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:   

Student Feedback for Joy

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

Joy Roulier Sawyer is an exceptional teacher. She is so supportive and provided comments each week for the writing assignment. The workshop was very engaging and interactive, as I was able to share portions of my poems and comment on poems we read from published authors. I loved the 3-5 minute poetry exercises. Luke Corda

Joy is a dynamic and extremely knowledgable teacher. Her feedback was very inspiring. I always looked forward to her class and all her wisdom. I never knew I could write poetry and I am finding out I am pretty good at it. Bonnie Markham

Joy is simply an amazing instructor, and this is an amazing course. I learned a lot. Saif Nizam

I had such a blast in this course. Joy might be my favorite teacher I’ve ever had. Her enthusiasm, openness, and non-judgemental approach made me feel so comfortable in a class that was my first exposure to poetry. I also loved her approach to giving feedback that was always positive and still felt constructive and so valuable. I’d gladly sign up for any class that Joy is teaching! Ronke Aderonmu

Joy is a stellar teacher! She comes so prepared for each class. And she is: Engaging. Fun. Smart. And Resourceful. I learned a lot and enjoyed the whole session! Sue Lydon

Joy is an impeccable teacher, providing the perfect balance of instruction and fun. I wasn’t sure I even liked poetry until I took Joy’s course, where she showed me true delight and joy. Jeanne-Marie Bakehouse

I really enjoyed the course and feel that I gained so much from it. Joy Roulier Sawyer is an amazing teacher! She brings tons of information to the subject. Her feedback on assignments is so thorough and highly thoughtful. She always brings such enthusiasm to everything that she does. Lisa Gibson

The Joy of Poetry was an excellent class. Joy is an encouraging and thoughtful teacher. She models specific and constructive feedback for all participants. I have learned a great deal from this class and the previous class I took from her. My writing has improved significantly! Helen Matusow-Ayres

More than anything, the class gave me confidence in my instincts and my writing, and helped me to claim my love of poetry and writing poetry – without apology! Kathryn Kempton Amaral

Joy is a tremendous teacher and an enthusiastic person who has made me want to write at a time of my life when I wanted to be as far from pen and paper as possible. Her enthusiasm and love of poetry is truly infectious. She challenged us to write on the spot with no pressure or judgement. The way she analyzed poetry made it understandable and accessible. Without a doubt one of the best writing teachers I’ve ever had because she made me want to write. Joe Medeiros

Joy spoiled me! Sheila Abner

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

The course was fantastic! Joy Sawyer is a wonderful and inspiring teacher, she is a fine writer and poet. I loved the exposure to different forms in poetry, and the experience of writing and sharing the poems for feedback from the group and from Joy. Chelsea Congdon

My experience with Joy was beyond excellent. Joy has a kind, calm, yet instructional presence that set the tone for both education, inspiration, participation, and community building among the group. As a beginner, I learned so much from her class. Daphne Mazarakis

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

Joy was really well-versed in the topic, shared her expertise in a way that was not demeaning. She did a fine job of pacing the class so we could write and process as well as learn new information. Annette Gagliardi

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