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The Purposes of Poems

Description: Muriel Rukeyser writes in The Life of Poetry, “If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger.” Luckily, poems have existed for the duration of humanity and our languages. Tracing back to their origins in oral tradition as vehicles for knowledge transmission, poems have been used in documentary, confession, worship, propaganda, philosophy, meditation, and self-reflection, among other things. Engaging with their histories and context, we’ll look at how poems can be used to serve different aims and attempt a few times to write our own poems with different purposes. While the focus promises to be on a diverse assortment of contemporary work, we’ll also visit older poetry from different time periods.

Instructor: Joy David (they/them) was born in Ukraine and lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where they are a geneticist in a lab studying diabetes and rare pediatric endocrine disorders. They are the author of Hibernation Highway (Madhouse Press, 2020) and organize the Starlight Elsewhere Reading at the Rhizome House. Their work has appeared in the Harvard Review, Colorado Review, 68 to 05, Salt Hill, Muzzle, and Passages North, among other places.


Details: The Purposes of Poems meets Saturdays October 7, 14, 21, 28, and November 4 & 11 from 3-5 PM ET online via Zoom.  

Prerequisite: None

Genre: Poetry

Level: All levels

Format: Reading seminar and workshop with generative writing outside of class and feedback during class.

Location: This class takes places online via zoom

Size: Limited to 12 participants (including scholarships).

Scholarships: Two scholarship spots are available for this class for writers in Northeast Ohio. Apply by August 21.

Cancellations & Refunds: Cancel at least 48 hours in advance of the first class meeting to receive a full refund. Email


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