Full course description

Begins April 13, 2015

How Writers Write Poetry 2015 offers an interactive progression through the principles and practice of writing poetry. The course presents a curated collection of short, intimate talks on craft by two dozen acclaimed poets writing in English. Craft topics include persona, notebooking, the line, the turn, form, and the lyric. The talks are designed for beginning poets just starting to put words on a page as well as for advanced poets looking for new entry points, engagement with process, or teaching tips. The course will be taught by Professor Christopher Merrill, International Writing Program Director, poet, and translator; and Camille Rankine, poet, Assistant Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Manhattanville College, and editorial director of The Manhattanville Review.

Contributing poets' video talks will be contextualized through online discussion and writing assignments. The course moderators (all Iowa Writers' Workshop graduates with university level experience teaching creative writing) will join Camille Rankine in offering online facilitation to participants through course discussion forums. Poets who have contributed video craft talks for the course include former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Kwame Dawes, Marvin Bell, Lia Purpura, Kazim Ali, Kate Greenstreet, Natasha Tiniacos, and many others. How Writers Write Poetry will offer a diversity of answers to the question of how a writer develops and refines the lifelong practice of his or her craft.

Enrollment in How Writers Write Poetry is free and unlimited; there is no cost to participants.

Course Expectations:

Each week, Christopher Merrill and Camille Rankine will present a video class session followed by a pair of writing assignments: one exercise for writers who would like to create new work and/or who are exploring poetry for the first time, one exercise for poets who would like to use this course to examine and refine their work and their approach to poetry writing. Our moderators will lead discussions of the video classes and the writing assignments and will host master classes in which the craft topic of the week may be explored in depth. Participants are encouraged to post their exercises to the course discussion forum for peer feedback and to submit critical feedback on the poems of their fellow writers. The success of the community critique process will depend entirely on the investment made by you and your fellow writers; we encourage you to engage deeply with one another’s work and with the craft principles presented by the course.

Certificate of Completion:

The University of Iowa offers an optional certificate of completion for this course.

For Our How Writers Write Poetry 2014 Alumni:

Welcome back! Wondering how this MOOC might compare to last year's? We're pairing new video lectures with those 2014 videos that we think are worth revisiting from a new angle. We're offering two tracks of writing assignments: each week, we'll have one assignment designed for beginning poets and one assignment intended to push experienced poets to engage more deeply with their processes; to reconceptualize, revise, and expand. And we've restructured our workshop process as a master class-workshop hybrid, supported by a collection of resource readings. We're looking forward to working with you again.

Upcoming MOOCs at the IWP:

For information on the IWP's forthcoming 2015 MOOCs, please visit us at http://iwp.uiowa.edu/iwp-courses/distance-learning-courses/moocs.

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Christopher Merrill

Christopher Merrill


Christopher Merrill is Professor of English and Director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He has published six collections of poetry, including Brilliant Water, and Watch Fire, for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; translations of Ales Debeljak's Anxious Moments and The City and The Child; several edited volumes, among them, The Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature and From the Faraway Nearby: Georgia O’Keeffe as Icon; and five books of nonfiction, The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer, The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, and The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages, his journalism appears in many publications, and his awards include a knighthood in arts and letters from the French government. He serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and has undertaken cultural diplomacy missions to more than forty countries for the U.S. State Department. In April 2012 President Obama appointed Merrill to the National Council on the Humanities.

Camille Rankine

Camille Rankine


Camille Rankine is the author of the chapbook Slow Dance with Trip Wire, selected by Cornelius Eady for the Poetry Society of America's 2010 New York Chapbook Fellowship. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Incorrect Merciful Impulses is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. The recipient of a 2010 "Discovery"/Boston Review Poetry Prize and a finalist for The Poetry Foundation's 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship, she was featured as an emerging poet in the fall 2010 issue of American Poet and the April 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including American Poet, The Baffler, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, Narrative, Paper Darts, A Public Space, and Tin House. Camille earned her BA from Harvard University, and her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. She was selected for a MacDowell Colony Fellowship in 2013, and was named an Honorary Cave Canem Fellow in 2012. She is Assistant Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Manhattanville College and editorial director of The Manhattanville Review and lives in New York City, where she sings with the band Miru Mir.