Deep Waters: The Prose Poem Advanced Workshop

with Anna Scotti

deep waters prose poetry course

Dive deeper into prose poetry.

This generative six-week workshop is offered for students who have completed Anna Scotti’s Both Fish and Fowl: the Prose Poem (or another prose poem class offered at or elsewhere). Students who have not completed the prerequisite may submit a portfolio of five poems in any style to apply for admittance.

We’ll plunge right into deep waters! From our very first meeting, students can expect to spend half of our “zoom time” working from a specific prompt, with the other half of our session devoted to critique and revision. Our goal will be to create complex small works that look like prose, but hit like poetry, using all the tools available to us as poets—precision of diction, intensity of emotion, vivid imagery, lyrical language, rhyme, meter, assonance, alliteration, metaphor, and repetition—everything except line breaks and straight narrative.

Thomas Edison (with a little help from Kate Sanborn) said that invention is 2 percent inspiration and 98 percent perspiration. Writing transcendent poetry—like all “invention”—does require discipline and venturing beyond what comes easily. I’ll ask you to post two poems every week, and one of the two must be something new, started in our workshop! (The other can be new, or a revision of a poem in progress.) From the second or third week, I’ll individualize assignments, asking each participant to focus not only on areas of strength, but on areas in which he or she is less adept, or relatively inexperienced. Expect to be pushed and expect to grow!

If you have taken Anna’s prose poem class, Both Fish and Fowl, you may be surprised that in this advanced class, we will not formally workshop a student poem each week. Students will still support each other with constructive critique during class. However, the focus will be highly individualized, emphasizing writing, revising, and rewriting using the instructor’s notes, given orally during class, and in writing in response to Wet.Ink postings.

Zoom and Wet.Ink Schedule

Class will meet for two hours once a week on Tuesdays, from 730 p.m. to 930 p.m. Eastern time, starting October 17th. Each session will include a short craft talk and two synchronous guided writing periods utilizing prompts, followed by sharing of student work. The instructor will offer ongoing support, critique, and individualized suggestions for revision on the spot, with participants also offering feedback.

Students will be asked to submit two poems each week (two new poems, or one new poem and one revision of a previously submitted poem), using the Wet.Ink platform. Of course, poems may be “in-progress” and are not expected to be polished and complete. Work should be submitted by 9 p.m. Eastern time on Sundays preceding our class meetings.

Students should plan to read and make comments on a minimum of one other student’s work each week, using Wet.Ink, prior to our zoom meeting on Tuesdays. The instructor will also make comments on posted work.

There is no required reading outside of class (other than reading and critiquing a poem by a colleague). However, the instructor will provide a packet of work by various poets that you may want to consult for inspiration.

Learning and Writing Goals

Learning Goals

By the end of this course, students will:

  • Have a great deal of confidence about the process of writing, editing, and revising a prose poem, and will have a sense of how to judge when a poem is “finished.”
  • Have a deeper understanding of some commonly used poetic and literary devices.
  • Have experience in offering and accepting supportive, informed critique.

Writing Goals

By the end of this course, students will:

  • Have one poem selected to submit to Ms. Scotti for a half-page commentary.
  • Have two poems polished and ready to submit to journals for publication, or approaching readiness pending another edit or two!

Weekly Syllabus

Week One: Storms, Skies, and Waterfalls

Some of us may know each other already! We’ll do a quick round of introductions and make sure everyone understands the course requirements and is comfortable with the “sandwich method” of giving constructive criticism. Then we’ll get to work! After a quick review of the elements of the prose poem, we’ll write, drawing inspiration from the natural world.

Assignment: Please post two poems to Wet.Ink by Sunday evening. One of the poems should be something you started in class today. It’s fine if the poem is incomplete or “under construction!” Please read and comment on the work of at least one other student before class on Tuesday.

Week Two: Rhyme and Meter: Silver and Purple, Dapple and Gilt

The degree to which a successful prose poem can incorporate rhyme is surprising! There are many types of rhyme to explore, and each has the potential to enrich your work! We’ll discuss masculine and feminine rhyme, dactyl meter, macaronic, slant rhyme, near rhyme, assonance, consonance, alliteration, eye rhyme—and no worries—I provide a cheat sheet! After a brief craft talk about rhyme and meter, we’ll write!

Assignment: Please post two poems to Wet.Ink by Sunday evening. Please read and comment on the work of at least one other student before class on Tuesday.

Week Three: Grief, Joy, and Jubilation

Maybe you’ve heard the expression “Grief is just love with no place to go.” Sufi poet Rumi wrote, “Sorrow can be the garden of compassion.” What these sayings have in common is the idea that joy is made greater when contrasted with loss, and loss can make us more sensitive to the beauty and abundance all around us. This week, after a brief craft talk, we’ll draw on personal experience to write about loss—and about beauty, joy, and the celebration of life.

Assignment: Please post two poems to Wet.Ink by Sunday evening. Please read and comment on the work of at least one other student before class on Tuesday.

Week Four: Who is the You?

“You” can mean so many things in a poem. Very often, in both poetry and in everyday speech, it means “I,” serving as a distancer for ideas that are deeply personal or difficult to express. Or “you” can refer to a specific person, or to a group, or just to people in general. We’ll look at the word “you” used in several poetic contexts, and then we’ll start “apostrophe,” a form of poetry in which a person (or object) is directly addressed.

Assignment: Please post two poems to Wet.Ink by Sunday evening. Please read and comment on the work of at least one other student before class on Tuesday.

Week Five: Personification

Personification was the joy of the Romantic poets—Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Shelley adored it—but Bukowski, Larkin, and Dickinson employed this literary device as well. We’ll talk about personification (the chocolate cake beckoned) and zoomorphism (the storm raged like a lion). Then we’ll start a prose poem utilizing one of these devices.

After our usual work of generating new writing, each student will choose two poems for a final polish, in preparation for submission to a journal (optional, but much encouraged!).

Assignment: Please post two poems to Wet.Ink by Sunday evening. Please read and comment on the work of at least one other student before class on Tuesday. Please select a poem to read aloud next week, and practice by reading it a few times.

Week Six: Straight Talk and Celebration!

Instead of starting new work today, each student will read aloud a poem that is approaching completion, with a brief workshop discussion following each reading. After a short break, we’ll switch gears, and the instructor will offer specific ideas and answer questions about where you might consider submitting your work. We’ll talk about literary journals, commercial magazines, print v. online, paid and free submissions, and contests and competitions.

Assignment: Please email the instructor the poem you would like for her to critique. It will be returned to you with comments, compliments, and suggestions. Please send your email no later than Sunday, December 2.

Post-Week Six

Watch for a personal critique of your poem to arrive via email within two weeks of our last class!

Students are invited to re-enroll in this advanced workshop an unlimited number of times. Content will be adapted to the balance of new and returning students.

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Student Feedback for Anna Scotti:

Anna was a very good instructor. She is generous with her time and energy in helping students to improve their writing. Anna’s prompts in class were very good and led to lines for new poems every week. She also offered real world experiences with literary magazines and publishing that I felt were very helpful. Jeffrey Shalom

Anna is an exceptional writing teacher who possesses a unique blend of warmth, understanding, and deep knowledge of the craft. Passionate about poetry and its transformation into prose, she is a kind and insightful mentor who leaves no stone unturned in helping students unlock their inner power as writers. 

With patience and expertise, Anna helped me edit my poems to their best versions. Her classes are fun, but you will work hard!

Anna shows you how to break a poem down to what she calls “the working parts-” and then she shows you how to use that as inspiration to write your own.

I learned so much working with Anna, and I’ve published four poems since our class together.

anna scotti author headshot


Anna Scotti is the author of Bewildered by All This Broken Sky, a collection that was awarded the inaugural Lightscatter Poetry Prize in 2021. Ms. Scotti’s poems have been awarded the Pocotaligo Prize, the Fisher Prize, and many other prizes and honors, and have appeared in The New Yorker since 2016. She writes in various forms, but is especially noted for her prose poetry, which Ellen Bass called “suffused with beauty, pulsing with life,” and “miraculous.” Katharine Coles characterizes Ms. Scotti’s work as “wry and snappy, equal parts sorrow and bliss.” Also a celebrated young adult novelist and mystery writer, Ms. Scotti has guided many aspiring poets toward publication - and excellence. She believes in the power of poetry to transform, uplift, and inspire, and she knows that while inspiration is divine, most poetic excellence results from hard work, revision, and self-editing. Learn more at