The University of Iowa

Our Flexible Instruments: Exploring the Uses of Voice in Poetry

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020

“Voice”—what poet Tony Hoagland has called “the distinctive presentation of an individual speaker”—can be among the more difficult elements of poetic craft to define or teach, but it’s also one of the most important. A compelling poetic voice engages and connects us to the reader, and developing our voices into what poets Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux have called “a more flexible instrument” can be an exciting key to generating poems in which we make discoveries that surprise both us and our readers. In this workshop, we’ll focus on the concept of voice, both with an eye to expanding what Hoagland calls our poetic “repertoire” and as a mode of generating new poems. We’ll spend our week together writing and sharing new work in a supportive, no-pressure exchange, in response to exercises designed for voice, as well as reading and discussing the work of other poets for inspiration and models. Our goal will be to spend the week in pleasurable creative activity as we explore the possibilities thinking about voice opens up for us, and to discover the gifts that can lead to new poems from the exercises we draft. This is a generative workshop, open to poets at all levels of experience.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; provide feedback on writing you produce in our week.