The Down and Dirty Guide to Free Verse Forms
When you’re composing without a formal net, outside of the boundaries of set patterns of meter and rhyme, what guides the way you lay your lines down on the page?
This workshop focuses on finding each poem its perfect container, its own organic form, through simple and practical exercises. We’ll discuss ways to identify patterns of sound and imagery you have, consciously or unconsciously, already created, and work on strategies to bring out the work you’re already doing below the surface.
Participants are asked to bring at least one poem with them to the workshop.
The Craft of Revision: (Re)forming Your Poems
In a genre dependent upon precision and economy, craft counts as much as content, and so much of the crafting is done on the second, or third, or thirteenth pass.
What can you do to maximize what is already working in your poems and to further develop your individual voice? How can you incorporate other readers’ suggestions without creating a poem that pleases everyone and provokes no one? How do you know when to keep plugging on and when to leave a poem alone?
During this intensive writing course we will review strategies to revise poems in every stage of development, to transform a stuck draft or to further polish an already-promising poem. Our focus will be on organic form: the perfect marriage between what the poem says and how it says it. We’ll look at a variety of “shaping” forms and discuss how to use rhythm, repetition, line breaks, and white space to create the sound and pace that work best with your content.
In addition to in-class writing and exercises, we’ll discuss participants’ work in a workshop setting with the goal of further developing the particular voice and style of each poet. Participants will be expected to bring 3-5 poems they’ve already written (and are open to revising) and to complete short revision assignments.
Shelley Puhak’s first collection of poems, Stalin in Aruba, was awarded the 2010 Towson Prize for Literature and was a finalist for an Emerging Writers Fellowship from The Writer’s Center and the St. Lawrence Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Feminist Studies, London Magazine, New South, Third Coast, and many other journals. She was recently included among The Huffington Post’s “Prominent Poets” interviewed for the 2010 feature “Is American Poetry at a Dead End?”
Shelley Puhak has received grants and awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and the Room of Her Own Foundation. She is Writer-in-Residence at the Notre Dame of Maryland University and also teaches for the MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of New Orleans.
Reviews of Stalin in Aruba
Daring, pushing boundaries of subject, form, language and imagery…These poems bear re-reading, opening up more and more with each turn, and they never settle for easy truths.
–Towson Prize for Literature selection committee
It is the authenticity of these poems that is their strength… For its unique texture Stalin In Aruba is a consistently engrossing read. This first collection is a confident debut by a quietly talented writer.
–Neon Magazine (UK)
The deception of the title hit[s] home—as what seems to suggest the fun and fantastical instead bravely lays way to the grim, biting, and disturbingly and deeply real. –jmww
Deeply political and deeply personal, Stalin in Aruba is a startling debut. …. Puhak has me hooked. This is a poet to keep your eye on! –Julianna Baggott, author of The Madam and Lizzie Borden in Love