from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 30 May 2011

Elements of Poetry: next course

It's that time of year again: my next six-monthly poetry correspondence course is about to roll again, and I'm inviting applications for it. Material will be sent out during July. You can contact me with the email button on my profile, when I'll give you the address to send to, etc.

The course is personally tutored by me, and feedback is tailored entirely to the individual. This is a rich and comprehensive course, and my feedback is detailed, with at least 1 to (more usually) 3, 4 or even more A4 pages each time (depending on the module, and your ability).

This will be the fourth course, and I have to say that feedback has been consistently excellent (when I've finally managed to sort out the mess that is my website I shall post the testimonials). However, I'm told it's tough, intensive and not for either novices or the fainthearted. I expect a lot of reading of contemporary poetry, a lot of reflective as well as creative writing, and some hours dedicated to it each week. If you could do with some mentoring, brushing up your poetry skills and really focusing on accessing your creative imagination as well as refining the way you express what it is that you want to say, you might want to read on, below.

If you would prefer to be writing a novel, you can join my Storymaking correspondence course at any time. I've been running this for many years, and once again feedback is that it's both unique and effective.

I'm delighted to say that people rate my work very favourably in comparison with the other better-known courses in the UK...

elements of poetry
correspondence course (email or post)
a holistic approach
six individually-tutored modules

This correspondence course is an approach to writing poetry rooted in the fertile soil of the language of heart, soul & mind combined. It also assumes that poetry is a crucial human art.
   Poetry feeds a hunger; the need, as Clayton Eshleman  said, ‘for a more profound and ensouled world’. It’s a way of offsetting what Robert Bly describes as the ‘language of the advertising agency’.
   While this is an approach that favours the holistic, I’d like to think however that authenticity of voice, knowledge of the requirements of poetry & of the poetry world, & mastery of technique are given equal attention. I’m keen that literary quality is not sacrificed to the demand that poetry be also a means of connection, & a vibrant & essential aspect of inner work.

A poem in its way is a small self-contained unit of mystery that, as we approach, might just give us a high-voltage jolt to the heart. A poem can enlarge our experience; if it reveals something to us we are nourished by it, even if we don’t entirely understand it, even if the subject matter of the poem is strange, or sad, or difficult.

‘...this deeply instinctual yet self-conscious expressive language, this regenerative process, could help you save your life... Art is our human birthright, our most powerful means of access to our own and another's experience and imaginative life.’ Adrienne Rich

‘It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.’ William Carlos Williams

‘Poetry is that
which arrives at the intellect
by way of the heart.’ R S Thomas

Course content


Module 1
What is poetry? Making a poem 
Poems to read
Assignments, reading & reflection

Module 2
The tools 1
Visual language – fundamental techniques
Imagery & metaphor
Poems to read
Assignments, reading & reflection

Module 3
The tools 2
Verbal music – rhythm, rhyme, pattern
Poems to read
Assignments, reading & reflection

Module 4
Rivers & canals
Free verse vs form; voice; inscape
Poems to read
Assignments, reading & reflection

Module 5
Drafting, editing, redrafting
Poems to explore
Assignments, reading & reflection

Module 6
Last words: (suggestions for this month’s work & for the future; publishing advice
if appropriate; assessment of new/redrafted work; overview)
Body of poems/project to send in
Assignments, reading & reflection x2
Essay or review

NB: I reserve the right to change or modify
course content as necessary
Before you sign up:
This course is intensive, & will suit both intermediate writers who are already involved in the poetry ‘scene’ & poetry writing & reading, as well as experienced writers who need a ‘top-up’ of inspiration, some brushing-up of their skills, or the discipline of a monthly deadline, & feedback. IT IS NOT FOR NOVICES.

If you don’t read contemporary poetry, this course will not be the one for you. Please don’t be offended if I reject your application & ask you to read (more) contemporary poetry before reapplying.

You need to be clear that you need to be passionate about poetry & willing to immerse yourself in it. You will be asked to borrow or buy Bloodaxe’s Staying Alive anthology on acceptance onto the course. You will need to refer to some of the poems in the anthologies for the modules. You might also findThe Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart. You will also find it invaluable to read Ruth Padel: 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem; & Strong Words: modern poets on modern poetry, if you haven’t already.

This course asks of you commitment to ‘staying the course’ & to regularly making time to complete the assignments & send them in on the agreed dates. Not for the faint-hearted!  If you are in the middle of moving, divorcing, changing jobs, or have a fulltime job & family, experience suggests leaving this till another time!

Within each assignment I shall also ask you for a reflective ‘report’ on the process of working through each module, with a view to your illuminating for yourself your relationship to your own creative processes. At the end of the course, I will ask for an overall reflection, plus a review/essay.

On application you will be asked to send:
  • a covering letter explaining why you want to take this course & what you would like to achieve by working through it
  • three sample poems (applicants are selected on the basis of the above two pieces of writing)
  • the first instalment of the fee (the balance is due on the return of the third assignment). If for any reason I need to return your application this will be refunded.   

Practical details
With your acceptance letter I also send the Introduction & two modules. You will need to send me the assignments from module 1 by the end of the following month, & I will respond by the end of the next month; and so on. At the end you’ll receive an overview of your work & recommendations for continuing. I’m considering an optional 7th module, too, on the art of haiku - a useful and interesting discipline.

I am now inviting submissions from people who would like to work with me in this way, & are willing to commit themselves to completing a module a month with its associated coursework, required reading, & writing.

Next course dates are from July 2011.  Enrolments are being accepted now, with the first modules being sent out towards the end of that month. You will be returning the first assignment to me by the end of August.

What you can expect
  • An immersion in the experience of poetry, through training the eye and ear, through reading, and through writing
  • The encouragement and refining of personal creative expression
  • The development or progression of individual voice
  • An increasing confidence and assuredness in your writing
  • An enhanced recognition of what makes a ‘good’ poem
  • An ability to more usefully assess and refine your own work
  • A greater understanding of what poetry is, what its requirements are, and what it has to offer
  • A wider and deeper understanding of the poetic canon, of its range, and of the continuing importance of poetry
I have been tutoring & mentoring poets & leading workshops, courses & retreats in creative, reflective & therapeutic writing for twenty years. I’m passionate about poetry, & about the connections between creativity & wellbeing. I run the Fire in the Head writing programme, & have tutored extensively for other organisations & bodies such as Oxford University, the Open College of the Arts & the Arvon Foundation. I’ve been writer-in-residence in a variety of locations. My books include: Riding the Dragon; Creative Novel Writing; Looking For Icarus & Bardo (poetry) & Writing the Bright Moment. I’ve collaborated on a number of poetry projects. My novel Imago came out in 2011.

Fee & course content
The course fee is £395. A first instalment of £200 is required on booking; the balance is payable with the return of your third module. The fee includes an introduction, all modules with their relevant exercises, my personal report on the assignments from each module, & general further advice. (For reasons of time, it can’t include my reading of extra poetry outside of the coursework modules.) Work can be emailed as a Word doc, or posted to me. (Please let me know when signing up whether you prefer working by email or Royal Mail.)

THE SMALL PRINT: Please note that no refunds are made once I have responded to your first assignment. If for any reason you decide, on receipt of the Introduction and the first two modules, that the course is not for you, I will refund your deposit minus a £50 admin fee provided you return all the course materials within a fortnight of their receipt.


  1. I can vouch for the quality of the novel-writing course. It's truly life changing.

  2. Oh Belinda that's kind. Thank you!


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