The Joy of Poetry: A Beginner-Friendly Workshop

with Joy Roulier Sawyer

poetry writing class

April 24, 2024
6 Weeks


Zoom sessions: Wednesdays 7 PM to 8:30 PM Eastern time

Do you want to get started as a poet? Or do you dabble in writing poetry, but want to learn (or revisit) basic elements of craft? This highly experiential, non-critiquing workshop is for you! We’ll read and discuss quality contemporary poems, explore basic poetic craft elements and genres, and experiment with a wide variety of challenging poetry exercises. We’ll also have a playful time busting through your most persistent poetry blocks. Come write, write, write yourself silly. Seriously. No previous poetry experience necessary, and in-class writing feedback optional.

Learning and Writing Goals

By the end of this course, students will learn:

  • Basic poetry elements, including: metaphor, simile, image, rhythm, voice, line breaks, end rhyme, internal rhyme, slant rhyme, assonance, consonance, alliteration, anaphora, and meter.
  • Basic poetry forms: ekphrastic, blank verse, narrative, sonnet, haiku, couplets, odes, and epistolary and found poems.
  • Introduction to contemporary poets Tony Hoagland, Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ursula LeGuin, Philip Schultz, Marilyn Krysl, Louise Erdrich, Wendell Berry, Joy Harjo, Ethridge Knight, William Baer, Billy Collins, Michael Henry, John Brehm, Pablo Neruda, Edwin Romand, and Mark Irwin.

Students will write several poems using basic poetry elements and in a variety of forms.

Zoom Schedule

This course will meet every Wednesday from 7:00-8:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.

Course Syllabus

Week 1: The Delight of Poetry.

We’ll discuss some basic poetry building blocks/forms, such as metaphor, simile, free verse and ekphrastic poetry, as well as respond in writing to poems by Tony Hoagland, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Oliver, and Ursula LeGuin.

Week 2: Playing with Poetry Elements.

We’ll continue our study of poetry building blocks, as well as experiment in writing with several different poetic forms and elements such as alliteration, assonance, consonance, slant rhyme, and internal rhyme. Our poets this week include Philip Schultz, Marilyn Krysl, and Joy Harjo.

Week 3: Creating Memorable Free Verse.

T. S. Eliot says, “No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job.” We’ll discuss a variety of ways you can add more texture and interest to your free verse poems, as well as look at poems by Louise Erdrich, Perie Longo, Chris Ransick, and others.

Week 4: Fun with Poetic Form.

We’ll explore several form poems such as sonnet, haiku, and found poems, including work from poets Wendell Berry; William Baer, Etheridge Knight, Billy Collins, and Michael J. Henry.

Week 5: More Fun with Poetic Form.

We’ll continue our in-class writing using the basic poetry forms of couplets, odes, and epistolary poems. Poets include John Brehm, Pablo Neruda, Edwin Romand, and Mark Irwin.

Week 6: The Joy of Poetry.

What are your obstacles or blocks in writing poetry? How might you move forward in your poetic craft? We’ll wrap up our six weeks together by discussing lingering questions and fully immersing ourselves in “the joy of poetry.” We’ll read and respond to poets Li-Young Lee, George Ella Lyon, Denise Levertov, and others.

Why Take a Poetry Writing Course with

  • 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 Joy Roulier Sawyer will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.

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Student Feedback for Joy Roulier Sawyer:

This was an excellent course that I was so sorry to see end! The instructor, Joy Sawyer, was terrific and the other participants very engaged. Joy is truly a motivated and passionate teacher who is very knowledgeable in her craft. She set a tone in the class that encouraged participation and her feedback was always helpful and clear. I would highly recommend this course to others. Peggy Capomaggi

This workshop was perfect for me. I wanted a beginner’s class to learn the elements of poetry including terms, forms, genres, devices. The lessons included wonderful poems that illustrated all of these elements. Then we wrote poems in alignment with the lessons as an optional assignment. The teacher, Joy Sawyer, was very knowledgeable, personable, and encouraging. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the other participants and appreciated Joy’s advice for giving each other feedback. I highly recommend this interesting and inspiring class for anyone who wants to learn more about poetry. Michelle Bentcliff

The course was encouraging and positive. Joy’s approach and poetry choices were substantive and she gave us valuable info and feedback in a kind and helpful way. Janet Nodar

Joy Roulier Sawyer was an absolutely wonderful teacher. She was so supportive of everyone and noticed positive aspects in each of our writing and responses. Her responses to poetry we submitted was thorough and thoughtful. I will be looking for another course to take with Joy as she inspired me to continue to write. Joanna Bottaro

I found my way back to myself ... or became more of myself through this course. Having the space to connect and be inspired, paired with the accountability and community to create was pure, poetic magic. Thank you! Gina Petersen

Joy Sawyer is one of the most inspiring, uplifting, and energetic writing teachers with whom I’ve studied, and I’ve taken literally hundreds of classes with dozens of writing teachers over many decades. She brings a fresh and very optimistic attitude to every class that she teaches. One of her greatest strengths is the way she uses poetry to spark discussions, which results in deep sharing and great writing prompts. Joy is a fabulous facilitator who packs SO MUCH into an hour, and always keeps discussions on-topic and on time. I always come away from a class with her with fresh writing I’d like to further work with. She is amazing. Paula Hagar

The poetry class I took with Joy was one of the best classes I’ve ever had. She is a master of her craft and a very gifted teacher. I learned more about poetry in four classes with Joy than at any time previously in my life. I came out of her workshop infinitely more knowledgeable about the craft and inspired to write more poetry! Anne Ingels

Joy is an amazing teacher. Many teachers mouth a lot of platitudes, but Joy speaks words of writing wisdom you can carry with you a lifetime. She is a great listener, but also keeps things moving in her classes, switching it up with exercises, readings, workshopping, etc., all while keeping us focused on the subject. Holly Woodward

Joy is an absolutely phenomenal teacher: encouraging, enlightening. She’s very knowledgeable and clearly a skilled writer. And she provides such a beautiful, positive environment in which writers can be challenged without becoming discouraged. What a wonderful workshop. I will always remember it. Christina Lewis

In the poetry class I took with Joy, she brought the hidden poet out of every person, including myself. She gently shed the pomp and circumstance of what we may have thought was a poem, and invited us in for tea (or a glass of wine) with each poet we read. Joy introduced poetry as the democratic gateway of reckoning with life’s questions, mysteries, sorrows, and joys, and her concise descriptions of poetic terms and forms introduced structure to the often-amorphous world of poetry. I know my classmates and I now navigate that world with curiosity, discernment, and a remarkable “aha.” Marta Shoman

Joy has incredible teaching skills and an engaging, positive attitude. She is one in a million. Her knowledge of writing, poetry, and writing therapy is extensive, and through her teaching, I have learned to both understand and appreciate poetry for the very first time in my life. Twila Paul

I have taken classes with Joy for several years now. She has a signature style, one that combines her own life and writing experience with a personalized mentoring approach. Joy makes me feel that I have something important to say, and she gave me tools (writing exercises, examples of poets’ work) that helped me become a better poet. I feel heard and valued in her classes, and that is worth everything. Carol McDonald

Joy Sawyer has an exceptional ability to discuss the nuances of writing, all genres, all levels—each writer and poet is encouraged. She encourages great sharing and participation among writers. I am always amazed at her ability to hear each student, often comparing their work, or maybe a phrase, to a well-known poet or author. She gives such welcoming encouragement to each person in her classes. Mary Van Pelt

I’m very impressed at Joy’s ability to inspire and guide poets to take steps toward our goals, but also at her passion for writing and helping others find their writing voice. She is very organized, and every workshop is jam-packed with writing prompts and exercises and thoughtfully culled handouts. Susan Cable

Joy’s poetry class was wonderful. I left with so much affection for my writing, writing in general, and for my fellow writers. I felt like a part of a greater writing community, capable of creating momentum toward change in the world. I would take this class again and again. Shawna Ervin

I signed up for one of Joy’s poetry classes because I’d recently rediscovered my childhood love of writing poetry. I was hoping to improve and to understand what made a “good” poem. But in Joy’s class I got so much more. She seamlessly wove together discussions about the craft of poetry with readings of verses that demonstrated the broad application of the term “poem,” and that prompted writings. I came away understanding poetry better, with a new vast collection of pieces and the sense that in order to be “good” at writing poetry, I just needed to practice—to pay attention—and to play with words on the page. Eve Makoff

April 24, 2024
6 Weeks


Zoom sessions: Wednesdays 7 PM to 8:30 PM Eastern time

Joy Roulier Sawyer


Joy Roulier Sawyer is the author of two poetry collections, Lifeguards (Conundrum Press) and Tongues of Men and Angels (White Violet Press), as well as several nonfiction books. Her poetry, essays, fiction, and articles appear in 50+ publications, among them Books & Culture, LIGHT Quarterly, Lilliput Review, Mars Hill Review, New York Quarterly, Ruminate, St. Petersburg Review, and Theology Today. She holds an MA from New York University, where she was the recipient of the Herbert Rubin Award for Outstanding Creative Writing.

A trained clinical writing therapist, Joy taught both transformative writing and poetry for more than a decade at the University of Denver, as well as taught in the Transformative Language Arts MA program at Goddard College. While in private practice, she revised and updated the third edition of Biblio/Poetry Therapy: The Interactive Process, one of the seminal textbooks in the writing and healing field. For her longtime writing therapy work, she was honored with the   Distinguished Service Award from the National Association for Poetry Therapy.

Since 2009, Joy’s been an instructor at Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop, where she’s taught dozens of different workshops on writing, poetry, and transformative writing. In 2019, she was the recipient of Lighthouse’s Beacon Award for Teaching Excellence. Visit her website at: