Welcome to The Poetry Class

Since 2010 I’ve been running poetry workshops as a freelance creative writing tutor. Below is a basic outline of what to expect in each type of workshop – a sample of the things I regularly offer. Join the Poetry Class mailing list, and be first to hear when new classes open.

To see what classes are currently being offered, click here.
To enrol in a current class, click here.
To be added to the Poetry Class mailing list, click here.
To learn more about the sorts of poetry classes I offer in general, read on.

I am available to run poetry or general creative writing classes for writers’ groups, festivals, and private individuals, and can tailor a workshop to your specific needs.

My default rate for workshops is $150 for up to two hours, plus $75 per hour thereafter. For longer series – multiple days – this may be negotiable, although then you’re probably going to be looking at something towards travel costs and/or accomodation as well. Get in touch, and we can discuss things. I say yes more often than no.

Writing groups may be eligible for local government funding towards the costs of workshops, masterclasses etc – contact your local Creative Communities advisor. (Seriously, go look – every district has one, they’re fantastic, and this sort of thing – whether you book me or someone else – is exactly what they’re for.)

Standard Workshops (a sample menu)

Poetry 101: An Introduction to Writing Poetry

Want to write poetry, but don’t know where to start? Would you like to understand what poetry is all about? Whether you want to write poems to mark rites of passage like birthdays, weddings and funerals, or simply to have fun with words and gain the satisfaction of making something well, this course is for you.

A fun, supportive class, designed to spark creativity and show you how much poetry there is out there. Each session will focus on different skills, with lots of example poems and exercises to stretch your imagination.

Intended for people who have limited or no previous experience of writing poetry, and who would like to learn in a supportive environment with people of a similar level of knowledge.

– Recommended length 6 hours (single session), or 10–15 hours structured as sessions of 2–3 hours each.

Jump-starting the Muse – Poetry Exercise Workshop

Looking for inspiration? Can’t find the time to write? Want to meet some other poetry writers and have fun writing? A full-on session of writing exercises designed to get the creative juices flowing. Along the way we’ll look at questions of technique, and read lots of great poems.

Suitable for all levels.

– Recommended length 6 hours (single session), or 2–3 hours per session for multiple session courses. 

Reading for Writing

Those who want to write good poems should be reading good poetry, not how-to books. Indeed, every fine poem is a how-to manual.
– Billy Collins

If you wish to know the time, look at the clock face: if you wish to build a clock, take off the back. As writers we learn from our betters by taking off the back.
– Owen Marshall

A workshop that climbs inside poems, finds out what makes them tick, and explores ways to use that knowledge to create poems of your own. A combination of poetry appreciation with creative writing, this class looks at honing the writer’s most important skill: attentive reading.

This has become my signature workshop, and is based on the belief that everything there is to learn about poetry can be learned by reading it, and thinking about what you’ve read. And then applying it by writing poems of your own – the other part of Reading for Writing is a series of techniques for using someone else’s work to trigger new poems – not just imitations (although they can be) or responses (ditto), but approaches that can open up new possibilities for your own writing.

Whether you want to end a dry spell, kickstart new work, or just investigate poetry that you may not have come across before – we’ll read, write, discuss and debate, and turn your bookcase into a gallery of muses.

– Reccomended length 3 hours (single session), or three to five sessions of 3 hours each (9–15 hours total) depending on topic.

Formal Poetry

Rhyme and rhythm is back. The new innovators of poetry have headed back to their roots, and are doing things with formal poetry that Shakespeare could have only dreamed of. From the sonnet to the sestina, by way of terza rima and the triolet – a chance to explore the world of contemporary formal poetry.

We’ll cover aspects of formalism such as rhyme and metricality, and examine poems in various fixed forms, both contemporary and historical. Each session will be an investigation of one or more form, with an opportunity to put the knowledge into practice.

Intended for people with some basic familiarity with writing poetry, although no publication experience is required.

– Recommended length 5 hours (single session), or four to five sessions of 2–3 hours each.

Unusual Forms

So you know your way round Sonnets, you’ve vanquished Villanelles, you‘ve even tripped the light-fantastic nightly with the Triolet. But how about the Sapphic, the Sevenling, or the Glosa? Or Ballades, Bouts-Rimés and the Welsh Byr A Thoddaid?

From the lesser-known forms of the Troubadours, through Oulipo, and into modern day neo-formalisms, a workshop designed to expand your horizons and stretch your formal muscles to the limit.

Intended for people with some basic familiarity with writing poetry, although no publication experience is required.

– Recommended length 5 hours (single session), or four to five sessions of 2–3 hours each.

Poetic Turns

Why do poems change course? And how do they do it? What can you add to a poem by leaping off in another direction? Based on ideas explored in the book Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns by Michael Theune, this class will examine ways that poems can weave in extra levels of complexity, and prompt us to open our own work up to new possibilities.

Intended for people with some basic familiarity with writing poetry, although no publication experience is required.

– Recommended length 6 hours (single session), or five to six sessions of 3 hours each.

Introduction to Haibun

Long before the French writers experimented with prose poems, Japanese monk and master-poet Matsuo Basho was combining haiku with prose to tell of his travels along the Narrow Road to the Deep North. Part diary, part travel journal, part zen discipline, this Japanese prose poem form has captivated writers around the globe.

The class will begin with an overview of the history of the form and how it is being written in the modern era, with plenty of examples from local writers. This will be followed by writing exercises, to put theory into practice.

Basic awareness of the haiku form is helpful, but not essential.

– Recommended length 2 to 3 hours.

Writing Love Poems

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
But how do I manage
to say something new?

Ever wanted to write a poem for that special person, but not known how to go beyond greeting-card boring?

This course takes you through some of the surprising strategies that poets have employed to write love poems – lots of poems to read, lots of exercises to try, lots of fun to be had.

Recommended length 3 to 6 hours (single session only).

Poetry Workshopping Group

Want to begin honing your poems, but don’t know where to start? Want honest, constructive feedback, but don’t know who to ask? This is a chance to meet regularly with a group of like-minded writers, and work on improving your poetry under the guidance of tutor Joanna Preston. An opportunity to make the first foray into sharing your poetry with a wider audience, in a fun, safe and supportive environment.

Each session will feature the group workshopping members’ poems, and one or more writing exercises designed to address specific areas of craft.

Intended for those who have been writing poetry for a while, and who are ready to work seriously on their poems. (Not suitable for complete beginners.)

– Recommended length 12 – 36 hours, structured as sessions of 3 hours each.
Minimum of four, maximum of twelve participants.

Editing 101

It’s the thing we all hate to do, and the most valuable skill to learn – how to take a piece of writing and shape it into a poem. Intended to provide a supportive environment for learning some simple, mechanical techniques to apply to your own work.

We will begin by looking at some of the common mistakes writers make, and apply some basic principles of editing to a couple of supplied poems. If time allows, the second part of the class will be an opportunity for a couple of participants to have a poem of their own edited by the group under the tutor’s supervision.

Intended for people with some experience of writing poetry, although no publication experience is required.

– Recommended length three to six hours, depending on numbers.

Editing Masterclass

This class is intended for those who have already had some publication experience, and are looking to have some hard workshopping done on a specific poem. We will apply a variety of mechanical techniques to perform major editing on one or two poems per session. The intention is to guide you through the application of a set of principles that will help to improve your own technical editing skills, as well as giving you the chance to have other people edit your work.

Not suitable for beginners.

– Recommended length 3 to 12 hours in total (depending on numbers).
– Maximum of six participants.

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