University of Iowa

Pace Yourself: The Ways a Poem Moves

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

Poetic pacing is a delicate balance between anticipation and knowledge: poems should create in us a desire to know, a desire to discover, and yet keep us, as Stephen Dobyns states, “on the verge of understanding.” Pacing, then, is a kind of promise, and also a kind of tension, and it often begins with the poem’s title and first line. In this workshop, we will look at a variety of poems by master poets and explore how pacing—and hence the journey of discovery the poem enacts—is controlled. We will look at various kinds of sentence structure and their relationships to the poetic line. We will look at the function of meter, rhythm, long/short vowels and consonant use; at diction, and at the role of secondary information that is carried and held within complex sentences. A variety of prompts will enable you to generate new material, and you will be encouraged to experiment with various ways of pacing this material, making choices about which pacing best carries and “unfolds” the poem. Suitable for those with a basic knowledge of poetic technique, this workshop is a mix of reading, discussion, writing, and workshopping. Work/poems critiqued can be poems already underway, new poems generated in class, or both.