The Poetics of Grief

6 weeks. Thursdays between March 31, 2022 and May 5, 2022. 7-8:30pm.

“After great pain, a formal feeling comes.” Emily Dickinson, writing that line in 1862, understood the transformational power of grief. The great pain of mourning can also be a source for our greatest insights, compelling us toward catharsis as a way to survive the crush of a loss that can seem, at first, to be insurmountable.

In this course, we’ll track the poetics of grief as it moves through its many stages: reckoning, regret, remembrance, ritual, recovery, and redemption. Each week, we’ll read poems that mark a certain place in the journey from great pain to formal feeling, working together to define the ways in which poetry can act as a formal container for profound grief.

Every class will begin with a generative writing exercise that builds on the class before, so that by the end of our 6 weeks each student will have a poetic account of their own passage through the course. Weekly writing prompts will ask students to consider themes we discuss during class and apply formal techniques we identify in readings, offering novel approaches to help provoke new poems.

Students will also have opportunities to submit 2-3 poems for workshopping, providing a critical and supportive space to aid in the revision process.


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