The University of Iowa

Weaving the Narrative Web: A Poetry Workshop

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020

“…[T]he story of our life/becomes our life” claims Lisel Mueller in her marvelous poem “Why We Tell Stories.” But how does one create a compelling, credible and multi-layered story in a poem without becoming prosaic; a poem that develops a web of connections, delivers a lyric frisson, and reveals a larger message or insight? And why do we want and need stories in the first place: what role and significance do stories have in our personal and social lives? Does a person, as Barry Lopez claims, sometimes need stories more than food in order to stay alive? And what about the relationship between literal and emotional “truth” in the stories we craft? This workshop is geared for poets at all levels of experience who currently work in the narrative mode, and/or poets who are interested in learning more about the crafting, development, and use of the narrative poem as a vehicle for expressing/presenting larger ideas and concerns. During this weekend workshop we will explore these questions while looking at some of the formal strategies and techniques at play in the narrative poem. Focused writing prompts will encourage you to rethink and re-enter some of your own life narratives and encourage you to experiment with some of the techniques that we discuss. We will devote time to the sharing of new work generated during the workshop and/or work you bring from home that you might revise or regard as complete.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; critique writing you bring from home; provide feedback on writing you produce in our weekend.