Archive | January, 2013

“Hybrid Texts” at Chicago School of Poetics

12 Jan

I’m happy to be teaching this course on hybrid texts:

They also offer scholarships!  More info here:


My Upcoming Poetry Project Workshop

11 Jan

Cathexis/Catharsis: Writing To/Through Illness and Suffering

ImagePoetry workshop taught by Sharon Mesmer

10 weeks beginning Tuesday, February 5

7 > 9pm


The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, 131 E. 10th Street, New York

212-674-0910 |


Illness and suffering are usually imaged as sites of trauma, feared as obstacles, rejected by a youth-obsessed culture.  But what if these forsaken places could be re-imaged and understood, with the help of poetry, as talismans, thresholds, gateways?  What if suffering were a language like any other that could be learned, manipulated and deployed in a powerful new way?  In this form-based workshop we will look at how poets encode and stabilize ideas about illness and suffering (their own and that of others) into traditional and novel poetic architectures, enabling readers and writers to find new meanings in these witnessed experiences.  We’ll begin by looking at Jennifer Nix’s essay, “Finding Poetry In Illness,” then move on to poems by Anne Sexton, Aracelis Girmay, Joanne Kyger, Robert Lowell, Laynie Browne, Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Wordsworth, Jane Kenyon, Rainer Maria Rilke and Thomas Hardy.  Each week we’ll examine and discuss a poem that utilizes a form (the sonnet, the ode, the list poem, the “instruction” poem, the Fibonacci, etc.) and flow and encode our own experiences into the stabilizing mechanism of that form.  Guest speakers will include Kristin Prevallet on the mind-body connection to poetry and healing, and Laynie Brown on the poem-as-amulet.


My Three-Part Fiction Workshop at the New School, Starting Thursday, January 31

3 Jan

I’m teaching an exciting three-part fiction workshop at the New School beginning January 31.  You can attend one, two, or all three of the five-week segments;  the writing you do in the first segment can be continued in the subsequent segments, to produce a finished piece, or you can work on three short pieces. Here are brief descriptions:


— Exploded Prose.1:  Form Follows Emotion (5 weeks) —

Emotion and innovative writing are rarely mentioned in the same breath.  In this course we will bring emotion to bear on the innovative memoir, as we read, discuss, and are guided by By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Elizabeth Smart’s powerful “prose poem novel” (her term) chronicling her affair with English poet George Barker.  Through class discussions, directed in-class writings and suggestions for at-home writing based on the text, we will create a memoir that blends non-fiction with poetic language, and in which the emotive voice is the engine that not only gives the piece vibrancy, but provides a stable structure and lively pacing as well.  We will also touch on how Smart’s text is a hybrid form that blends non-fiction with fiction and poetry.

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— Exploded Prose.2:  ” . . . Great Writers Steal”  (5 weeks) —

T. S. Eliot’s quote about how mediocre writers borrow but great writers steal is less about promoting plagiarism than it is about finding inspiration and source material everywhere and making it your own.  In this segment we’ll examine how to find and use secondary “texts” (including non-book sources like the Internet) to create an innovative prose essay or short nonfiction piece that maintains the integrity of your individual voice and original intention.  We’ll read and discuss Eliot’s “The Waste Land” alongside Nelson Algren’s “prose poem essay” (his term) about urban political corruption, Chicago: City on the Make, as well as a few short prose examples by the flarf poetry collective. Through discussions, directed in-class writings and suggestions for at-home writing based on the texts, we’ll create an innovative essay (or short non-fiction piece) that blends “found” materials with original language and imagery.  We will also touch on how the Algren text is a hybrid form that blends non-fiction with poetic language.

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— Exploded Prose.3:  Old Is the New New (5 weeks) —

“Make it new!” was the battle-cry of Modernist poet Ezra Pound, who made his most innovative work “new” by referencing historical Chinese and Japanese literatures.  In this course we’ll read and discuss selections from Sei Shonogan’s 11th century  “Pillow Book” and examples of 16th and 17th century Chinese hsiao-pin (“short form”) prose vignettes, and consider them alongside the vignettes and prose poems of two contemporary writers, Sandra Cisneros and James Tate. Through discussions, directed in-class writings and suggestions for at-home writing based on the texts, we’ll create an innovative story told in vignettes — either fiction or non-fiction, or a mix of both — that “modernizes” a favorite text or texts of a former era with concision and lots of attitude.

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Interested?  If you’re one of the first 100 people to sign up at the Open House (Tues., January 8, 6 > 8pm, 2 West 13th Street) you’ll get a $50 tuition discount!

Email me at if you’d like to see the syllabi for each section.  Here’s the link for the Open House: