Poetry Workshop: Bring Your Poems to Life
with Rosemary Tantra Bensko
Beginners and experienced poets welcome! Join us for this workshop on creating powerful poems—poems that are clear and organized, fresh and moving, full of life.
Each week, we will react succinctly to a published poem to help deepen our understanding of the meanings, choices, techniques, and experiences in poems we read. We will also explore optional readings in literary criticism, but overall, the reading load is light.
We will start by writing parts of poems to practice basic elements, and soon compose full works for feedback and revision suggestions from everyone. Since successful poetry often arises only from flashes of inspiration, fragments of poems are always accepted for assignments. We will workshop one another’s poems, encouraging and cheering on, expressing how each poem makes us feel, and suggesting possibilities for revision.
As we conclude, we will explore finding resonant poetry magazines and anthologies to read and submit to, and to plan for the future by creating chapbooks, giving readings, and interacting with the poetry community.
This course was challenging and fun. I am a better poet thanks to Rosemary.
We will learn:
- To understand the elements of poetry, including a poem’s meanings, choices, techniques, and experiences.
- To listen to a poem’s sound, rhythm, and repetition.
- To infuse a poem with emotion and nuance.
- To avoid common issues in poetry, such as: clichés and platitudes, forced rhymes, overly formal speech, unpleasant rhythms, generic abstract language, overused topics, sentimentality, and expository or summary writing.
- To get out of the head, and into the body and the flow of energy.
- To ground ourselves in the history of poetry, and to participate in today’s poetry communities.
Throughout the workshop, students can expect to write fragments and several completed poems that are ready for further revision or to submit for publication.
Poetry Course Syllabus
Most units include reading a published poem and listening to my analysis of it. Each week you will post your own new writing—you can either continue or revise a poem that you started in a previous unit, or begin a new poem—as well as offer responses to other students’ writing for that week. There are also many optional suggested readings throughout the course.
Week 1: Jump In!
Think about, and feel into, what you want to convey to the world, or to yourself and the class, through poetry. Write briefly about these experiences. Then write some words that are more or less poetic, whatever they are, no expectation of being a complete poem, though if you’re already experienced, you can do so. Pay attention to the sound of the words, and make them more succinct, powerful, melodic. Anything that’s a platitude or cliché, strike it out and replace it with something original. Any word or phrase that’s generic, abstract, dull, switch out for something specific, memorable, vivid.
Week 2: Line Break
Read some supplied literary criticism and history about confessional poetry and if you like, discuss your thoughts about writing as yourself or someone else. How do you make the individual experiences universal and effect readers emotionally? How do you avoid being self-indulgent in poetry? How do you get the reader to feel the message through line breaks? Write a poem paying attention to line break tactics.
Week 3: Sound
Delve deeper into the sounds of the language, including slant rhymes, hard or soft sounds, emphasized last syllables of stanzas, mesmerizing lulls, choppiness, repetition, rhythms, etc. Read some supplied literary criticism about sound as meaning, and play with it in a fragment
Week 4: Feeling
6. Do an exercise to bring through primal poetic flow of energy through your body. Write a complete poem to make us feel something strongly. It can be humorous enough to make us laugh, poignant enough to make us feel pressure in the chest, or sad enough to make us cry.
Week 5: Motif
Unlearn the concept of a poem as a puzzle to figure out. (Avoid writing on the nose, though.) Write a fragment or a poem with one metaphoric motif that lasts throughout.
Week 6: Mood and Nuance
While some poems are direct clear simple statements, such as in Spoken Word, others are more oblique, creating an unnamable mood, an unparaphrasable experience. Do that this unit, please in a fragment or full poem. Avoid common topics, rants, poems making arguments, and instead, get nuanced, subtle, suggesting through moments rather than summing up with expository.
Week 7: Revision and Community
Submit revisions of one to three of the poems you’ve worked on in class so far. Be a poet in the context of community this week by doing things that you are comfortable with, such as befriending a poet on social media or at least following some, checking out if there are any open mics (which may be online these days) that you can watch or even participate in, figuring out magazines you’d like to submit to, preparing a very brief bio for submissions, learning how to use search and submit sites. Consider if you want to work toward a chapbook, and then a collection. Learn submission rules. Report back to us.
Week 8: Transformation
Writing a poem, being part of a community of poets, reading poetry, and engaging with the history of it should transform you. A poem you write should also transform the reader. Write about what transformations you’ve gone through over the last ten weeks. If you like, you may turn in a new poem or link to a published poem that transformed you and tell us how.
Why Take a Poetry Writing Course with Writers.com?
- We welcome writers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and we are here for one reason: to support you on your writing journey.
- Small groups keep our online writing classes lively and intimate.
- Work through your weekly written lectures, course materials, and writing assignments at your own pace.
- Share and discuss your work with classmates in a supportive class environment.
- Award-winning instructor Rosemary Tantra Bensko will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.
Student Feedback for Rosemary Tantra Bensko:
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
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