A List of Workshops Past

Below is a list of the specific classes that I’ve run since 2015. Who knows, maybe something in the list will appeal to you – in which case, get in touch, I’m happy to run them again!

2019

Jump-start the Muse at The Laboratory

Looking for inspiration? Can’t find the time to write? Want to meet some other poetry enthusiasts and have fun writing? A workshop packed full 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.

Each writing challenge is designed to address some specific aspect of poetry writing, such as persona, anaphora, ekphrasis, curses and blessings, subverting clichés, and maybe even trying our hands at a few forms.

Frost in Summer: A Reading for Writing Workshop

Spend a day immersed in the poetry of Robert Frost. Whether you like wandering down The Road Not Taken, need to battle the heat by Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, find yourself becoming Acquainted With the Night or feel like it’s time to think about going Out, Out— because Nothing Gold Can Stay. Join Joanna Preston for a poetry workshop that blends close reading with writing exercises, all based in some way on poems by this towering figure of American literature.

Five New Zealand Women

A Reading for Writing workshop looking at the work of five contemporary New Zealand poets of the female persuasion: Fleur Adcock, Tusiata Avia, Anna Jackson, Selina Tusitala Marsh, and Sue Wootton. A blend of close reading with writing exercises.

The Nobel Laureates

A Reading for Writing workshop taking an international turn – looking at the work of five poets who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature: Joseph Brodsky, Pablo Neruda, Wisława Szymborska, Tomas Tranströmer and Derek Walcott. A blend of close reading with writing exercises.

Poetry and Science

Following on from last years’ wildly popular double-act with Johanna Emeney, I’m offering a full Reading for Writing course looking at the intersection of poetry and science. Only one tutor this time, but five sessions to explore the subject. Poetry and medicine, poetry and mathematics, poetry of the scientific method, poetry and cosmology … ways of looking at the workings of the universe, big and small, and ways of bringing these seemingly disparate disciplines safely together.

Reading for Writing: Dead Poets

A final Reading for Writing course, this time focusing on the work of five poets from across the English-speaking world who have died this year – Ciaran Carson, WS Merwin, Les Murray, Mary Oliver and Carole Satyumurti.

Poets who have joined the Great Majority. Died. Ceased to be. Become bereft of life. Snuffed it. Shuffled off this mortal coil to go write lyrics for the Choir Invisible. They are Ex-Poets. Come and explore them!

2018

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 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.

A two-day intensive workshop, mixing reading and discussion with writing exercises designed to put what we learn into practice. Suitable for those with some familiarity with writing poetry.

Jump-start the Muse I& II: poetry writing workshops

Looking for inspiration? Can’t find the time to write? Want to meet some other poetry enthusiasts and have fun writing? A workshop packed full 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.

Each writing challenge is designed to address some specific aspect of poetry writing, such as persona, anaphora, curses and blessings, subverting clichés, and maybe even trying our hands at a few forms!

2017: An Odyssey by Anthology

A Reading for Writing workshop, looking back at 2017 through the lens of poetry anthologies such as the Forward (UK), Best American, Best Australian, Best New Zealand and Best Canadian. How differently did poets see the world in other English speaking countries? A blend of close reading with writing exercises. Suitable for all levels.

Formal Poetry workshop

A workshop exploring the world of Contemporary Formal Poetry. Sonnets, sestinas, pantoums, villanelles, haibun and more. How do modern poets use traditional forms? How much room is there to innovate? Poems that rhyme, poems that scan, and poems that push the idea of ‘form’ to its limits. Suitable for all levels.

Ten New Zealand Men

A Reading for Writing workshop looking at the work of ten contemporary New Zealand poets of the male persuasion: Glen Colquhoun, Sam Hunt, Bill Manhire, James Norcliffe, John O’Connor, Vincent O’Sullivan, Robert Sullivan, Brian Turner, Hone Tuwhare and Tim Upperton.

First Books

A Reading for Writing workshop that takes a look at the work of some of modern poetry’s finest by going back in time and considering their first collections. A chance to consider the evolution both of contemporary poetry and poets, through the work of Simon Armitage, Kate Camp, Carol Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney and Sharon Olds.

2017

Reading for Writing: 2016 – An Odyssey by Anthology

During March, I will be offering a four-session Reading for Writing class looking at poetry from four anthologies: The Best American Poetry 2016, The Best Australian Poems 2016, The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2016, and The Forward Book of Poetry 2017*. A chance to explore the differing ways poets in each of these four nations responded to the world around them last year. Are there Brexit poems? Trumpocalypse poems? Climate-change poems? Or did the poets stick to hearts, flowers, puppies and kittens, and the inevitable Mornings After?  A combination of close reading with writing exercises.

Poetry Editing 101 – Preparing for Publication

Due to popular request, I will be offering a single-session class looking at how you go about getting a poem ready for publication. We’ll look at the basics of editing, and some tricks and tips to make it easier. We’ll also look at how you go about the mechanics of sending your poem out to literary journals – the do’s and don’t’s of submission, what to expect, and even suggestions for how to manage the admin.

Reading for Writing: One Book, One Poet, One Session

For five weeks in June/July, I will be offering a Reading for Writing class with each session focussing on a single collection from a single (different) poet. This is a chance to take you with me for a wallow in some of my favourite contemporary poetry collections. The books in question are John Burnside’s All One Breath, Julia Copus’s The World’s Two Smallest Humans, Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris,  Tony Hoagland’s Application for Release from the Dream, and Les Murray’s Subhuman Redneck Poems.

Reading for Writing: Five American Women

In September and October, I’m offering a Reading for Writing class focusing on the work of five of my favourite American Women poets – Kim Addonizio, Lucille Clifton, Kimiko Hahn, Linda Pastan, and Paisley Rekdal.

2016

Jump-Start the Muse

During April, with a nod to NaPoWriMo, I will be offering a five week poetry writing class. The focus is on getting you writing, with lots of different exercises, and the chance to discuss your drafts as we go. There will be rhyming and non-rhyme, forms, free verse, almost certainly a good swirl of silliness.  A lot of fun, and suitable for all levels. So embrace the madness of April.

Reading for Writing – Poetic Turns

A Reading for Writing format class that examines the wonderful world of the Poetic Turn. 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 the book Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns by Michael Theune, this class will examine ways that poems can weave extra levels of complexity, and prompt us to open our work up to new possibilities.

Reading for Writing – The Romantics

A Reading for Writing class looking at The Romantic Poets. If you think they were all about hearts and flowers and swooning with a glass of laudanum, you are in for a surprise. They were the radicals of their day, challenging what they saw as an unjust and demeaning social order, and championing the natural world. (Sound familiar?) We’ll be looking at the poems of Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Barrett Browning et al, and considering what it is to be a Romantic poet. Are there any Romantic poets writing now? And if not, why?

Reading for Writing – Around the World

Another Reading for Writing format class, this time looking at poetry from various Best Poetry anthologies – Best British, Best American, Best Australian, Best Canadian and so on. A different country each week, half a dozen or so poems each time, and the chance to encounter poetry from a wide variety of sources. Is there such as thing as an identifiably Canadian poem? How about Australian? Do American poets have different concerns to those of poets from England? From Wales? How do they all differ from each other, and from the poetry written here in New Zealand?

2015

Poetry Editing 101 – Preparing for Publication

A single-session class looking at how you go about getting a poem ready for publication. We’ll look at the basics of editing, some tricks and tips to make it easier, and how you go about the mechanics of sending your poem out to literary journals.

Reading for Writing – American Men

A Reading for Writing class focusing on contemporary poetry by five American men. From Billy Collins to Lee Young Li, Yusef Komunyakaa, D Nurkse and Mark Doty, a chance to explore some of the poetry being created at the moment by American men. What are the recurrent themes? (Sex, drugs, and rendition?) Does it look outwards, or mostly within? How big a role does ethnicity play? And how does it differ from New Zealand poetry?

Poetry 101: Introduction to Writing Poetry

A class to introduce you to the basics of writing poetry. We’ll look at some of the basics of what poems are, what they do, and what all the bits are called. A fun, supportive class, designed to spark creativity and ground participants in the basics of writing poetry. Lots of poems, lots of exercises and lots of discussion. It’s particularly aimed at beginners, but should be useful for anyone who wants to brush up on their technical knowledge.

Unusual Forms

A formal poetry workshop focusing on some of the more unusual types of formal poetry. No sonnets or villanelles here: instead, we’ll consider the workings of forms like glosa, sijo, byr a toddiad and the like. We’ll take rhyme and rhythm on one heck of a journey, and consider the question of what makes one form popular, and another not?