Making Fine Poems
This 8 topics online course is designed for anyone interested in exploring the art and craft of writing poetry. The course will focus on the building blocks for making fine modern poems, including: sound, language, metaphor, forms, line length. Emphasis will also be placed on discovering what you want to say and how to say it. Students will be given weekly set exercises and peer and tutor feedback in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere online. Comprehensive workbooks and examples accompany this course and tutor feedback is given on weekly writing exercises. A new topic and exercises will be posted online every week for the first eight weeks. The course is designed to take a maximum of 4 months to complete.
The course is designed to be completed within 4 months but you can take up to six months.
Students can start at any time from the beginning of February 2018 or earlier by arrangement. Fees $450 payable by start of course. Previous Creative Writing Dunedin students who have completed an eight week course will be given a $100 discount.
Making Fine Poems Programme 2018
Topic One: Where the Heart Is
In this course you will explore both reading and writing poems in the 21st century. I hope this will be an exciting adventure for you. Poetry seems to go in the too hard basket for most people But when they are searching for answers, or for comfort they turn to poetry. When there’s something to celebrate, a wedding or a birthday or anniversary, again they turn to poetry. This first topic provides an introduction and overview of poetry today and the exercises will give you a starting point to making your own poems.
Topic Two: Inspiration
In this topic, we will look at where you find poems. I talk about finding poems, rather than ideas because in my experience if you think of an idea first, it’s very hard to write something good. I dread being asked, for instance, to write an occasional poem for someone’s birthday or wedding. It can work if a line comes to you first but if the suggestion is made to you, there is no surer way of coming up with something leaden or sentimental or worse, doggerel.
Topic Three: Black on White
In this topic we’ll explore an area of poetry you might not have thought about much, that is the white space surrounding a poem. In his book On Poetry, Glyn Maxwell says the white page is ‘half of everything. If you don’t know how to use it you are writing prose. If you write poems that you might call free and I might call unpatterned then skilful, intelligent use of the whiteness is all you’ve got.’ To put it another way, it is the use of line breaks or line endings that create poetry rather than prose.
Topic Four: Pulse
In this topic Pulse we consider the tricky subject of metre as it is applied (or not) to modern poetry. I touch upon it lightly as it’s my least favourite aspect and I note that some very accomplished poets refuse to teach prosody, primarily because they’re Greek words which apply to the Greek language and they do not translate well into English language. Not all modern poets agree with this. There’s no doubt that you can learn a lot from practicing different forms of poems from sonnets to sestinas.
Topic Five: Chime
This topic explores what is meant when we say a poem should sing or have musical qualities. Music is made up of the beat (covered in Topic Four: Pulse) and the sound of the words. This seems to puzzle many readers when it comes to modern poetry. They just don’t get it. ‘Looks like prose to me,’ they say. ‘What’s the difference?’ I have got into arguments with people who can’t accept that poetry does not have to rhyme to be poetry. In fact modern poetry often does have rhyme, it’s just that the rhymes are often slant or mid-line rhymes rather than end rhymes. Pleasing sound effects can be achieved not just by rhyme but by alliteration, assonance and slant rhyme.
Topic Six: Free and Easy?
In this topic we look at various poetry forms, in particular free or open verse, that most confusing of terms. Just because it’s free does not mean the poet hasn’t worked on it. Many people think free verse is easy — it’s just a pile of words the poet has thrown on the page, isn’t it? I hope by the end of this topic you might be convinced it’s an art form. In some ways free verse is harder simply because there are no rules, the poet has to rely on his / her inner ear. We also look at lyric poetry, which has close association with song lyrics and concrete poetry, which traverses the gap between poetry and art.
Topic Seven: Playing The Unexpected
In this topic we will explore metaphor and symbolism, an aspect of poetry that often affords poetry its power and mystery. Metaphor and symbolism, gives your writing personality especially if you are able to infuse them with your unique perspective of the world. We will also look at short forms of poetry, such as haiku, limericks and clerihews.
Topic Eight: The Revision Process and Publishing
As we come to the end of this course I want to look at revision, something, which some poets think, is unnatural, especially beginning poets. A poem should jump into your head fully formed right? Wrong, poetry is like any other form of writing requiring a time of reflection and rewriting. In fact many poets spend a long time considering whether they need a comma or not. Poems have to look and sound right and it’s a happy accident when that happens first off. And finally we look at the process of getting poems published.