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From Oral Stories to Written Poems

Empathy, entering into the lives of others, to better understand their humanity (complicated as it often is) and to expand our own sensibilities, is a why so many of us write. In this class, participants will draw from the tales and anecdotes of others as prompts into poems. Stories passed down from family, stories from friends, co-workers, second and third-hand stories, stories from strangers we may never hear from again, stories from dreams, from characters part or wholly imagined, stories from others that interweave with our own. Of course, stories are the stuff of fiction and non-fiction, but they are also provide inspiration for poets. How can the story be best shaped into a poem? In this generative class, we'll look at models of story-inspired poems (by William Carlos Williams, Lucille Clifton, Langston Hughes, Naomi Shihab Nye, James Wright, and others) to explore poetic techniques, such as capturing a 'character's' voice, visual texture (setting), what to include, what to leave out, with the goal of --as the stories inspired you-- inspiring others (starting with class participants).
Instructor: Philip Terman’s most collections of poems are This Crazy Devotion (Broadstone)and Our Portion: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House), and a co-translation (with the Syrian writer Saleh Razzouk), Tango Below a Narrow Ceiling: The Poems of Riad Saleh Hussein (Bitter Oleander). A selection of his poems, My Dear Friend Kafka, was translated into Arabic and published by Nimwa Press in Damascus, Syria. Poems and essays have been published in PoetryThe Sun, Poetry International, The Kenyon Review, The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and other journals and anthologies. A co-founder of the Chautauqua Writers Festival, he now directs the Bridge Literary Arts Center in Franklin, PA. He has collaborated with composers, painters, and sculptors, and often performs his poetry with the jazz band, Catro. He is a retired professor of English at Clarion University of PA, where he taught courses in creative writing and literature.  


Details: From Oral Stories to Written Poems meets on Mondays February 5, February 12, February 19, February 26, March 4, March 11, and March 18 from 6:30-8:30pm remotely online via Zoom.
Prerequisites: Any emerging level fiction/nonfiction/poetry writing course.

Genre: Poetry

Level: Intermediate

Format: Generative writing workshop  

Location: This class takes place remotely 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 December 11.

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

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