Designing a Poetry Class

The research is done, and the poetry-writing class is taking shape. It’s going to be an online class, and it’s going to include information and exercises on traditional forms before we explore more free-form styles.

logoAs I was thinking of ways to put it together, I had the bright idea–ask the people who read the blog and who are smart and inventive! So here are some ideas; please leave a comment about what you would want (even if you would not take the class) so I can get some really good ideas for the process part of the class.

1. Should it be work at your own pace, or work in a group with a moderator? (OK, that would be me.)

2. If you want to work in a group, should we meet once a week to exchange ideas or once every two weeks? (There will be homework–you’ll be writing poetry, after all.)

3. What sort of a platform works–Yahoo group, Ning Group, WordPress private blog (only the participants can have access, but anyone can post), combination of lessons posted in one place and a Facebook group? Something else (suggest something you would like).

4. How long should it last? Fives lessons? 10? More?

5. What kind of feedback makes you comfortable? Private emails? Public posting of poetry so we cal all ready it and comment? (There would be rules about commenting on others’ poetry.)

Let me know, I’m looking forward to hearing from my smart and clever comment-leavers. And just to make it more fun, I’ll give away a cool Madeline Island School of the Arts T-shirt to a random comment writer. There is always room for one more 100 percent cotton T-shirt. And I’m excited about teaching the deep-writing and mixed media class this July.

Note: The winner of the T-shirt from the Madeline Island School of the Arts is BirdingBesty! Congratulations!

20 thoughts on “Designing a Poetry Class

  1. My wonderful t-shirt arrived in the mail yesterday. It will give me a little “feeling” of being at the writing retreat with you in Wisconsin….and perhaps the savings will begin to grow a bit faster this year so next summer I can do another writing retreat. Thank you Quinn!

  2. I’d be interested—have participated in classes via Yahoo Groups before, and found that to be easy enough…not really interested in videos. I agree that comments from not only the instructor, but other class participants can provide valuable insights. Once a week interaction would keep everyone’s finger on the pulse of things. While I prefer free verse form, and haiku, learning some structured styles is a good foundation.

  3. Poetry class sounds like it could be a lot of creative fun! I haven’t written any poetry since I was a teenager. Acckkk!
    Here are my thoughts:
    1. Work at your own pace because I think having a set schedule could exclude several people that have prior commitments at those set times.
    2. Even if you don’t meet in a group, I would have meeting times scheduled ahead of time…probably every two weeks. If certain people can’t make those meeting times, they can get the same information later.
    3. I think a private blog or a Facebook group would be the best, they seem the easiest to use. I’ve been in Yahoo groups before and I thought it was confusing and too much back and forth but maybe that was the way the group was set up. So many people are already familiar with Facebook and know how to easily access it and use it, so that may be the best option. FB groups can be made private so that only participants have access. I admit that I haven’t been involved with other platforms other than Yahoo or Facebook.
    4. I think 10 lessons sound good.
    5. Personally, I would be comfortable with posting my poetry so others can comment and make suggestions. Groups I’ve been in before have always been very supportive and encouraging and the feedback is always appreciated. If there was something particular you wanted to critique, you could still send a private email to that person.

    Good luck Quinn! Can’t wait to hear more details.

    • I’m going through all of this and getting information. I belong to two “private” FB groups, but cross-posting results in the posts not being so private. I should also say that it won’t cover sonnets, epic poems, odes or elegies, but will absolutely cover haiku, rispetto, quatrain, free verse and blank verse. What I really want to concentrate on is imagery, meaning, structure, and how to edit and polish a poem. I think.

  4. Over the past several years I have participated in on-line learning opportunities. I do not know the names of the platforms used yet I would describe the classes with an on-line shared and private communication place combined with a “live” call with the addition of the possibility to listen to the class on the computer and respond with written comments while the class is going on have been enjoyable and had the classes recorded so that one could go back again and listen to places that were significant to the learner. I also enjoy learning from a platform of videos and voice recordings with many photos…and a response and reply potential for instructor and students…Both practices provided a positive learning experience for me.
    A six session class is always a good time frame for me to fit into my life with subsequent classes available. For more than 20 years I have actively participated in poetry groups of various stripes; each group having strengths and weaknesses in the “platform used. The current group meets to learn specific information about a form or style, an aspect of a poem, etc…an assignment for a poem for the next class and a week to write. Then back to class where we workshop 4 of the poems…the workshop feedback comes after we read our written piece without any editorializing and we listen to words describing how pieces of the work, the entirety of the word resonates with other class members, what they do or do not understand, words or phrases that resonate with them or may confuse them. At the conclusion of our workshop we can speak about our motivation, inspiration, purpose, all of the poems are read and work-shopped by the instructor during the next week. This process has been very positive in my work as a poet.
    It would be a delight for me to participate in a poetry class on-line with your instruction and leadership …I look forward to reading in the blog that the class is beginning…Kristin

    • You have had a LOT of experience in this–probably a lot more than I have. Which is great. Other people’s experiences and sharing is what a great class is about. I’m starting to like this class even if all I have is the outline and a question mark about the platform.

  5. I use yahoo groups most often, and I find it easy to access. If videos are needed, you can always add a link to a vimeo.

    I don’t like ning at all. I have hosted a few groups on there in the past and people found it very confusing.

  6. Just going by the poetry group that I belong to I think homework and meeting once every two weeks is nice. Ours are six sessions long. Not too familiar with anything other than blogs on the internet, so guess that would be my choice and posting poetry and sharing with others is good, I think. Good suggestions come from all around and you really learn from that. You take suggestions or you leave them. Will love this!

  7. I’ve only been to one poetry workshop. It was a one day event, and the first part of the day involved listening to readings and music – an “opening” really. My son, 19 came on a whim at the last minute. I’ll send you a link to the amazing piece he wrote in a seperate comment. He is a second year physics student. Its amazing what the “opening” process can achieve!!

  8. After participating on several platforms: Udemy, Teleconferences with a FB group, Ed2go, Ning, Yahoo! Groups, blog-hosted classes with Flickr sharing, and Ruzuku, my all time favorite is Ruzuku.

    You can imbed videos, PDF downloads, have discussions, written comments, comment via a video that you or a student makes, share images and you don’t have to create a new email account like in Google or Yahoo. It all stays in one place so you don’t have to go to Flickr or Facebook for additional sharing.

    The lessons can be dripped out in what ever speed you wish or it can be delivered all at once depending on the instructors’ wishes.

    Good luck, Quinn. I’m sure what ever direction you take, it will be fabulous.

    • Ruzuku sounds incredible. I’ll have to look into it. There are pros and cons to every platform–for example, I have never figured out Google docs successfully. I also don’t like their email nesting. So thanks for the tip! Staying in one place is a big plus.

  9. 8 – 10 weeks for the first set of lessons (I like the series idea too) there are SO many traditional poetry forms, and legitimate non-traditional forms, that you could spend the first 10 week series just discovering them all! Some kind of central lesson plan/instruction area with group membership to post/critique work? I too like the idea of YouTube instruction sessions.

    Looking forward to what you come up with. Where do I sign up?

  10. I’m not a facebook fan. I tend to like things more private. I like the idea of Youtube videos. It’s easy to go back to if needs be. Easy to navigate as well. I’m really not much help about the platform.
    I like the idea of both participants as well as facilitator commentary and if there are rules to keep criticisms at a beneficial level…even better. I agree that peer comments are often as valuable as the teacher’s.
    Time is a difficult thing to master, we are all so busy these days. I prefer a regular schedule but I can also see the sense in making your class fit the schedules of the participants. Seems to me it would be easier to “help” one another if we were all at the same pace although each of us would come into the class with different experiences so that’s a toss up.
    It’s a big task you’ve set yourself. I hope you have a better idea how to go about it after the comments. However, I have a feeling you already know what you want/need to do.

  11. I have been on a photography class on Yahoo groups and really enjoyed it. Each student had a album where work was posted once a week and the tutor commented on it weekly. Everyone could view the work and the tutor’s comments. I don’t recall for sure if we could comment on each others’ work but I think we could. I think if you are going to meaningfully cover much traditional poetry before freestyle that you would need at least 10 weeks. There is a lot of what is called technique in other craft to cover in several “styles” of poetry. It’s not just slapping words on paper, which it can look like if you don’t have the background in it. I think your are going to have a lot of happy students. Sounds like a ball.

  12. About #3:
    If what you want from an online group is something that looks like a web page with posts from various participants, my first choice would be wiki software. is a free service for hosting wiki sites, and is a more commercial service, although they have free services too. I find wikis much more collaborative because the model is “everybody can edit this page” rather than “here is a list that looks like email”. I don’t think much of Yahoo groups, never heard of Ning, and didn’t even know Facebook offered anything called groups!

    If you want a live audio and/or audiovisual event with screen sharing, try webex (note: webex is a service from Cisco Systems, where I work), GoToMeeting, Google+ Hangouts, Teamviewer, or I use webex every day to work from home with people in Europe and Asia, and it’s very good — but I’m not sure there’s a free version. Google+, Teamviewer, and are free, and I believe GoToMeeting has a free period or something. Most of these you can use with a mobile phone as well as a computer. Google+ Hangouts are limited to ten people, I think, and the limits are higher (or nonexistent) on some of the other services. Google+ requires everybody to have an account, but the others you just share the address or phone number and users connect.

    About the rest:
    I don’t have much interest in a poetry class, I’m afraid. But part of the way you describe it sounds to me more like a salon or an interest group more than a class, exactly. That suggests to me that instead of an end date, maybe you could set it up as “series 1”, then follow up (if wanted) with more series.

    If you’re aiming the class at somebody like me who doesn’t know blank verse from, what was it, empty verse or something(?), starting out with something about how to read and comment on poetry might help. Just thinking that if I was asked to comment on a poem I probably couldn’t go much beyond “that’s nice”, “good rhyming” (or “good job not rhyming”), and “oh thirteen lines; a prime number”. There’s a possibility these might not be considered as helpful as “successfully evokes the imagery of Casey At The Bat with the spirit of The Raven”. Or something like that.

  13. Quinn,
    Well, this is exciting news! A poetry class – very cool!! I like the slower paced classes, over a period of 6 weeks with 1 or 2 lessons per week, with feedback during that time from the instructor and classmates. I think it’s hard to meet in groups with the time differences if there are set times. I am not a big fan of Facebook but I am unsure as to what other, more secure platforms there are – something easy to navigate would be great.
    I am so excited that you will be offering a poetry class – woohoo!!
    Peace, Vicki

  14. I pulled out of all my Ning Groups after finding my private, private details online, I’m not 100% sure about their security. Put it this way, FB and Yahoo and Google have never published these things and I have been a member on them for years!
    Yahoo Groups work quite well, and can be invite only. Even if you land on the home page you cannot access the posts, so privacy is good that way. You can set up photo albums and files as well as a database, and it does not hog bandwidth. You’d be surprised how many people are still on dial up, or have slow wifi access via the cell phone networks, and download limits.
    You can set up a private group on Google Plus where everyone can chat and post what they are doing; I’m a member of one which is invite only and happy with how it works, similar to FB, and you can set up albums for participants within the group etc and link to videos on Youtube which can be made private too.
    I have no idea how groups work on FB and am FB illiterate. I work on the basis that if its on there, it will be visible to everyone so do not use it for anything personal, though I gather you can block things so they are invisible?
    Can blogs be made private and passworded so non-students can’t land there by accident?
    4 to 6 weeks seems to be the average for online courses, and most participants seem to be able to work to their own pace. Feedback is important; its nice to get it from the tutor, even just once a week, and when other participants can chat and discuss things in an open forum, it can get very lively, and great fun! All the courses/groups I have participated in have had the option to contact the tutor privately, and get a private reply, otherwise things have been public and we have been able to comment on and encourage each other’s efforts. This is just as important as feedback from the tutor as by helping each other, students learn better.
    This is already too long! I hope it gives you a few ideas to think about and others will have their suggestions too! its going to be a late night reading everything, lol!

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