Making Poems

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Hi again, Tom here.

(Sonnet 18)

The class I teach is called Making Poems and the emphasis is on discipline, craft and technique.  This provides a very large jolt to most students, many of whom come to the class with the idea that poetry is about free expression and being really really sincere… and not much else.  The other assumption folks make is that poetry is about meaning and it’s visual.  That it lives on the page as something you read – quietly.  This last point is a big one, since the whole approach to poetics in the class is about the sound of the poem —  especially the rhythm of the line.   It lives in the ear and must be sounded to even exist.  And because sound is so important, all the assignments are posted as both text files and audio files, with the author reading the lines!   Of course this produces some tension, but so does posting in public — especially poems.   The up side is that once people get through the self-consciousness we discover its a lot of fun to hear everyone read!  For me the biggest payoff in teaching the class is to see writers work through the initial confusion and come out the other end with a good iambic line, a sense of accomplishment, and the understanding that spoken language has rhythm that can be shaped for artistic ends.

Tom Sullivan

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2 Responses to “Making Poems”

  1. Beth Rubin Says:

    Tom, this sounds fabulous. It would be great to post one of the audio files that you do; I would love to hear what it sounds like!

  2. Donterria Says:

    I took this class and let me say it is not by any means free form or open expression. If you want to learn how to write poetry in the correct form. Take the class. but if you are thinking “this is a blow off” keep your money and save your GPA.

    Thankfully, I passed with an A….the instructor is great. He knows his stuff.

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