The University of Iowa

Wilderness Map: Beginning Poetry Writing

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020

In his poem “A Course in Creative Writing,” William Stafford wrote that students of poetry “want a wilderness with a map.” In this beginning poetry workshop, we will begin to explore the wilderness of poetry writing with three basic elements: image, sound, and form. This class will provide a map for poets who are starting out, as well as those who have written a bit and would like to expand their skills. Before we meet, you will send me five poems—yes, even if they are your first poems ever—and during our week together you will write a poem or two. We will workshop your poems in class, that is, discuss them in terms of craft and technique as well as meaning and import. Our overall goal is to help you be comfortable in the wilderness of poetry and begin to think of yourself as a poet. After this workshop, you should be able to write a poem you can be proud of and also express your opinions and observations about poems and poetry. Stafford ends his poem, “a world begins under the map.” That is the world where I hope we all end up, where poetry is no longer a wilderness.


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 week.