Poetry Workshops for The Writer’s Center (all on ZOOM):

Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, 1-4 p.m.: “Syntax as Strategy”

How poets handle syntax—the arrangement of words in a sentence—is crucial to everything from establishing the voice of a poem to evoking a particular response from the reader.  In this workshop, we will take a close look at how sentences are put together and how changing their structure can send a poem off in a new direction.  We will also examine the relationship between the sentence and the line and how to control the tension between them.

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, 1-4 p.m.: “Punctuation: A Poet’s Dilemma”

When it comes to punctuating poems, opinions vary widely. Some poets are as careful and correct as T.S. Eliot, while others, like W.S. Merwin, have gotten rid of punctuation altogether. In this workshop we will discuss what traditional punctuation can achieve and whether syntax and line breaks can be used in its place. We will explore in depth the role played by the period and the comma, and we’ll take a look at some of the more unusual punctuation marks that poets have invented to suit their own purposes. By looking closely at a few poets who turned away from conventional punctuation at some point in their careers, we will be able to judge for ourselves whether and how to punctuate our own poems.

Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, 1-4 p.m.: “What’s So Funny: Humor & Poetry”

Is a good poem, by definition, a serious one? Many poets today suffer from what has been called “humor anxiety”—the fear that they will damage their reputations if they try to be funny. But the success of poets like Billy Collins and Tony Hoagland provides ample evidence that poems can be both funny and serious. In this workshop, we will examine what makes us laugh, the difference between “light verse” and humorous poetry, and the role that wit, the comic, and the absurd have played—and continue to play—in American poetry. We will also take a closer look at the work of some contemporary poets who have used humor effectively to broaden their poems’ appeal.

For more information, visit or call 301-654-8664