Opening the Door to Poetry

with Jude Nutter

opening the door to poetry

June 14, 2023 | 8 Weeks |


Text and Live Video

$495.00Enroll Now

What skills do we need to acquire if we are to express, in words, something of our marvelous complexity? How do we manipulate and control language to create something that seems beyond expression in “ordinary” words? What (and where) is this other world, this metaphorical space that poetry opens?

This workshop is an introduction to the craft of poetry; it is designed to help you explore and answer the questions posed above. During the workshop we will look closely at some of the defining characteristics of poetry—the line and stanza, images, rhythm and sound, the dynamics of tone and point of view, the interplay of movement and stillness, and the difficult, critical work of revision. We will begin to uncover the relationship between form and content and come to understand how a poem’s pacing, music, imagery, line length, and syntax enable its emotion; how, essentially, the poem creates its “argument” and emotional content through its structure. Some of the master poets whose work will guide us on this journey are Richard Wilber, Jane Kenyon, Kwame Dawes, Dereck Walcott, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gillian Clarke, Ken Smith, Jiři Orten, Natalie Diaz, Anthony Hecht, Kate Gleason, Michael Kleber-Diggs, and Ted Hughes.

Each week, via the Wet Ink platform, I will share an essay and/or two craft poems (with initial questions to help focus your explorations), and a weekly writing prompt (with instructions). Initial thoughts and reactions to the readings and craft poems begin on Wet Ink, but a weekly 90-minute Zoom meeting will be the place where we discuss your ideas and insights in more depth. The Zoom meeting is also the place where you can receive feedback on your own poems generated by the weekly prompts: this is where you can get real-time responses and suggestions from the whole group in a safe and supportive environment.

I have deliberately defined this experience as a workshop rather than a class because the word “workshop” implies saws, noise, grease, and dust; implies that the work itself, the making, is the pleasure! Poetry is a process, a voyage of discovery, full of serious play and rewarding labour. The title of the workshop has, of course, two possible readings, and the door opens both ways: by becoming more fluent and adept in the reading of poems you will open doors into new subjects and possibilities, and this fluency in and mastery of craft will allow the mysterious animal that is poetry to step through that door and enter your own creations so that they become an embodiment of (not just a statement about) an idea or feeling. Poetry, after all, is alive: let’s open the door!

Learning and Writing Goals

  • Explore the relationship between form/structure and content in poems
  • Explore the main aspects of poetic craft
  • Gain confidence in the ability to manipulate language to craft poems that reveal and enact their subject.
  • Encourage the development of a sustainable poetic practice, which involves close reading, daily/weekly generative writing, and a commitment to revision.
  • Create a portfolio of at least 6 new works/drafts of poems
  • Receive poem feedback from peers and the instructor in a weekly Zoom workshop
  • Provide various strategies for revision (essentially “re-visioning”) of initial drafts

Weekly Zoom Schedule

Opening the Door to Poetry will meet every Wednesday from 5.00-6.30 pm Central Standard Time.

Zoom sessions will be 90 minutes in length.


Week One: To Break or Not to Break: The Line

The line as your most powerful and problematic tool. What is the relationship between the line and the sentence in free verse poetry? How do free verse lines create and maintain their music, pacing, and the reader’s interest? The power and function of enjambment. Introduction to meter.

Week Two: The Poem’s Rooms: The Stanza

What is the stanza? Why do some poets break the block of the text into sections leaving areas of white space on the page? Among other things, stanzas help organize and pace a poem and can indicate subtle shifts in tone or direction.

Week Three: Working the Image

Images in poetry can be both literal and figurative. But what do we mean when we talk about a “figurative image” in poetry? And why are figurative images so powerful? A look at how images, both literal and figurative, can direct a reader toward insight; at how poets choose and arrange their images in the service of the poem.

Week Four: Motion and Stillness: The Lyric and the Narrative

The lyric in poetry is associated with feelings or experiences; the narrative is, of course, concerned with story, but the lyric and narrative are not absolutes: most poems move back and forth between the narrative “pull” and the lyric “moment.” The look at the concept of the “ghost of the narrative” in the lyric and at the narrative poem under “lyric pressure”.

Week Five: The Joy of Form: Sestina, Villanelle, Accentual and Syllabic Verse

A look at two traditional poetic forms (sestina and villanelle). Writing in form is a challenge and can send you down interesting paths as it forces you to rethink your syntax and diction to “fit the form”. A look at poems that structure and pace the poem through stresses and syllable count.

Week Six: Re-visioning/Revision and the Importance of Titles

What do you do when a poem comes to grinding halt, backs itself into a corner; when you feel you have lost the impulse and the music that initiated the poem in the first place? True revision as a re-visioning of the poem’s potential.

What about titles? Titles are not simple “tacked onto” a poem: they are one of the poem’s vital working parts. An exploration of strategies for finding the “right” kind of title for your poems.

Week Seven: Who’s talking? Point of View and Tone

A shift in point of view shifts the tone and focus of a poem, but why? An exploration of the different “relationships” that occur between (1) the reader and the poem, (2) the reader and the speaker, and (3) the poem and the speaker when we shift points of view.

Week Eight: A Good Send-off: The Importance of Closure

A poem, of course, must end/close at some point, but what makes a successful closure? Successful closure (like a successful title) is never “tacked onto” a poem. A look at various ways of closing a poem through content (subject) and structure.

$495.00Enroll Now

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jude nutter


Jude Nutter was born in Yorkshire, England, and grew up near Hannover, in northern Germany. She studied printmaking at Winchester School of Art (UK) and received her MFA in poetry from The University of Oregon. Her poems have appeared in numerous national and international journals and have received over forty awards and grants, including two McKnight Fellowships, The Moth International Poetry Prize, The Larry Levis Prize, The William Matthews Prize, the Joy Harjo Poetry Award, and grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the National Science Foundation’s Writers and Artists Program in Antarctica. Her first book-length collection, Pictures of the Afterlife (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), winner of the Irish Listowel Prize, was published in 2002. The Curator of Silence (University of Notre Dame Press), her second collection, won the Ernest Sandeen Prize and was awarded the 2007 Minnesota Book Award in poetry. A third collection, I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman (University of Notre Dame Press), was awarded the 2010 Minnesota Book Award in poetry and voted Poetry Book of the Year by ForeWord Review, New York. Her most recent collection, Dead Reckoning (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), was a Minnesota Book Award finalist and listed in The Telegraph (UK) as one the 10 best collections published in Ireland and the UK in 2021. She currently lives in Minneapolis, and divides her time between Minnesota and Dingle, Ireland, where she has a family home.