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8-Week Poetry Workshop: The Meta Workshop

The workshop as an institution has had nearly one hundred years to develop a set of conventions that control the way its participants respond to poetry. We’re so used to the language of workshop it’s become invisible to us, but can that old language appropriately address a poetry that’s individual, mutable, and sectarian? Is there a more organic way to read and analyze the poetry we encounter in and outside of the workshop space?

In this course, experienced students of workshop will examine the workshop response as a genre in order to identify its conventions and begin to overturn them; will write our own poetry and respond to that of our peers by asking new sets of questions of ourselves about the work of others; and, most importantly, will examine our own poetry and the ways we respond to it, writing about our own writing.

Over the course of this workshop, we will discuss writing, lectures, and conversations about writing by poetic thinkers as distant in time and inclination as Amy Lowell and Carl Phillips, James Longenbach and Alice Notley, Terrance Hayes and Rachel Zucker, and others. We’ll use their ways of thinking about writing to expand ours—and will push each other toward a more authentic engagement in our own poems and poetry more generally.

Students will leave this class with a deeper understanding of the uses of the traditional workshop; the critiques it’s drawn from contemporary writers, students, and teachers; the less-than-useful clichés it encourages; and the modes of engagement with poetry we can replace them with. 

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 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.  

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- Workshop advice is itself a genre, which constrains our ability to react authentically to peer work.

- If we begin to dismantle the canned responses the workshop asks us to rely on, we will understand better how our own writing (and writing more generally) works.

- Thinking about our thinking means we have new access to our writing beliefs, assumptions, and ethics, and helps us understand why we write and respond to others the way we do.

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

Each student will turn in at least two (if not three) poems over the course of the class. Students will be asked to turn in written reflections on and responses to the work of their peers and their own work weekly.

COURSE SKELETON:

Week 1: Introductions and a brief history of the writing workshop

Week 2: Workshop #1/contemporary responses to the traditional workshop

Week 3: Workshop #2/the workshop response as a genre/reflection

Week 4: Workshop #3/workshop clichés

Week 5: Workshop #4/alternate modes of response/reflection

Week 6: Workshop #5/alternate modes of response

Week 7: Workshop #6/modes of reflection on our own writing

Week 8: Workshop #7/modes of reflection on our own writing/reflection

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

Testimonials

"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