Finding Wildness and Freedom in Poetry

with Moriel Rothman-Zecher

finding wildness and freedom in poetry

Reading and writing poetry can be a tremendous source of playfulness and freedom, if only we let it.

Poetry, I think, is the highest written art form, the one whose form strives most fundamentally to “tell the truth but tell it slant” (Emily Dickinson). And yet: Poetry does not have to be daunting or alienating. Rather, reading and writing poetry can be a source of ease, wildness, experimentation and exploration: “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” (Walt Whitman).

In teaching poetry classes and workshops over the years, I often hear the following: (1) “I don’t like poetry,” and (2) “I’m bad at writing poetry.” And beneath the surface of these two things — the dislike and the self-doubt— one can often hear: “I’m scared of poetry.” In this one-day workshop, we’ll seek to address each of these points.

First, in terms of the dislike of poetry, as the great Marianne Moore put it, “I too, dislike it.” It’s pretentious, confusing, obfuscating, infuriating. However, as Moore continues, “Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers/ that there is in/ it after all, a place for the genuine.”

Next, in terms of one’s being “bad” at writing poetry: this will be the starting point for our first in-class writing exercise and discussion—what, precisely, makes poetry “bad”?

And finally, regarding the fear of poetry pulsing beneath the surface of these first two items: We should be scared of poetry, all of us. It is an awesome thing, in the Biblical sense of the word. Poetry is an effort to tell the truth, to translate life and love and agony and death into words; it doesn’t matter what we write about, for, as Frank X. Gaspar put it, “It’s never the aboutness of anything but the wailing underneath it.” So, there is space for the fear of poetry—and then for us to write our own poems anyway, playfully, bravely, recklessly, yawpingly. Not in spite of this fear, but alongside it.

Join this workshop, and come away with a renewed—or new—sense of playfulness and freedom in writing your own poems, and more freedom to write wild, weird, wondrous poetry.

Learning and Writing Goals

You will come away with:

  • A greater sense of comfort, ease, lightheartedness, and freedom in reading and writing poetry.
  • Connection with other poets and writers.
  • The beginnings of one or several new poems that can take your work in new directions.

Webinar Schedule

This webinar runs from 7-9 P.M. U.S. Eastern Time.

7:00-7:15 – introductions, intentions
7:15-7:25- opening craft talk
7:25-7:35 – first writing exercise
7:35-7:50 – sharing and discussion
7:50-7:55 – five min break
7:55-8:05 – second writing exercise
8:05-8:15 – sharing and discussion
8:25 – 8:35 – third writing exercise
8:35-8:50 – Q&A
8:50-9:00 – closing circle

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Student Feedback for Moriel Rothman-Zecher:

This setting, encompassing length, content and format, facilitated by a warm and knowledgeable teacher, offered a great dipping point into a craft that can be intimidating for so many of us! A wonderfully positive experience! Rosemarie McGourty

The workshop was great. The teacher was great. I learned about modern sonnets and I am so happy. Avis Dawkins

moriel rothman zecher headshot


Moriel Rothman-Zecher is the author of the novels Before All the World, which is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux on October 11, 2022, and from Corsair Books / Little, Brown UK in January, 2023; and Sadness Is a White Bird (Atria Books, 2018), for which he received the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35’ Honor, and which was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the winner of the Ohioana Book Award, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, the winner of the Cincinnati Books by the Banks Author Award, and longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.
His essays and poems have been published or are forthcoming in BarrelhouseColorado Review, The Common Magazine, Cutleaf Journal, Haaretz, The New York Times, Paper Brigade Literary Magazine, The Paris Review’s Daily, Runner’s World, The Tel Aviv Review of Books, ZYZZYVA Magazine, and elsewhere.
Moriel is the recipient of two MacDowell Fellowships for Literature (2017 & 2020), a Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship for Yiddish Cultural Studies (2018-2019), and a Bennington Writing Seminars Donald Hall Scholarship for Poets (2021). Moriel teaches Creative Writing at the University of Dayton and online through the Catapult Writing Program and