Online | Poetry | Workshop

8-Week Poetry Workshop: Presences & Absences

“Poetry is a dangerous game. It sometimes drives people to find a substitute for absence.” — Mahmoud Darwish

A poem is a populated thing: filled with memory, feeling, people, ideas, and, of course, language. At the same time, and just as importantly, a poem can be a roomy expanse, a space to explore, play, and pay attention to what is missing, what has been lost. In a time when absence touches our every day, we will venture to find presence in poems together.

In this 8-week poetry workshop, we will consider the entanglements of presence and absence, and explore the ways that they are mutually constituted in our understandings of loss, desire, spirituality, and the idea of home. We will look to poets whose work approaches these themes from a wide variety of perspectives, including Paul Celan, Gerald Stern, Raúl Zurita, Ross Gay, Kaveh Akbar, M. NourbeSe Philip, Srikanth Reddy, Jos Charles, Anna Akhmatova, Rainer Maria Rilke, Nâzim Hikmet, and others. We’ll consider a range of themes, techniques, and poetic forms from which to approach presence and absence in our own work.

You can expect weekly writing prompts based on each week’s theme, craft discussions that illuminate the formal properties of presence and absence at work in the assigned readings, and an opportunity to workshop at least two poems in class. Previous workshop experience is highly recommended.

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. 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 Zoom 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.  


- A playful, affirming, and rigorous workshop environment propelled by questions, asking how we can dig deeper into our own poems and consider what might be present within and underneath them.

- A course syllabus and assigned readings with a particular emphasis on non-American and international poetry and poetics.

- One private one-on-one conference to discuss your work, revisions, strategies for growth, and “po-biz.”

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Weekly assigned reading and responses, preparing thoughtful questions for in-class discussion, approximately 1 or 2 page poem in response to a weekly writing prompt, reading and commenting on the poems of the students to be workshopped that week


Week 1: Welcome, Introductions, Course Overview and Expectations; Nostalgia, Workshop #1

Week 2: Exile, Workshop #2

Week 3: The Divine, Workshop #3

Week 4: Desire, Workshop #4

Week 5: Belonging, Workshop #5

Week 6: Erasure, Workshop #6

Week 7: Memorial, Workshop #7

Week 8: Return, Workshop #8

Chase Berggrun

Chase Berggrun is a trans woman poet. She is the author of R E D (Birds, LLC, 2018). Her poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, Poem-A-Day, jubilat, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from New York University, and lives in Brooklyn.


"In Berggrun’s striking debut, a book-length erasure of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that text becomes fertile soil for cultivating complex story of sexual awakening, domestic abuse, and liberation."

Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)

"Chase Berggrun's R E D is an inventive and socially conscious work of erasure [...] a triumph of the author’s imagination and the tenacity of their craft."

Logan February. THE BIND

“Chase Berggrun’s brilliant debut demands to be re[a]d with an exasperated, murderous clarity.”

Natalie Eilbert

Erasing Bram Stoker’s Dracula all the way down to its psychoanalytic minimalia, Chase Berggrun unearths a narrative not only of gender transition, but of the uncanny political and metaphysical transitions entailed by the metamorphosis of individual into chorus as well. By the end of this adventure in appropriation as self-disclosure, we learn that the “mystery” was self all along: “A detail in a pool of blood / the body gathered in an awkward kink / I dress myself in easy anything.”

Srikanth Reddy