Poetry II: Hone Your Voice for Emotional Impact

with Rosemary Tantra Bensko


July 24, 2024
8 Weeks


$545.00Enroll Now

Go deeper into the exciting world of poetry in this intermediate workshop. We’ll review the core elements of strong work, and then deepen the power and emotional impact of your poetry through sound, form, and image.

We begin with a review of essential topics like: showing rather than telling; avoiding clichés and platitudes; motifs and conceits; avoiding disparate figurative language; and how poetry is not a cerebral puzzle; succinctness as a rhythmic method; dramatizing a vivid image that will stick in reader’s minds to represent the whole. We will help you strengthen your poetry by using strong verbs rather than adverbs, omitting glue words, and dramatizing nuances rather than using abstract generalities.

Then we further your skill through exercises each week celebrating how poetry doesn’t exist in a vacuum but instead can be inspired by many things other than other people’s poetry; how to experiment with form; pleasing sounds; creating poignant images and movements that readers feel in their bodies. We also cover unstated implications or unanswered questions within a poem, employing spectacular verbs and adverbs, and the changing role of the poet as a human being.

Each week includes a thorough craft lecture, and my analysis of poems by established writers. Each lecture includes multi-media experimentation by people such as the actor/author Crispin Glover; poetry based on jazz and the visual arts; and poetic film and dance. This course is full of sights, sounds, and movements to help you get in the creative mood.

You will read each week in contemporary poetry magazines you’re interested in publishing within—or in actively reading if publication isn’t your interest—and you’ll work at your own pace to post a poem each week. I will offer insights on your work each week, and you will also share feedback with your peers.

Join me to write your most imaginative work, express your own voice, and make a difference to readers.

This Course is For:

Have you already spent time studying contemporary poets and their craft, written some poems, gotten some guidance on revising them? Then this course is for you.

We will offer feedback on your poems to help you prepare to be read, at least by friends, and most likely for publication. As such, the standards are rigorous, with a focus on the effect on your readers. However, the course will help you bloom as a poet, whatever your purpose for your poetry and whether or not you’re interested in publication.

Learning and Writing Goals

Learning Goals

In this class, you will:

  • Review all the elements of strong poetry to prepare yourself to deliver enchanting writing.
  • Shape your poems to sound their best, and offer the greatest emotional impact for readers.
  • Explore your role as a poet, including in context of the scene of other poets.
  • Consider poetry from new perspectives and find unexpected inspiration.
  • Play in the space in which you don’t know the answers.
  • Ultimately: Delight yourself with spectacular poems you never even realized were within you.

Writing Goals

  • Each week, you will write a new poem that you will review and revise according to the lecture material.
  • You will also provide written feedback to at least one student each week.

Weekly Syllabus

Note: This is an asynchronous online workshop. There are no Zoom meetings.

Week 1: Review of the Premises

Lecture: What Makes Poetry Appealing?

We go over all the points from Poetry I about how to construct successful poems, such as show don’t tell, avoid cliches and platitudes, use motifs, avoid disparate uses of figurative language, avoid cerebral puzzles, make the rhythm musical, keep POV shifts easy to follow, develop a recognizable voice, invoke the senses, include vivid imagery, do something startling.

You also analyze deeply what exactly draws you to the poems you like. You’re given resources to find contemporary magazines to read throughout the course with the possibility of submitting yours to them. Note that each unit throughout the course includes my analysis of various published poems.

Assignment: Write a Poem After Reviewing the List

Week 2: Poetry Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum

Lecture: Poetry in Context

Organized within the topic of context, we continue with more points about what makes poetry appealing, such as a sense of movement, a compelling narrator, taking risks, succinctness, attention grabbing opening. We also expand into the array of methods to enrich your poem through widening your realm of inspiration and paying attention to the context of your work rather than only picturing it as isolated words on the page. The context and inspiration should not just be other people’s poems that you study. The analysis of poems this unit focuses on the inspiration poets have had, coming from the other arts.

Assignment: Write a Poem Based on Outside Inspiration and Discuss the Inspiration Too

Week 3: Experimental Poetry

Lecture: What’s Not an Experiment, Really?

Creative writing has always pushed forward with innovation, so even if it seems like it’s been standard for a long time, at one point, it was completely different from anything that went before. Experimental Poetry at its most extreme, seems different from the norm, and yet, even with a “regular” poem can demonstrate a completely unique idea of what poetry can be. We overview the history of the avant-garde and include some opinions against it.

Assignment: Fun with Innovation! Write an Experimental Poem, which Can be Multi-Media

Week 4: Musicality of Your Poems

Lecture: Rhythms of Poetry Take Time to Master

We work on getting not only a pleasing sound but to create meaning and mood specifically through the use of sound.

Assignment: The Sound Is the Thing: Write a Poem with Careful Attention to Rhythm

Week 5: Poignant Images and Movements We Feel

Lecture: Can You Make Me Cry?

What you write each week doesn’t always have to follow the prompts; we never want to squelch what’s naturally flowing through you with the urgency of the moment. But if you choose to do this unit’s assignment, now, or ever, the goal is to evoke some kind of strong physical reaction in your target reader. How can you make your words matter to someone? With the thought of poetry mattering to at least a small continency of people in the world, we take a look at some current magazines, the state of interest in poetry now, and the most popular poets and their messages.

Assignment: How Strong a Reaction Can You Evoke?

Week 6: How Delicious Can You Get?

Lecture: Cult of Personality and Culture

So far, we’ve looked at the poem, the reader, and the context for poems, and this unit, we look at the poet. What about how the personality and even the appearance of poets as they read or just have their photos on the back of books — how does that affect us? What about the interaction of poets in their careers and in relation to the world stage? What about you as a human being? We look at reasons and personal rewards for writing, how the personalities of famous poets tend to stand out as vivid, critiques of changes during the process of the struggle for inclusivity. Prompting to illuminate your unique culture, poets that are most popular today, creating a memorable voice, problems with Confessionalism, and narcissism.

We also continue looking at what makes poetry strong, such as specific imaginative imagery, a focus on entertainment, risk-taking, and revision.

Assignment: Dramatizing Your Own Voice

Week 7: Unstated Implications and Unanswered Questions

Lecture: Open-ended

In poems in which the narrator is vulnerable, questioning, fragile, amorphous, small, thoughtful, trailing off, I recommend ending with an unaccented syllable.

It’s possible to ask questions that you honestly don’t know the answers to, or which no one yet knows the answers to, or which seem to have no answers at all, ever. There are so many mysteries in the world, such as the never yet achieved Unified Theory of Everything in physics.

Sometimes poems on such topics can be insistent, angry for not knowing the answers, petulantly demanding them. Other times, the narrators can be more comfortable with living in ambiguity and embracing uncertainty. Such poems can live static and unresolved within the fugue state or open out into the cosmos for answers to flood in from the surrounding white page.

We also continue looking at elements that make for strong poetry, such as using indirect statements (especially relevant for this kind of poem), avoiding cerebral puzzles, staying away from stating the obvious.

Assignment: Uncapture the Ineffable

Week 8: Spectacular Verbs and Fabulous Adjectives

Lecture: Verb Us All

Here, the focus is on strong, vital, forward moving word choices, avoiding self-indulgence, tedious repetition, dull, boring, predictable words.

Assignment: Scintillating, Wow

$545.00Enroll Now

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Student Feedback for Rosemary Tantra Bensko:

I’ve learned more from Rosemary than I have from any of my college writing professors. K. Arth

I have had the fortune of working with Rosemary for a year and a half. Before I became connected with Rosemary I felt quite stuck as a writer. Rosemary has brought a world of deep expertise and patience to my writing experience. Her guidance has opened my eyes in more ways than space permits in this testimony. The MFA program of which I’m a part is quite good but Rosemary’s coaching has helped me grow even more than what the program has offered.

My experience has been that each submission of writing samples I make to Rosemary brings new insight. If you want to have those “lights going on” moments, you will benefit in tremendous ways through working with Rosemary. She knows how to review drafts effectively and give detailed, eye-opening advice. After a few months, I felt I was on a new path, and I continue to grow under her guidance. I see myself continuing to benefit from her teaching for a long time to come.

I advise any person who desires to learn about writing to connect with Rosemary. There’s nothing like the one-to-one, detailed work that she provides. Rosemary is a great mixture of supportive patience and  objective, constructive feedback. Daniel Rezek

Rosemary is the real thing. She is experienced and knowledgable, tough and fair, thorough and completely supportive. It’s clear that she understood what I was trying to do; she supported that. Anne Hodges White

I love Rosemary.  Her feedback was generous and helpful. I thought the lectures were the best so far on Writers.com. There are a few classes I’m looking forward to taking.  I really like working with Rosemary, she’s wonderful. Laura Secor

Rosemary is phenomenal! She made me realize that poetry involves the whole body. Her workshop nudged me gently out of the practice of poetry as simply a mental activity with each module. My poetry has been transformed. She is a gifted instructor. Patti Croop

I am thrilled that not only did I get started writing poems, but with the inspiration and guidance provided in Poetry Workshop, have actually written a few that feel meaningful to me. I even have had one accepted for publication! Melissa Haylock

Rosemary was amazing, and her lessons so thoughtful and thought provoking. After 34 years since the last time I tried to write poetry I was quite nervous, but she helped me start to find my voice again and I remembered how deeply I had loved poetry. Barbara White

I loved Poetry Workshop. Rosemary was both pointed and supportive in her critique, and I really feel I developed as a writer. She pulled fantastic poetry for our weekly readings, and her lessons were always clear and constructive. Tamara Kreutz

Rosemary Bensko is an excellent teacher. Her course instruction and selection of poems are to the point. She’s also very sharp in commenting on our writings and guiding us to improve our pieces. Her recorded analysis of a poem for each unit is my favorite. It’s full of insight and her voice is so pleasant. Hongying Liu

Rosemary Bensko’s instructional materials and attention to student work is professional and engaged beyond the expectations for an online course. Her attention to our work is so prompt and engaged—she takes the construction of a good poem seriously and that’s exactly what you want in a poetry instructor. She attends to language, the presentation of feeling, the development of idea and story in a poem. I’m currently taking my 3rd class with her. Nina Goss

Rosemary’s feedback was prompt, copious and direct. She was very honest with her comments without being harsh or negative. Her enthusiasm was contagious and she continuously pushed me to grow and get better. I was also blown away by the breadth and depth of the lectures and associated learning material. Rosemary’s resources will offer me months if not years of further study. Marcus Hilgers

This course was challenging and fun. Rosemary’s critiques were very helpful and I am a better poet thanks to her constructive and encouraging comments. It forced me to write each week and that was good for my body and soul. Gwen Morden

Rosemary was excellent. She had a way with words! I admired her ability to herd a rag-tag band of wannabe writers a little further down the writing road. George Simard

Rosemary is an excellent teacher, encouraging yet critical at the same time. She helped my hone my writing skills and improve the structure of my work. Judy Hampson

I was thrilled with my first course with Writers.com and with my instructor, Rosemary Bensko. This was a way for me to begin writing regularly with support and feedback and I learned so much more than I had anticipated. Rosemary is a wealth of knowledge and experience, and gives generous, positive feedback that is also direct and useful. I wanted to grow my skills and I felt like I did. I was so happy that I started another course the very next week! Julie Gibbs

Rosemary is brilliant, engaged, gives both inline and general feedback and even includes audio feedback for tackling certain problems in your writing. I learned where my writing belongs and in what genre I was able to write. Rosemary is an inspiring teacher; I’ll be delighted to take another of her classes. Sophie Cayeux

Rosemary taught me so much about using muscular language and avoiding expository narratives. The lectures were amazing. I read them all the time. Benjamin Magie

Rosemary was wonderful. Always encouraging, very kind in feedback but always pushing you on to make the draft better. It’s hard to achieve that balance.  I really liked the way she recorded the feedback so that it felt more personal. I liked the  Haiku Learning website she used too. There was plenty of choice of assignment and they were interesting and challenging. Everything was useful in moving us to the goal of getting our story/stories finished. I thought the notes given were especially interesting and generous and although I am a compulsory buyer of books on writing, there was much that was new or better explained (loved the information on different types of short story – some of which I hadn’t come across; and the discussion of different ways of developing the plot was very useful to me.) I ended up with what I wanted from the course – a goodish draft of a story. I see so many more classes I’d like to do!  Sharon Bakar

Rosemary’s editing was amazing! I learned a lot about removing narration and getting to the action. Norma Kaufman

I loved this class. And Rosemary. I feel that I have made a transition (finally) with her and might actually have the confidence to really begin to write seriously . She is honest, constructive and has really help build my confidence. I am away at the moment but will be in touch re private classes with her. I will be interested in any class she is doing! Jeanette del Olmo

Rosemary presented her critiques in a positive light but made relevant and helpful comments. I often took a step away after reading her response to my work and then came back to revise. Each time, I felt that the changes I made improved the quality of the piece. I emailed Rosemary several times with questions, and she was quick to respond. I would not hesitate to take another class from her. I felt the lectures were stimulating and the assignments were challenging. Both forced me to engage and push myself to another level. I have recommended your site to others and hope to continue taking classes from writers.com. Janis Brams

Have you always wanted to write the perfect story? Explore your inner visions and commit them to paper? Be prepared, Rosemary Bensko will set you on fire…as a teacher she has the unique gift to be able to identify within you your innate spark of creativity and ignite the ether of your imagination, to reveal to you the magic of your words. She is that good. As a writer I can testify to the value of working with Rosemary. Growing up I have always enjoyed words. I love to spin them around, phrasing moments in time, to make them clear and born anew. And when I took her class, Rosemary got that right away and encouraged me to play with the tools of language, providing me resources to help stretch my imagination. With her tutorship, I was able to refine my writing skills while retaining the desire to honor that which flows from the heart. That is a very good thing. I wholeheartedly recommend you take this class and allow Rosemary to help you to bring your writing up to the next level… Paul Barnett

This was challenging and substantive. Rosemary’s readings of our posted work were invariably prompt, detailed, and constructive. As usual, the participants were serious, generous, and ambitious writers and readers. Rosemary is engaged and professional. I admire her as a fellow teacher and am grateful to be her student. Nina Goss

Thanks for the class. I downloaded all the lectures. I feel like MicroObstacles and Flow is a great technique. It is taking me time and thought to process… I want to really be able to apply this to my own fiction/works, so I will probably take the class again once I get more of a handle on the technique… I have taken several classes from Rosemary. I have tried to put all of her feedback into practice. My writing (and reading and viewing) craft have improved with every class. One of my pieces that I workshopped in Rosemary’s classes has been published. I just feel so grateful for her mentorship and turning me on to Writers.com!… Chris Perkins

July 24, 2024
8 Weeks


$545.00Enroll Now

Rosemary Tantra Bensko


Rosemary Bensko—writing as Tantra Bensko—has hundreds of flashes, short stories, novelettes, and a novella in journals such as Mad Hatters Review, The Journal of Experimental Fiction, Fiction International, The Fabulist and anthologies such as Women Writing the Weird I and II, Surreal South, Holdfast, Up, Do, Not Somewhere Else But Here, Looking Back, Writing Disorder 2, Redacted Stories, Quantum Genre on the Planet of the Arts, Cellar Door 111, No Site for the Saved, Cadavre Exquis, Ironic Fantastic 3, and Triangulation: Parch. She also has a over a hundred poems in journals and anthologies, such as Chatahoochie Review, Carolina Quarterly, Florida Review, Hawaii Review, and North of Wakulla.

She has several chapbooks, such as The Cabinet of What You Don’t See (ISMs Press) and short story collections, such as Lucid Membrane (Night Publishing). She has published other people’s work as well through a magazine and LucidPlay Publishing.

She has won awards for both her poetry and fiction, including Carolina Quarterly — the Academy of American Poets Award, Punkpen, The Iowa Journal of Literary Studies award, and the Oblongata Award from Medulla Review and two awards from Cezanne’s Carrot, and many more.

Her four psychological suspense novels have garnered many industry awards, all in large categories. The first, Glossolalia: Psychological Suspense, won the gold medal from Readers Favorite in Intrigue and also the gold award from Literary Titan. Floating on Secrets won a Silver medal from eLit for Romance for all major or small press. And Encore: A Contemporary Love Story of Hypnotic Abduction won the Bronze medal from eLit for Mystery/Thrillers/Suspense, and was listed as one of the dozen best thrillers of the year by BestThrillers, beating competitors Stephen King, John Grisham, and Dean Koontz.

Rosemary earned her MA from FSU and MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, teaching both places and at Memphis State. She has taught for years through UCLA X Writing Program and her own academy online, and maintains a resource site about experimental writing. She lives in Berkeley.