Ithaca Free School

Monday, March 07, 2005

Writing Workshop Class Offering

Howdy, pardners!

Just thought I'd let you know about the Writing Workshop that Ashley will be offering over three consecutive Saturdays at the Unitarian Church here in Ithaca. The following is some information about the course, including the syllabus. You can contact Ashley at for further information or to get involved in the class.

Take care, folks.

No Prerequisites. No Pretension. No Payment. Just Poetry.

Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures.

Serious writing, writing that will endure, requires serious practice. If you are a poet looking for more engagement with other poets, or if you wish to enhance your craft by making a stronger commitment to your writing, I invite you to participate in this free poetry workshop, which will take place over the course of three weekends: March 18th, 26th, and April 2nd in the Community Room at The First Unitarian Church on the corner of Buffalo and Aurora.
As part of the requirement for my MFA in creative writing through Goddard College’s low-residency program, I am offering this workshop as a free service to the community. It is open to everyone, at any level of writing. I only ask that you take it seriously. To learn more about the course objectives, times, and details of the sessions, please look at the syllabus online at or email me at and I can send you a copy via email. If you do not have internet access, you can call me at 202-277-0050.
In order to get an idea of the number of students, I ask that you call or email me with your information. The Community Room is not handicap-accessible, and there is limited space. Please contact me before March 16th.

Syllabus for Poetry Workshop

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are reading it for?...But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.

Course Objectives

This course is not designed to teach you how or what to write. Rather, it is intended to give you the materials and exercises to tone your writing into what you want it to be. Because part of finding your own writing process involves connections with other writers through sharing poems, participation is encouraged but not required. Share what you feel comfortable with. We will also read from books that are on the text list at the end of this syllabus. Mostly, this course is designed to prompt you to write more, and we will be writing in every session. Only through dedication to your craft will you become a better writer. This commitment is what I intend to help you establish.


This workshop consists of three five-hour sessions over the course of three Saturdays, beginning at 9am and ending at 3pm with a one hour break for lunch. It would be ideal if you could make it to all of the sessions; however, I understand time constraints and other life involvements. I have designed the course in three sections with exercises that have different emphases so that if you cannot make it to every session, you can pick which session(s) appeal most to you. Each meeting will also have elements of consistency—writing exercises, work-shopping poems, etc. Some sessions will require assignments that you will work on at home, which you are strongly encouraged to do, even if you don’t share them in class. Overall, I wish for students to take this course seriously but remain flexible—the course outline is tentative and may change according to group dynamics or other organic factors. You will inevitably learn something about your process in throughout the workshop while making stronger connections with other writers.

Course Outline

Session One "Finding the poems": Saturday, March 19th
Introductions: "History of your name"
Discussion: definitions of poetry
Writing exercise: "Questionnaire"
Writing exercises from Writing Toward Home, and The Practice of Poetry
Discussion: Elements of style and form
Writing exercise: "Found Poetry"
Writing exercise: "Lucid Detail"
Closing discussions and work-shopping
Assignments for next session

Session Two "Writing through periods of silence": Saturday, March 26th
Sharing "homework" (optional), work-shopping
Readings from Louise Gluck’s Proofs & Theories
Discussion: The importance of reading other poets
Writing exercise: "Explicating silence"
Using Form as a point of departure: ghazals, sestina, sonnet, and haiku
Discussion: form and rhythm
Visual art as impetus: Surrealism and multi-media art
Writing Exercise: "Erasure exercise: cutting what you don’t need"
Assignments for next session

Session Three "Remaining dedicated to craft": Saturday, April 2nd
Free Writing
Sharing assignments and reading suggestions
Discussion about reading materials, websites, etc.
Publication Panel: suggestions for publishing in journals and magazines, contests, etc.
Final Writing Exercise
Closing Discussion

Handouts and readings will come from the following books:
The Norton Anthology of Poetry 3rd Edition, Allison
The Practice of Poetry Behn
Travel in the Mouth of the Wolf Paul Fattaruso
Proofs & Theories Louise Gluck
Twentieth Century Pleasures Robert Hass
Writing Toward Home Georgia Heard
Bird by Bird Anne Lamott
Letters to a Young Poet Rilke
The Pink Institution Selah Saterstrom
Poemcrazy Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
Above the River James Wright
Contemporary World Poetry: Readings of Paul Celan and Andre Breton
*Other books may be added to the list.
**As mentioned, this syllabus is subject to change.


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