October 7, 2020
$360 | 10 Weeks
Writing the Prose Poem for writers of fiction, poetry, essays, and memoir.
Which of us, in his ambitious moments, has not dreamed of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical, without rhyme and without rhythm, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of the psyche, the prickings of consciousness? Baudelaire (Paris Spleen)
The prose poem is a border genre that is particularly suited to tracing/speaking consciousness, the consciousness that the reader and writer encounter and join line by line, paragraph by paragraph, naturally lyrical and easily available as ordinary/extraordinary thought and speech. We will also be looking at language as verbal material to be shaped, a paragraph as a block or a visual space. Besides inviting you to experiment by writing prose poems, this course is also designed to survey some of the theories and poems from movements in modern and contemporary off-center poetry, such as imagism, surrealism, objectivism, the New York School, Language writing, Oulipo, etc. Students will write poems and stories in prose that evolve out of the readings and assignments provided by Barbara. The teacher and students will respond to student writing with positive and constructive suggestions for revision.
If you are a poet, working with sentences and paragraph might change your idea about what a poem is, revealing new possible rhythms, forms, approaches and genre sliding. If you are a fiction writer, working with the prose poem may help you work on style and inventive structures for writing.
Please note that this course can seem like a graduate-level course (if students are inclined that way), involving reading and theory; however, if you are interested only in the workshop part of the course, it is fine to only read the lectures, assignments and participate in the workshop. Many published writers take this class, but beginners are also welcome.
Poetic Prose: The Prose Poem Course Syllabus
Unit 1: Imagism.
We will read and discuss a short text about Ezra Pound’s Imagism, classical ideas about writing with precision and directness (“luminous details”), as well as William Carlos Williams’ call for writing that focuses on concrete particulars (“no ideas but in things”), especially things from one’s locality. Pre-writing and discussion.
Unit 2: Definitions & Continuations.
We will read and discuss some definitions of the prose poem. There will be a prose poem/short story assignment that privileges images and things, coming from a place you know very well. Class critiques of each other’s work.
Unit 3: Dreams & Improvisations.
We will explore some surreal approaches for writing. There will also be a selection of prose poems to read by Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Jacobs and improvisations by William Carlos Williams. One of the assignments will be to write a short prose account of a dream, daydream or improvisation following the mind as it wanders.
Unit 4: Epiphanies.
We will continue working with images and writing that traces consciousness. We will read some epiphanies written by James Joyce, and the assignment will focus on writing short prose epiphanies.
Unit 5: Steinian Portrait.
Gertrude Stein has been a major influence on many modernist and contemporary writers. We will read Stein’s portrait of Picasso, as well as Laura Riding’s Mademoiselle Comet. The assignment will be to write a prose portrait beginning with one theme or motif and then playing with repetition and accumulation.
Unit 6: The Cubists
…broke apart traditional literary ways of experiencing time and space. As a way of calling sequential ordering into question, they worked with collage methods, as well as unusual punctuation and fractured syntax. One of the possible assignments will be to write a prose poem, then find another text that has a slanted relationship to the subject in the prose poem, cut up both texts and then collage them together.
Unit 7: The Objectivist Poets.
We’ll read about the objectivist poets and their ideas about historic and contemporary particulars, an extension of Williams’ manifesto about “no idea but in things.” Perhaps we will work with collecting and assembling material, perhaps the fragments of one particular day (or hour).
Unit 8: Projective Verse & the Beats.
If the line is related to be the breath, how can we translate projectivism into written prose? We’ll read a few poems by Allen Ginsberg and parts of Charles Olson’s essay and then we’ll write prose poems that use space in unusual ways, reflecting the expressive nature of the individual writer, the relation of sound to body to paragraph. We’ll also read an essay and some poems by Robert Bly whose ideas were “contrary” to Olson’s.
Unit 9: The New York School.
We’ll read a short essay and poems by New York School writers, first and second generation. One of the assignments will be to write a lunch hour poem in prose.
Unit 10: NY School & Oulipo.
We’ll continue reading, thinking and writing in the New York School way, expanding experimentation through an Oulipo type constraints. One of the possible assignments will be to write prose poems as fourteen sentence sonnets. We’ll read a transcript of sonnet workshop by Ted Berrigan.
Assignments to Go:
At the end of the class, I will give you one extra lecture on language writing with an assignment and an anthology of prose poems with process notes and assignments that I collected from 28 contemporary poets.
Bonus Zoom Calls
Twice during the course, I am offering an optional zoom call to build a more proactive writing community. The first Zoom call will be for us to introduce ourselves and get to know each other, and the second Zoom call will be a group reading session for us to hear and engage with each other’s work.
Reserve your seat today to learn the art and history of writing prose poetry!
Learn more about how our courses work here, and contact us with any other questions.
Student Feedback for Instructor Barbara Henning
The assignments were stimulating and [the teacher's] responses rapid and enlightening. I learned a great deal. ...this is the best site I have come across for writing. ...Keep up the great work, the wonderful selection of classes, the tremendous instructors. Michelle Vanstrom
I loved the class content & assignments... The content was of a very professional/university level; it is exactly what I would want from an on-line class... Barbara's critiques were very clear, delivered as ideas to ponder and consider; and gave me much to work with during the class and even now, as I continue to revise & study. Christine Robert
This class was one of the best courses I have done. It gave me new insight, as well as practical experience, into writing prose which is alive with concrete images. Barbara's guidance and enabling feedback pushed my writing to a new level. I highly recommend it. Anne Schuster
Barbara is a five star teacher. Always available, always engaged in each individual participant, always encouraging. Sophie Cayeux
The prose poem course with Barbara Henning was excellent. She was a generous and stimulating teacher, and gave us great ideas and materials. I'd really like to take her course again. Gabrielle Daly
The lessons and assignments were well conceived and comprehensive. Considerable effort went into designing the content of the course. Barbara was a very attentive mentor, gave honest and valuable feedback, and a pleasure to work with. Mary Raihofer
Barbara is a superb teacher. She tailors her comments precisely to each student's needs. She is a joy to study with. Your classes are fantastic! Helen Salter
This was my first online class experience and I must say that it exceeded all of my expectations. Barbara was the best! She is so competent, receptive, and generous with her time and attention to our writing that I can only say she could not have been better. The resource materials she provided as well as each week's assignments will be useful to me for years to come. In summary, it was a terrific experience and one that I will highly recommend to others. Colleen Burns
I want to thank Barbara for such an enlightening, hands-on flash fiction class. She introduced us to some wonderful new authors and challenged us with an array of writing techniques. Chris Wenzel
Barbara is a brilliant teacher, very highly skilled, very helpful and very kind and encouraging. The whole set up of the classes worked extremely well and the instruction and feedback was excellent. The classes I have taken with Writers on the Net have not only been very rewarding in what I have learned but also sheer pleasure in the doing. Many thanks. Ray Prowse
Very happy. Barbara provided an eclectic mix of information and inspiration, which I never would have encountered on my own. The depth of her lectures encouraged us to think more deeply, more profoundly than I have in any other class. Kirsten Whatley
Overall, I was very happy (delighted) with the class. Barbara is always attentive to each student/writer. The writers Barbara brings to her classes are really terrific, writers, people – and I do feel I have a small network which connects ever so often online through writers.com! That is really incredible. Barbara put together a unique class which let us read very different writers, but all converging on a theme of broadening our approaches to writing about a person, one self. That was fascinating and I do not think that I would have gained that perspective in any other course. Anne-Marie Audet
Absolutely fabulous. I loved the books and the assignments were interesting as well as challenging. Great content! Barbara Henning is one of the best teachers I've ever had -- and I've had many. She is first rateI This is my 3rd class under Barbara -- and I hate to see each of her classes end. You've got a winner here. Barbara Henning is a model of excellence. Sue Brannan Walker
Barbara always provides provocative readings and this class was no exception. I liked the fact that we read whole texts his time around. The pace of the class was brisk, but not so much that I couldn't manage my time. I am struck also by how much like a graduate level seminar her classes are: excellent readings, outstanding commentary and writing on the part of her students, and meaningful discussions. Thanks for another fantastic class! Cheri Ause
[Barbara] was warm and supportive and expected hard work and great things from each of us -- which we all tried to satisfy. Were you happy with the class content - the lessons and assignments? Yes, very much so. Barbara's enthusiasm for the stories and writers she choose was infectious, and she provided enough material and suggestions and writing ideas to keep me challenged and busy for years to come. Ann Winfred
The prose poetry class with Barbara Henning was fabulous. The content was more helpful than I ever thought possible. Barbara is an incredibly talented poet and teacher. I found her critiques kind and helpful. I write very short pieces and Barbara helped me focus them and weed out the unimportant, expanding upon what worked in my work. I've already recommended it to several people and I am excited about working with Barbara again. Jennifer Grant
Barbara's class was tied with one other workshop that I took for the best instruction in writing fiction that I have ever had. I would be taking her prose-poem class right now if I had not rashly made other plans before understanding just how deeply her flash fiction class was going to hit. [Barbara] was the most important element of the class. Her taste is fine, but entirely different from mine, so I was exposed to many new and enjoyable perspectives on fiction. She is consistently gentle and encouraging, without failing to offer help where it is needed and can be immediately used. Toby Jensen Perkins
Innovative, mind-stimulating, out of the ordinary material. None of the standard information you get everywhere. A well of well-researched references. Barbara is exceptional. Her feedback is spot on. She engages with each submission and picks out the essence of it and tries to guide you in developing your piece and further your writing. Sophie Cayeux
Barbara is very fast and effective in her responses. She provides in-depth comments, yet still leaves space for the writer to decide what changes might/should made. I really value her criticism. I will continue to have Barbara do some private evaluations for me and I hope to take more of her courses (probably her next flash fiction). I will definittely be taking more classes! Jean Wollam
Barbara Henning is remarkable. She always responds right away and gives expert advice on writing. I recommend your classes. They are taught by professionals, and are well organized. I was thrilled. Claudia M. Reder
I learned so much. The assignments were very enjoyable and allowed students to experience a new/different way of thinking and/or approaching the writing of prose poems. Barbara is the kind of teacher who skillfully guides students so that their work becomes what they had intended it to be; she has a very effective and subtle critique style. Kathryn Woronko
Very happy with the class content. Each assignment prepared me for the next, the reading materials and lectures educated, informed, and enlightened. Very happy with the teacher. I feel very lucky to have had such a talented teacher AND talented writer for a teacher. Her suggestions are concrete, workable and clear, and her comments help me think more clearly about the writing. She is also flexible, willing to work with what I wrote even when it didn't always quite conform to the assignment. Mica Mortensen
This was a really terrific class. It exposed me to a poetic form AND to several different schools of writers of which I was ignorant. There were times when I really didn't get some of the assigned readings, but that's more than okay. It helped clarify my own poetic opinions. The assignments were clear and thoughtful. I did some good writing. Barbara was responsive, both to the assignments and to the other conversation in the class about art & audience & other miscellaneous topics. She clearly loves poetry and the prose poem. I've recommended it already. Sue Swartz
Barb was a terrific instructor! She was very prompt and helpful in her responses and very clear in her lectures and assignments. I felt that she genuinely cared about our writing and about helping us to grow & improve. I thought the lessons and assignments were well thought-out, informative, and enjoyable. They offered challenge without being overwhelming. Katherine Lo
Delighted. The readings were carefully chosen and the assignments often yielded breathtaking revelations about writing. The variety of choices was terrific--now I have a dozen or more exercises saved up to try later on. I found the short short formats to offer me tools that will work in my longer fiction as well. Barbara is brilliant--and thoughtful, and kind. Always available even while she was traveling, and very clear in her comments on everyone's stories. Uma Krishnaswami
Barbara is an outstanding teacher. She was caring and respectful in her responses. Her suggestions were helpful and always presented in the context of ideas to consider in revision. When I had a question about her reponse to one of my postings, she was very thoughtful in her response. I hope to have future opportunities to take classes she teaches. Although I have an MFA, this was my first on-line class and I plan to enroll in another one in September. I also have recommended the classes to others who are interested in takin an online writing class. The class format, topics, and feedback from instructor and students are supportive and motivating. Thank you for providing wonderful classes and opportunities for writers. Kathleen Thoma