture into new, and sometimes intimidating, territory; encouraging them to use techniques they never thought they’d master. And something I hear again and again from the poets I meet is, “I wish I had a better understanding of form.”
Poetic forms can be intimidating. They can appear very tricky — and to some people, they also appear stuffy and outdated. But there’s more to poetry than just free verse. The use of a specific poetic form introduces a new kind of challenge into the writing process. Working in this way lends discipline to our creative practice. It also informs our subsequent writing, giving poets a newfound understanding about and confidence with rhyme and rhythm; even with the shape of the page and what it means.
Perhaps you’re like many of the poets I meet: comfortable working in free verse but intimidated by more fixed, traditional forms? Maybe you’re primarily a performance poet and the world of the page is a mysterious place for you? Perhaps you’ve already tackled sonnets but you’re curious about their strange cousins, the sestina and the villanelle? Or perhaps you just fancy meeting with like-minded writers and getting some feedback from an experienced, published poet and creative writing teacher.
This course is for writers who are already somewhat familiar with poetry, but who are looking for a new challenge. It is designed for a small group of six to ten people, and will be delivered in a sunny, book-filled flat in Tollcross, Edinburgh, just off the Meadows. Each week, you’ll learn about a different poetic form, from ancient haiku to super-contemporary vispo. Sessions last two hours, and a significant part of each will be given over to allowing you time to write your own poems using the forms you’ve learned about, and to experiment with new ideas.
The course costs a total of £96 per person, which works out at £16 per two-hour session. It will begin on Thursday 3rd May and run until Thursday 7th June. Classes take place on Thursday evenings between 6.30pm and 8.30pm.
For more information or to sign up, please contact email@example.com
Week One, Thursday 3rd May: THE SONNET
An introductory session focussing on the sonnet form, from Petrarch to Shakespeare to Billy Collins and beyond. Learn how to construct the perfect love sonnet, or expand on your sonnet-ish knowledge and learn how to use this old form with a new twist.
Week Two, Thursday 10th May: THE VILLANELLE
Find out why Dylan Thomas chose the villanelle to craft what must be one of the world’s most famous poems, and try your hand at choosing your own timeless refrains.
Week Three, Thursday 17th May: THE SESTINA
One of the trickiest forms out there — get this right and you’ll earn serious poetic respect. This class will challenge you but hopefully also delight and enlighten you as we de-mystify the six-headed beast.
Week Four, Thursday 24th May: CONCRETE AND VISUAL POETRY
Form isn’t just about counting syllables. Scotland is famous for its brilliant, innovative concrete poetry courtesy of Ian Hamilton Finlay, Edwin Morgan and others. Find out what all the fuss is about and build your own concrete pieces.
Week Five, Thursday 31st May: OULIPO AND THE LONG FORM
Never heard of Oulipo? It’s all about setting yourself challenges to see how your writing responds. Rather like choosing to write your own epic or book-length poem. Come and see how it’s done.
Week Six, Thursday 7th June: HAIKU AND THE SHORT FORM
Find out what the shortest poem in the world is, and see if you can beat its tiny word count. Learn about short forms from ancient haiku to the American Sentence. Write (and, if you want to, share) your own tiny, perfect poems.
Getting to Grips with Poetic Form is taught by Claire Askew. Claire is a widely-published and multi-award winning poet, whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Poetry Scotland, The Edinburgh Review, PANK and Popshot, among others. Her debut pamphlet collection, The Mermaid and the Sailors, was published by Red Squirrel Press in early 2011, and was shortlisted for a 2010 Eric Gregory Award. A poem from the collection also won the 2010 Virginia Warbey Poetry Prize. Claire was recently awarded a 2012 Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award.
Claire graduated summa cum laude from the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Creative Writing in 2009, for which she was awarded the William Sharpe Hunter Memorial Scholarship. She is now reading for a PhD in Creative Writing, also at the University, and she has a PDA in Adult Education. As well as teaching creative writing privately, Claire also tutors in the subject for the University of Edinburgh’s Scottish Universities International Summer School. In addition, she has worked as a Lecturer in Literature and Communication at Edinburgh’s Telford College for the past three years. You can find out more about Claire and her work here.
“Claire is super helpful, friendly and very communicative… never a dull class. Very informative and easy to follow!” — Jules, illustrator
“The best thing was Claire, the teacher! I enjoyed the methods that she used. I thought she was awesome.” — Alan, trainee primary teacher
“Always constructive feedback!” — Persia, student
To sign up, or for more information on any aspect of this course, including payment, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org