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The Myth of Experience


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We each have a story to tell; that’s the easy part. Yet how do we move beyond the familiar trope of “Write what you know” and into “Write what you know is thrilling”? For poetry to matter, it certainly must be a conduit for Truth, but that does not necessarily mean the poem is a “true story”, or that the validity of the poem resides solely in autobiographical details. It means that once the reader finishes the piece, he or she has experienced a small miracle of transformation. Good novels do this for us every day, so why not the poem?   

Poetry is ultimately about communication, but it should also convey emotional risk that resonates so that the reader finds the experience impactful, or better yet, personal and profound. We’ll look at successful poets—Charlie Smith, Sharon Olds, and Brian Russell—who do just that by creating believable worlds and credible speakers all within the realm of a fictionalized narrative. We’ll address questions such as “What does authenticity mean?” and “How can poetry delve into the highly personal if it hasn’t been truly lived?” And we’ll utilize several impactful exercises which focus on going beyond experience to craft the best poem possible.

This class will run for four weeks and you will write, revise, and share your work in a safe, supportive atmosphere where risk is championed. Your experience level with writing poetry in not important—only your desire to allow your writing to become deeper, richer, and more complex.

Teaching Artist: Christopher Locke
Four weeks online: $175

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Image: Cross Reference by Jonathan Wolstenholme