Poetry | Workshop

8-Week Poetry Workshop: Writing Poems that Stir & Surprise

Don’t we all just want to write the best poems ever? Poems that are well-received, ideally, ones that are widely published and win us tons of awards and ponies? But, before any of that stuff happens, it is paramount that we first and foremost are able to write poems that we love, poems that stir and surprise even the author. Poems that when we finish the final line of the first draft, as Aracelis Girmay says, make us “push away from the table and say damn.”

In this 8-week course we’ll be looking at the timeless and startling work of Toi Derricotte, Gwendolyn Brooks, Morgan Parker, Frank O’Hara, Ocean Vuong, Patrick Rosal, and more to generate writing specifically designed to tap into the vibrant emotional core of great poems. With a focus on the narratives and lyric that veer us away from stasis and towards a momentum that makes the poem “move off of the page” we will alternate weekly between generating new works and re-working/getting feedback on works-in-progress. This workshop will culminate in every participant walking away with at least four polished ready-for-submission poems, some strong drafts, and the tools to work through creative blocks.

If you are in need of deliberate time for writing new work or time for editing older drafts, this workshop will be the ideal space for any poem-writer in search of a community of engaged and imaginative folks. Whether you’ve been in a million workshops before or this is your first leap into the world of collective creating, expect to walk away from these sessions refreshed and excited for the world of poems ahead.

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- A vibrant, thoughtful, and supportive environment where you'll get extensive feedback from peers and the instructor

- A deep dive into the process from first draft to polished poem and how to give your work the best chance in the submission queue

- Four polished and submission-ready poems

*no class Sept. 5

Angel Nafis

Angel Nafis is a Cave Canem Fellow and author of BlackGirl Mansion (Red Beard Press). Her work has appeared in The BreakBeat Poets, Buzzfeed Reader, The Rumpus, Poetry, and more. She represented the NYC at the National Poetry Slam and the Women of the World Poetry Slam. An Urban Word NYC Mentor and founder, curator, and host of the Greenlight Poetry Salon. Recipient of the 2016 Ruth Lilly Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship and the 2017 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, she is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Warren Wilson College. With poet Morgan Parker she is The Other Black Girl Collective.

Testimonials

"Angel Nafis is exactly who you should be reading. Her poems are acrobatic, interested in the everyday as a portal to something better, and they know and care that the reader is there. The speaker’s eye here is everywhere, ready to praise even the parts of our existence that we’re often tired of — and I know a lot of us are tired. I hope this poem gives you a kick in the same way it did for me. It reminded me that poets are always here to take us forward."

Alex Dimitrov author of TOGETHER AND BY OURSELVES and BEGGING FOR IT

"Angel Nafis’ poems swallow blood and witness truth at its deepest roots. Nafis writes, 'I count myself among the graced' and you do not doubt the wisdom of her spirit and her craft in BLACKGIRL MANSION. The poems you will find here climb mountains! They share the glory and pains of survival against and within the narrative of family and womanhood. They fight for the love they are and know. The cadence of her heart is to be celebrated! The poems of Angel Nafis undo gravity with their shine and holler. Listen, for hers is an original and astonishing voice: 'I am here now,/speaking and giving/in bursts/of chest, and effort,/and temperature.'"

Rachel Eliza Griffiths author of LIGHTING THE SHADOW, MULE & PEAR, and MIRACLE ARYTHMIA

"I don’t always open the workshop by saying this is one of the most important poems of the 21st century when I’m about to teach Angel Nafis’s ‘Gravity’ but I could, and I do sometimes, because it is. In a cultural moment where students have an ever-expanding ensemble of terms to describe their experiences of alterity (micro-aggression, fetishization, anti-blackness, appropriation), but not always the tools needed to deal with the way interlocking systems of domination affect them in their everyday lives, Nafis’s poem strikes me as an instrument for living, a special resource for those of us trying to sustain a kind of life in a place we were never meant to survive."

Joshua Bennett author of THE SOBBING SCHOOL

"This workshop series has opened my mind to an entire new way of thinking. Because Angel uses texts of all kinds, not limiting her source material to poetry only, but drawing on interviews, SNL sketches, and dialogue from plays, I have begun to view each part of my daily life as an excavator. I had done this previously as a hobby; I love to view the world through imaginative eyes, however, this workshop has helped me discover how to put this creative lens to use in my actual writing. The workshop has also provided me with the only place I have found so far in New York where I can safely share my new writing with others. There is a common language of trust, imagination, and bravery among those who participate regularly in the workshop, and I feel both nurtured and challenged in the group."

April Ranger poet, playwright, and former student

"One of the main things that sets it apart is the writing prompt Angel creates based on the texts we read. She selects source material that is relevant to our lives, but surprising in form. Then she asks us to apply what we have learned, or more importantly, the questions we have gathered from the reading, to our own act of creating. As a teacher, Angel also sets an incredible tone. She asks questions that direct us toward the truth. She doesn’t want us to try and ‘sound smart‘ or impress each other.It’s like she’s driven the ego out of the room with the way she poses questions, so we’re left with the only final option: to be our real selves, to tell the truth."

former student

"I am writing pieces that have been buried in me. Angel Nafis' prompts unearth the most unusual, necessary gems from me. I feel able to take huge risks - because she as a facilitator chooses such unlikely, yet cohesive prompts (SNL skits matched with strict contrapuntal poems, for example) and is so openhearted and real with us as participants. I feel held in a space in a way that I have never felt in a workshop. She fosters an environment of incredible rigor, friendship, and support. I find it an invaluable part of my week."

Shira Erlichman author of ODES TO LITHIUM and former student

"The workshop has created an amazing opportunity to delve in deep into the rich material of the every day in order to create poems that surprise and drive me forward. It has been an amazing routine to have that has added to my manuscript, filling it out and giving it a different sense of completion. It also has sharpened my vision of how I'd like to approach my writing practice, whetting the perspective in which I use to search for what to write down next."

former student