Online | Poetry | Seminar

1-Day Poetry Seminar: Using Image to Control Pacing in Poetry

Time slows down, speeds up, or moves differently depending on the character of our perception. This idea has entered our language idiomatically—"time stood still," we say when we were so horrified or amazed it felt like time stopped. "It happened in the blink of an eye," we say when a child grows up or we were barely aware of something that was occurring around us.

As with our subjective perception of time, our perception of time in poems depends on the density of images we deploy and how they are deployed. In this single session course, for writers with all levels of poetry experience, we'll read poems that use image to control the passage of time—like Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour," Terrance Hayes's "George Floyd," Rachel Zucker's "Please Alice Notley Tell Me How to Be Old," and Elisa Gonzalez's "In Quarantine, I Reflect on the Death of Ophelia"—and consider how the speed of these poems affects their larger emotional impact. Do the poems build speed and, therefore, tension or anxiety? Or do they move deliberately slowly, forcing the reader into meditation?

We’ll also experiment with writing our own poems, speeding them up and slowing them down.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- An understanding of how image is time in the case of the poem and how expanding or contracting image controls pacing,

- Various starts or drafts of poems that experiment with speed

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


We will generate work during class and will read poems together—but there won't be pre-course work or homework.

Katie Berta

Katie Berta is the managing editor of The Iowa Review. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, The Cincinnati Review, The Kenyon Review Online, The Yale Review, The Massachusetts Review, and other magazines. You can find her book reviews in American Poetry Review, West Branch, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. She has received residencies from Millay Arts and The Hambidge Center, fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and an Iowa Review Award. 

Photo by Kent Corbin


"No good poem confines itself to a story--all poems that tell stories do something else, and do more; these poems do far more. They restrain themselves where restraint feels inevitable, and when their ‘I’ finds a safer place (no place is absolutely safe) they let themselves go: out and up into an environment where patriarchy and power and the heteronormative, hypocritically sex-positive, religiose (not religious) business as usual of Mainstream America can be named, and fought, and shown for what it is. If this writer sounds frustrated, aren't you? If this writer needs prose—and needs Dickinson—those are the tools. And if this writer sounds wild, that's because the poems show so much control."

Stephanie Burt

“I am going to miss this course so much!! It was so amazing and the professor was wonderful and Berta created such a wonderful environment for us creatively. This was one of the best classes I have ever had in my life and I will miss it so so so so much!”

former student

“I really liked this class and the environment that the professor created for the workshop. It was a really great course and I looked forward to going to this class every week which is saying something when the class is three hours on zoom.”

former student

“I fell out of my passion this semester because of various life complications. But I felt very inspired by the end of it because of Katie’s energetic teaching style. Everyone really felt safe in her class, even when I lacked in participation, I knew it was a place I could go to be my best as a poet, and humbly learn from the prof as well as her other students.”

former student