University of Iowa

The Poetry of Memory

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

“If we spend our lives remembering what we love/to be sure who we are…” begins a Richard Hugo poem. The poet goes on, partly recovering and partly fabricating a distant memory of place and time. The combination of recovery and creativity, the shaping, re-shaping, recalling and revising that constitutes memory, is, perhaps not coincidentally, very much the process of poetry. How much of the poetry of memory relies on fact, and how much depends upon the creative imagination? Certainly, poetry often depends upon memory, but can poems also help us remember?


By looking at striking examples of poets remembering—Yusef Komunyakaa, Lucille Clifton, Gerald Stern, Ruth Stone, William Stafford, Nazim Hikmet, and others—we’ll generate and share new poems, suggest revisions of older, but not-quite-finished poems, and share practical ideas in a supportive community of writers about the relationship between poetry and memory. The goal is to navigate the space between fact and fabrication in order to say something true, maybe even beautiful, maybe even memorable. The course is open to poets at all levels of experience.