Tell Me Something Real: How to Write Confessional Poetry | 4-Week Online Poetry Workshop

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Schyler Butler Saturdays, Oct. 7-28
9am-11am ET
6am-8am PT
8am-10am CT
4 class sessions

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What makes a poem confessional? Is it how the poem is arranged? The nature of its content? The way the poet uses metaphor or voice? Or something else entirely?

Black American literature has always explored race. It has always explored bondage and freedom. And while the literature has also always offered a glimpse into the intimate lives of Black people beyond racist tropes, the details that might make a reader blush were not commonplace until the 1970s, when confessional poetry became a recognized concept.

Confessional poetry, a label credited to critic M.L. Rosenthal, is often a first-person account of something deeply personal, an intimate telling of details that allows the reader to discover a hidden identity actually alive in many people. Black American poetry that falls under this category reinforces the connections that unite us as a community, the shared heritage—sometimes traumatic, sometimes uplifting—most of us inherit and all of us create. Knowing how to identify, analyze, and write confessional poetry will give a writer of any genre the toolkit needed to create believable characters, fictional or otherwise, who are multifaceted and relatable.

Students will engage with work written by Black female poets from the 1970s to present day. We will cover work from writers such as Rita Dove, Natasha Trethewey, and Morgan Parker, along with work from other noted and lesser-known women. We will discuss what makes the chosen work confessional, why such confession matters, and how poetic elements such as voice, figures of speech, and imagery are used to achieve confession. Discussion will be broken up with in-class writing exercises that focus on imitating or recreating elements and attributes discovered in our discussion.

Tell Me Something Real: How to Write Confessional Poetry is designed for writers interested in making their own work more personal—whether that personal is autobiographical, fictional, or somewhere in between—and for writers who, as mentioned earlier, are interested in creating believable characters. Although students should have a basic understanding of poetry (including poetic elements and how to write a poem), this course is open to beginners with and without experience writing poetry, and for the more advanced student interested in an introduction to confessional poetry.

All class meetings will be held via Zoom. The link to join your Zoom classroom will be provided on the morning of your class. Please check spam folders if you do not receive an email confirmation upon registration. For more information on how to download or use Zoom, please click here.

Meet Your Instructor:
Schyler Butler

A recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, Schyler Butler's poetry appears in Obsidian, African American Review, Narrative Northeast, Cordella, and elsewhere. Currently, she lives in Columbus, OH.

Course Takeaways

  • Students will identify what makes a poem confessional.
  • Students will discuss interpretations of selected readings and writing exercises.
  • Students will analyze the poetic elements used within selected readings and writing exercises.
  • Students will illustrate their understanding of poetic elements through writing exercises.

Course Expectations

  • Sharing and workshopping of poems written in class is required.
  • Students are encouraged to read assigned poems before class, but this is not a requirement.

Course Skeleton

  • Week One: The Beginning: 1970-1989
  • Week Two: The Return of Abundance: 1990-2004
  • Week Three: Still Talking: 2005-2014
  • Week Four: A Present: 2014-Now

 We offer full refunds for cancellation with written notice up until 7 days before your class start date. From 6 days to more than 24 hours before class begins, we offer a 25% refund. If you drop a class less than 24 hours before the class begins or after it has started, you are ineligible for a refund.