About this Course
Why just write poems when you can write better ones? This course is built on the notion that the most exciting writing begins after the first draft. It is specifically for folks who believe that writing poems just to express oneself is like using the Internet just for email. After all, poetry can change the way you and your readers think of the world and its inhabitants; it can break new ground for language; turn a blank sheet of paper into a teeming concert of voices and music. Though any of us may have the potential to make that happen, having an understanding of how several tools of poetic composition can be used (and audaciously “mis-used”) gives you more ways to try (and if we do this right, we might surprise ourselves most of all). We'll cover key poetic terms and devices by studying poems by a handful of modern and contemporary poets and then get a chance to try our own hand at writing new poem drafts from a select number of prompts. Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to workshop your poem drafts and get feedback on your work, working towards a more polished poem.
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Beginner Level

Beginner Level

Clock

Approx. 12 hours to complete

Suggested: 4-5 hours of lessons and assessments
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English

Subtitles: English
Globe

100% online courses

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Beginner Level

Beginner Level

Clock

Approx. 12 hours to complete

Suggested: 4-5 hours of lessons and assessments
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

1

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Introduction and the Poetic Line

Poetry orchestrates its music, arguments, tensions, and environment via arrangements of language into lines and stanzas. This week we’ll address the importance of the line break, perhaps the most conspicuous, signature tool in the poet’s toolkit. Do you break more for sound, for sense, visual effect, shape, a mix of several? We’ll participate in several line break exercises and remix found poems. Also: prepare for your first quiz and a fun first writing prompt. ...
Reading
8 videos (Total 20 min), 4 readings, 1 quiz
Video8 videos
The Workshop Process3m
Workshopping in a MOOC, part 11m
The Starting Line4m
Rack ‘em Up: Gwendolyn Brooks' We Real Cool1m
We/Read Close. We/Take note. 4m
Game Over1m
Poetry Prompt 1: Line2m
Reading4 readings
Syllabus5m
Workshopping in a MOOC, part 28m
Course Resources3m
Week 1 Summary8m
Quiz1 practice exercises
On the Line10m

2

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Abstraction and Image

Abstraction doesn’t mean “deep,” and image doesn’t mean “picture.” Images are typically understood as anything you can literally touch/taste/see/hear/smell, and abstractions are those things for which we have symbols (a clock for “time,” a heart for “love”) but no image. Abstractions and images may fill our poems, but how can you tell what’s what, and how can you leverage them to compelling ends? This week we’ll work at finding new symbols to replace clichéd ones for abstractions and we’ll work at crafting images that do more than add furniture to a poem, but create systems of relationships, moods, and even style. ...
Reading
5 videos (Total 14 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video5 videos
Beauty’s in the Eye of the Bewildered: Harryette Mullen's [if your complexion is a mess.]1m
The Wonky Chocolate Factory4m
Read in the Shade2m
Poetry Prompt 2: Abstraction & Image2m
Reading1 readings
Week 2 Summary8m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Abstraction & Image10m

3

Section
Clock
3 hours to complete

Metaphor and Other Formulas of Difference

Most of us think of simile and metaphor, personification and other similar figures of speech as being about similarities between objects, concepts, and entities. But the juice in these formulas comes from how different the two things being compared seem to be. This is why writing: “the shark moved like a fish” is, alone, a lot less interesting than saying “the shark moved like a squad car.” We’ll talk about how playing with difference via juxtaposition can create a range of poetic effects. Then you’ll write a poem built of one robustly developed or several contrasting juxtapositions. We'll end this module with yet another quiz, and our first poetry workshop -- facilitated through a peer assessed assignment....
Reading
5 videos (Total 18 min), 1 reading, 2 quizzes
Video5 videos
Home Cooking: Victor Hernández Cruz's Red Beans1m
Lilies and Lava 4m
After Dinner Meant1m
Poetry Prompt 3: Metaphor2m
Reading1 readings
Week 3 Summary8m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Metaphor10m

4

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Rhyme

This week we’ll explore how rhyme leverages patterns of sameness and how we can estrange similarity for compelling poetic effects. We’ll check out examples of “rhyme”—sonic, visual, conceptual—from outside of poetry too. ...
Reading
5 videos (Total 14 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video5 videos
There’s No “A” in Showdown: Cathy Park Hong's Ballad in A1m
Lipo-what?!5m
What That Was2m
Poetry Prompt 4: Rhyme1m
Reading1 readings
Week 4 Summary8m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Rhyme10m

5

Section
Clock
3 hours to complete

Rhythm

All spoken language has rhythm, the trick is working the rhythm in such a way that drives your poem toward the effects you’re after. Maybe you want a fluid, seductive, propulsive rhythm. Perhaps something that halts or stutters. We’ll use traditional western concepts of meter as a means to open the door to this discussion, but we may leave them at the door upon entry. ...
Reading
6 videos (Total 21 min), 1 reading, 2 quizzes
Video6 videos
Rock “The Bells”: Edgar Allan Poe's The Bells1m
Put A Ring On It4m
For Whom the Bell Falls4m
Clap Clap Clap0m
Poetry Prompt 5: Rhythm2m
Reading1 readings
Week 5 Summary8m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Rhythm10m

6

Section
Clock
3 hours to complete

Sharpened Poetry: Revision Strategies

When you revise a poem, you are not trying to dull the emotional flash of your first draft. You must, instead, intensify it. In this, our final week, we’ll discuss the difference between revision and editing, the art of reading your own work critically, and the beauty of drafts. For your final peer review, you’ll turn in (and in turn, assess) a revision of one of the poems from the preceding 5 modules....
Reading
11 videos (Total 26 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video11 videos
What is Revision?3m
Where Do I Start Revising?2m
How Do I Start Revising a Poem I’ve Written in Form?3m
How do I Incorporate Workshop Feedback Into the Revision Process?4m
Revision Recap0m
Give Yourself A Break1m
Furniture and Figures2m
Just in the Nick of Rhyme2m
Rhythm-a-Ning-a-Gain3m
Final Thoughts1m
Reading1 readings
Course Credits8m
4.7
Direction Signs

50%

started a new career after completing these courses
Briefcase

83%

got a tangible career benefit from this course

Top Reviews

By ARNov 2nd 2015

I have learned so much and I love D's energy and the avid participation of the other students. Will definitely pass on what I've learned. Can't wait for more courses like this in the future! :)

By JKAug 22nd 2016

Wonderful, learning about writing poetry here is IT! I will always use this to go forward and once in a while come back to freshen up. Thank you, there's nothing else out there like this class!

Instructor

Avatar

Douglas Kearney

Faculty, MFA in Writing Program

About California Institute of the Arts

CalArts has earned an international reputation as the leading college of the visual and performing arts in the United States. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. ...

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • If you pay for this course, you will have access to all of the features and content you need to earn a Course Certificate. If you complete the course successfully, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. Note that the Course Certificate does not represent official academic credit from the partner institution offering the course.

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