In 2014 I started this blog because I wanted to improve my writing. I didn’t exactly know what to write about, but since I was taking a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at the time, I wrote about those a bit. I registered with coursera and loved it.
I also posted a few pieces of creative writing, but there never was much feedback (me being painfully introvert and this not being such a popular blog) until I found Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers.
The kind feedback but also the much welcomed critical comments helped me a lot with my own writing. Reading what these good writers produced with the prompts I played with was also extremely helpful. I think my writing has improved over time because of that.
From time to time someone comments that a piece reads like poetry, mine, or someone else’s. And I don’t have a clue. I don’t know anything about poetry and the best I can do is produce a few desperate rhymes. My studies in the past focused on science, the humanites weren’t all that important for me when I was young. MOOCs gave me the chance to get a grasp of a large variety of topics I’ve never learned much about in the past. Like poetry.
And now I want to learn a bit more about what I missed, and that’s why I returned to coursera. I looked for courses on poetry and found “Sharpened Visons: A Poetry Workshop.”
I went through week 1 and I already love it. I learned more about poetry in an hour than I knew in my life–and I’m oldish. These courses usually are a mixture of video lectures, assignments and quizzes. These days, you can just start a course whenever you want, which is nice. Years ago, the courses had starting and end dates, and when you missed them, you had to wait for the next one. I preferred that because there was a large group of people doing the course at the same time. That led to great interaction, at least in the courses I took. When I look at the discussion forums now, I see people escaping to instagram and facebook–and that’s not where the mentors are. There isn’t all that much feedback on the forums. Which is a shame but also understandable. If I don’t know much about a subject, how can I produce constructive criticism? I can say if I like something or not, but apart from that? It’s difficult.
But: to make a long story short, I’m going to tell you a bit about the course in the next six weeks and maybe even torture you with a poem or two.
In the first week we learned about lines and stanzas. The assignment was to grab a piece of prose and transform it into a found poem by breaking the passage into lines in order to experiment with rhythm and sound. That was fun.
A second assignment was to add line breaks to a poem that had been stripped of line breaks and captializations. It was interesting to compare my efforts to the original poem.
A later part of the course will focus on editing and I think this will be very helpful. I think learning about poetry will help me–like the 100 word challenges do–to focus on what is really important in my sentences and paragraphs. In developing a feeling for ‘the flow’, the rhythm. And in learning how to edit and improve the first draft. I hope that to learn this will help to improve all of my writing.
This course is based on the notion that the most exciting writing, the richest writing, happens after the first draft.Douglas Kearney, California Institute of Arts,