Online | Poetry | Workshop

8-Week Online Poetry Workshop: Protest & Artistry

In the midst of social uprising, a global pandemic, and political instability, what is the importance of creative work in the midst of crisis, whether domestic or abroad? The great songwriter Nina Simone believed that “an artist’s duty…is to reflect the times.”

In this course, we will put this idea to the test: We will not only examine our own lives as creative beings, but also study a number of writers whose art has aimed to reflect injustices in the world—not merely as a mirror, but as a diagnostic. Our approach will be explicitly anti-racist in its focus, and will pay particular attention to how antiblackness in political and social discourse shapes all of our lives, whether or not we realize we are directly impacted by it.

This course will consist of weekly poetry prompts and readings/media across genre. In addition to poetry, we will read prose essays, watch documentaries, and even take a look at some visual art—all the while asking ourselves, “Is artistry inherently political, even when we don’t think of it that way?”

Though participants will turn in new writing each week, all can expect to have poems workshopped twice during the course. Participants will also have the opportunity to schedule one 1-on-1 video conference with the instructor.

This course is for writers of all skill levels. All are welcome!

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.


- Participants may expect robust, intensive anti-racist reading discussion with an art-based orientation

- A portfolio of new poems, begun from weekly generative writing prompts

- Two opportunities to be workshopped by the group, and personalized feedback from instructor

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students can expect to watch a film every other week, and will have weekly selections of poetry and short prose to read (15-20 pages max for prose). Students will submit responses to weekly writing poems and should prepare to workshop two poems of their own over the course.

Prior to each class meeting, students will submit responses to weekly generative prompts. 45 minutes of class time will be devoted to reading discussion, and the remains 45 minutes to workshop.


Week 1: Voices of the “Other” - reading & discussion of persona poems by Lucille Clifton and Ai

Week 2: Shaking Dungeons - discussion of James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew, “My Dungeon Shook,” and assigned poems by Danez Smith

- workshop Group (x) poems

Week 3: Lie to Me - discussion of conversation between Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin, and assigned poems by Aricka Foreman Donika Kelly

- workshop Group (y) poems

Week 4: Not a Luxury - discussion of Audre Lorde’s essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” and assigned Elizabeth Acevedo poem

- workshop Group (z) poems

Week 5: Not a Pretty Story - discussion of documentary I Am Not Your Negro, and assigned poems

Week 6: Are You Ready to Burn Buildings? - discussion of What Happened, Miss Simone

- workshop Group (x) poems

Week 7: Visual Literacy - discussion of assigned articles and poems re. Dana Schutz’s Emmet Till Painting Controversy

- workshop Group (y) poems

Week 8: Looking Back—What Will We Become?

- workshop Group (z) poems

Natasha Oladokun

Natasha Oladokun (she/her) is a poet and essayist. She holds fellowships from Cave Canem, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Jackson Center for Creative Writing, Twelve Literary Arts, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the inaugural First Wave Poetry fellow. Her work has appeared in the American Poetry Review, The Academy of American Poets, Harvard Review Online, and Kenyon Review Online. You can read her column The PettyCoat Chronicles—on pop culture and period dramas—at Catapult. She is Associate Poetry Editor at storySouth, and currently lives in Madison, WI.


"Natasha Oladokun is a poet practiced in distinctions. Articulating the inchoate with precision, Oladokun often writes about the body: its history, myths, and relationships."

Han Martin Image Journal

"That’s the lens of writing that makes Natasha’s writing feel so profoundly personal, even for a disconnected reader. I sometimes read her work and feel like the words came from myself. The language floats there, just off the page, like a prayer I took from someone else that’s still mine when it leaves my lips."

Tommy Valtin-Erwin UW-Madison

"[T]hat’s what made the workshop structure so different from others Natasha has taught. Whereas normally workshop feedback tends to focus too heavily on the minutiae of the poem’s structure — “Why did you break the line here?” — Natasha’s First Wave workshop cut straight to the meat of the process: “Looking at what the poem is saying as opposed to how it is behaving,” and saving the minutiae for the final review process."

former student

“In addition to being excellent at her craft, Natasha Oladokun is an exceptional teacher. She modeled incredibly compassionate and constructive feedback that never held back in its striving for excellence.”

former student

"Natasha facilitated conversation and workshops with care and expertise, and was very generous with her time and knowledge."

former student