This class is for people who want to improve their poems, by understanding the art more fully, from the inside out. During our four weeks, we’ll explore seven formal elements—action, voice, sentence, phrase, line, sound, and metaphor—while generating our own new poems. I hope to give each student a better feeling for how formal elements work together, at any given moment in a poem; how they combine and separate, much like the modes of a musical scale. This won’t be an “academic” process: I believe that we all benefit from studying the fundamental formal elements, or energies, because they themselves derive from and lend new body to feeling. That’s my only doctrine, and it’s not a doctrine so much as a declaration some devout, mentally unique person might emblazon on his rooftop with Christmas lights: the formal elements of poetry derive from and lend new body to feeling. Writers with lots of experience and those new to the art are both welcome here.
Peter Campion is the author of Radical as Reality: Form and Freedom in American Poetry; four collections of poems: Other People, The Lions, El Dorado, and One Summer Evening at the Falls; and several monographs and catalog essays on modern and contemporary visual art. His work has appeared in publications including ARTNews, Boston Globe, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Modern Painters, New Republic, New York Times Book Review, Poetry, Sculpture, Slate, and Yale Review, among others. A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize, he teaches in the writing program at the University of Minnesota.