From Writing Circle to Finished Poem: Turn Raw Writing into Poetry

with Susan Vespoli

poetry writing circle

When you hit the mute button on your internal editor and let uncensored words flow into your notebook during virtual writing circles, you end up with journals full of raw material. This jungle of words is likely to be full of insights, ah-ha moments, surprises, and memories long forgotten—what better source to uncover new material for poems?

In this class, we will:

  • Gather together in two writing circles on Zoom every week (Mondays and Fridays). During each 90-minute circle, we will write as quickly as we can in time bursts (usually 10 to 15 minutes each) in response to creative writing prompts.
  • This process is not only freeing and community building; it is also a way to tap into the untamed mind to find poems just waiting to be written.
  • Become familiar with the wonders of Zoom, similar to FaceTime or Skype, only easier! Zoom is the video tech platform we use to connect – you from your spot on the planet, me on mine. All you need is internet, computer, pen and notebook, and a quiet place to write.
  • Learn to sift through pages of raw writing to find the snippets that can be turned into poems.
  • Write a poem each week in response to assignments throughout the course.
  • Share your poetry with each other for feedback.

Whether you’re a seasoned poet looking for a way to deepen your poems, an essayist or free-write enthusiast wanting to try her/his hand at poetry, or anyone looking for an intimate writing community, this poetry writing course is for you.

This course was exactly what I needed! Susan Vespoli is an excellent facilitator; her pacing was perfect; she created the safe space I needed to push my craft. I could not have asked for a better experience.
—Sharon Milch

Zoom Video Class Schedule

This online poetry class involves biweekly writing circles that offer support, feedback, and community from fellow poets around the world. The link for the Zoom writing class will be sent to students in advance. Zoom writing circles will be held on:

Mondays, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time
Fridays, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time


Week One—Establish a Writing Practice

One of the best ways to produce new poetry is to commit to a regular writing practice. By joining our writing circle each week, you will strengthen your creative writing muscles, practice saying no to your internal editor, and form a digital writing community for encouragement, inspiration, and support.

Week One, pt. 2—Sift for Gold

Okay, you have pages of words that flowed from your pen to your notebook during our creative writing circles. NOW what do you do? In week two, we’ll practice techniques to sift through this rich fodder to find hot lines, images, and scenes that call out to be turned into poems.

Week Two—Become Comfortable with Uncomfortable Feelings

When you infuse your poetry with emotion, both you and your reader will feel it. However, as Steve Kowit (author of our optional textbook) says, “Feeling one’s feelings is not as easy as it sounds.” In the brave space of our writing circles, we will practice letting out our full range of emotions onto the page. Watch how this impacts your writing!

Week Three—Bring Images into Focus

Startling memories/observations/wisdom nuggets are bound to show up as you write wildly into your journal. You’ll see them in your mind’s eye! Now help your reader see/feel/smell/hear/taste them, too, by sharpening the images. In week three, we’ll practice heightening the sensory experience and solidifying the concrete details to make your poem come alive.

Week Four—Swing your Hammer

Just as a carpenter needs a toolbox to build a house, a poet needs the right tools to craft a memorable poem. In week four, we will take a look at incorporating poetic devices such as metaphors, alliteration, assonance, repetition, rhymes, and line breaks in order to strengthen your writing.

Week Five—Take Another Route with Form/Structure

Free verse isn’t the only vehicle to transport your ideas from mind to finished poem. In week five, we will experiment with various poetry forms/structures to see which one can take your words and thoughts where they want to go. You might be surprised!

Week Six—To Submit or NOT Submit Your Work

Some poems beg to be shared with the world, while others are of a more private nature that arrive in order to provide insight for you. Which are yours? And where can you publish poems that are ready to go? In this final week, we will explore these questions.

Recommended—not required—Text

In the Palm of Your Hand, Second Edition: A Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit

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Student Feedback for Susan Vespoli:

The weekly meets up have been a blessing in these unusual times. I have felt lifted after every session. It's incredible to participate in a creative space that is encouraging and kind. Natalia Evans

Susan is inspirational--positive, thoughtful, and always willing to help. She is not just a teacher, but also a peer and a fellow writer guiding the class through the journey. John Johnson

Susan Vespoli is a wonderful teacher/facilitator. She creates a safe space for each group, gives us realistic timed writings with soft landings, and makes sure that no one is ever left out from reading. Most all of us show up for the twice-a-week group, and as the days go by, our writing gets deeper into meaning. We truly end each session not just knowing each other better, but with a deep caring toward each other. This is my fourth group in the circle with Susan, and I hope there will be many more to come. Andrea Gordon

Really great writing circle. Lovely group of writers, great feedback given and received, and a wonderful experience writing together. Made me realize the importance of a good writing community. Susan's writing circles are a gift. I learned so much from everyone, and am immensely grateful for the opportunity to write with this group. Amy Smith

Susan's class was a joy. It was well organized and interesting. Susan is a caring and very invested teacher. She was very present all during the class and her feedback was well thought and helpful. Ariela Zucker

I started taking Susan’s classes almost 2 years ago and never stopped.What a blessing for my writing and my mental health. Her writing circles are a place to let loose and get creative. She does an excellent job of making it a safe space to share. Wild writing has been pivotal for me as a writer. It is where I come up with new material for poems and prose, and has also grown into a spiritual practice. I have grown so much as a poet from Susan’s feedback and encouragement. Ten out of ten, highly recommended to take again and againDean Angeles

This was my first writing circle course; I've been dabbling in poetry for a while now but had not interacted with others in this sort of setting. Susan created a welcoming, open environment for all of the students and chose some terrific poems as prompts. I am now inspired to go to the next level and workshop my poems rather than just writing from prompts. Tom Kerr

Excellent. The whole class—teacher and fellow writers—are so supportive and encouraging. Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka

This is my favorite of the three courses I've taken with The Zoom writing circles were incredibly powerful. Susan is a great facilitator. She was always timely in feedback and had a well organized course that was easy to navigate. Tamara Kreutz

Susan is a truly gifted teacher, whose presence and generous spirit create a safe environment in which to write and share freely. I appreciate her openness, the lack of judgement, and her willingness always to share her own writing. Lovely circle! Sarah Putnam

Susan was lovely and responded in a timely manner. She gave detailed feedback... The content of this class was PERFECT. Lessette F. Altamiranda.

Susan brought together a group of strangers from all walks of life and all points on the continent, and under her calm and insightful leadership encouraged us to find our own writing styles, speak our own truths, and support each other as a community. Jennifer Burton

Susan's feedback and promptness were very professional. Her lessons are packed with information and ideas.  And, after the class was completed, she kept the site open for additional time to finish assignments, which I greatly appreciated. I look forward to interacting with her in another class! Joan Connor

This was a terrific class. The lessons were well-organized and stimulating. They had excellent "lectures" and plenty of additional resources and ideas. I will be able to refer back to them for inspiration for months. Susan was a thoughtful and resourceful teacher. She was able to nurture an especially lively and collegial relationship among the class, as we discussed the lessons and responded to each other's writing. Please encourage Susan to offer this class again! Marge Osborn

I have taken a number of courses at and I have always found the teachers did a good job. My all- time favorite teacher is Susan Vespoli. She did an excellent job of providing readings that set a creative tone and she chose excellent prompts. She assured us that it was not necessary to use what she provided. I appreciated the manner in which she responded to our shares. At no time did I feel that I was taking a risk in reading what I wrote because Susan had created such a safe place. Jane Knox

Taking Susan’s workshop helps me generate tons of ideas for my fiction writing. It also helps me write regularly. I cannot wait to join her next session. Sharon Mirza

The writing circles on Zoom have been my favorite part of this class. Being able to write at scheduled times rather than around the clock really helps me to set writing dates and to write with others. Also, I like the spontaneous nature of the writing on Zoom meetings, and being able to see and hear the other students and the teacher. Noa Granot

This class was amazing! Susan did a fantastic job with the curriculum and with keeping the group moving with discussion and encouragement. Susan created a very safe experience for all of us. She's a fantastic facilitator - providing poems and lines from those poems that somehow really tap into things for me. Andi Reed

Susan Vespoli headshot


Susan Vespoli learned early on that writing is a tool to stay sane, not to mention healthy. For years, she owned and ran a Montessori school where she taught young kids, but after a mid-life wakeup call, she sold everything, moved to a cabin in the forest, and set off to earn her MFA in poetry and nonfiction from Antioch University Los Angeles.

Since 2010, she’s taught adults: creative writing summer courses online through Prescott College, English classes in-person at Maricopa Community Colleges, and has led Wild Writing circles. Her poems and essays have been published or are forthcoming in spots such as Rattle, Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, Mom Egg Review, Nailed Magazine, Emrys Journal, Write Bloody, New Verse News, OVS Magazine, Verse Wisconsin, Role Reboot, and Pact Press.  She’s received three Pushcart Prize nominations for her poetry and is the author of Blame It on the Serpent (Finishing Line Press, January 2022), Cactus as Bad Boy (Kelsay Books, July 2022), One of Them Was Mine (Kelsay Books, 2023) and two chapbooks by dancing girl press.

Since Susan is a devout believer in the power of writing to heal/transform/illuminate, she practices what she preaches with daily morning pages a la the Julia Cameron Artist-Way technique and attends as many classes and workshops in writing as she can. She was trained as a Wild Writing teacher by Laurie Wagner of 27 Powers. She lives in Phoenix, AZ with her three poetic rescue dogs, Frida, Sasha, and Lulu.

Susan's Courses