Online | Poetry | Seminar

4-Week Poetry Seminar: Writing the Beasts that Haunt Us

haunt /hônt,hänt/: as of a ghost that manifests itself regularly; as of a person or thing that frequents; as in being persistently in the mind of; as in ____________

beast /bēst/: as in a large or dangerous animal; as an inhumanly cruel, violent, or depraved person; as in ___________

This generative seminar intends to explore and dig into those things that persistently show up in our writing—the things we want to run from, that we often feel inclined to edit out. Here, we’ll experiment with what it would look like to welcome these beasts in, to find out what they intend to tell us on the page. Together we’ll consider and commune with our beasts, with the other things that haunt us—the things that live inside our minds, our pens, our blood, under our tongues. How can we accommodate them in our writing, bust them open? We know that they always exist; when we attempt to silence them, when we write over the sounds of their voices, when we tell ourselves they aren’t there. What happens when we listen? What happens when we welcome them in/onto the page? What happens when we tell them we aren’t scared of them anymore—to do their worst?

Each class will include one to two generative writing sessions (likely one experiment and one prompt), a discussion of poems and theme-specific craft pieces or catalysts, and an opportunity for folks to share their writing for brief verbal feedback from the class.This class open to beginners who are looking to really challenge themselves, as well as those with prior experience.

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.  


- Writers will read across genre and explore other art forms to discover new entryways to their poems

- Writers will play with and write into inherited forms as a mode of excavation

- Writers will finish the course having generated at least four new pieces of writing

- Writers will build new language and ways of interacting with their obsessions

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


- Writers should intend to generate at least one poem draft/bud per class

- Writers should set aside 30 minutes to an hour for pre-class readings

- Writers should be open to sharing work with the class when comfortable






Shaina Phenix

Shaina Phenix is a queer, Black femme poet, other-art-maker, educator from Harlem, NY. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Virginia Tech, received the 2021-2022 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is an Assistant Professor of English (Creative Writing) at Elon University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in West Branch, Glass Poetry, Foglifter Press, Salt Hill Journal, The Pinch Journal, Puerto del Sol, Frontier Poetry, Shenandoah, The Offing, and CRAFT Magazine.


"Shaina writes through and in life in this poetry made of privacies and intimacies. Shaina’s image is minimalist, impressionistic, and original. Her diction and syntax are taut and, sometimes, in the line of Gwendoln Brooks. Sometimes lines saunter newly making a scene: “a palm-tree girl of fifteen, a bush.” Such lines read like a momentary assertion of independence, beauty, sensuality, and Life, before the pull of Next. Her poems, again and again, are made on this very tension. They imagine both toward and away from history. They are poems as afterlives. They insist on being a place of healing, they dream a dream of simply being (which is part of the clarity and devastation). She writes: “I am chainless, naked, I am nobody’s lover / and I am just the girl…”

Aracelis Girmay

"To reinvent a European form (already a tough sell) so well that the poem not only appropriates that form, but gives it new life, a new voice, a new story – that’s impressive. I love the repetition of “If I” throughout, building from question to challenge to triumph in the final quatrain. That happens because of Phenix's hard-edged verbs (“twist” and “whisk,” “squawk” and “shake”), her tongue-twisting consonants, and deadly choice of repeating lines with their rough rhymes. As a response to Billie Holiday and her elegiac song, “Strange Fruit,” “I do & we live” becomes an anthem of survival and endurance, if not joy."

Deborah Miranda on her poem, "I do & we live."

"I thought the layout of this course was amazing! Professor SJ did a wonderful job teaching and facilitating workshops. The materials were readily available and interesting. Also, I felt like every assignment had a purpose and aligned with the outcomes of this course."

former student