A poetry workshop is one or more classes where people can study and craft poetry. These are generally led by an experienced poet or literature teacher. Sometimes, participatory classes of this nature are online, while others take place locally or at inviting travel destinations. Less formal workshops may be open to the public, but courses taught by master poets may require an application and an invitation to join, in addition to being costly. In general, working classes of this type vary in length and in depth of skills required of participants.
The very title, “workshop,” suggests students will learn something about poetry and then have an opportunity to try out new skills by writing. In a beginner class, for instance, the instructor might simply teach some basic elements of poetry, share examples of poems, and then let participants work on composing their own material. Before the end of the day, writers might read full or incomplete poetry and receive feedback.
More seasoned poets can find poetry workshop experiences that address the issues more likely to be faced by advanced writers. Participants might bring existing poems to share with the whole group or workshop leaders, in order to get criticism and suggestions for improvement. Difficult poetry techniques could also be introduced and offer writers a way to make changes to their style, verse, form or word choice. A poetry workshop presents students with learning opportunities such as the chance to receive criticism, to get advanced instruction, and to critically evaluate the material other people produce.
Considerable variety exists in where a poetry workshop might take place. Many online workshops are conducted continuously as listserves or through discussion groups, where poets serve as each other’s critics and inspiration. A number of local poets and literature teachers run workshops, too, through adult education programs, at colleges, or in bookstores. People who want to travel and write will find numerous classes in other regions.
Sometimes it’s the teacher, rather than the location, that is the draw to a specific poetry workshop. Internationally known poets may offer classes, and they are more likely to require applications and hand-select writers they feel have the most mature skill. On the other hand, some well-known poets enjoy working with much less experienced writers, and might offer workshops at tempting destinations or even on cruise ships.
While travel and invitation-only workshops are attractive, amateur or experienced writers shouldn’t discount the learning experience of working with less known, local talent. Nearby classes led by a strong poet and teacher are usually cheaper and may still impart lots of information and inspiration. Moreover, they can lead to relationships with others who are passionate about poetry. Establishing these connections provides writers with a chance to get frequent feedback on their work.
Poetry workshop length is highly variable and different classes may fit the needs of people with considerable leisure time to those with a tight schedule. Some universities do have quarter or semester workshop style classes, which can provide intense focus on productivity. Those who are looking for less time-consuming options can participate in half-day or daylong workshops. Alternately, classes and practice might take place over a weekend, a full week, or on specified days for a month or longer.