Workshops

Below are a selection of poetry courses that I am able to offer. I’m also more than happy to tailor a course to individual specifications. Details of current and upcoming poetry workshops will be regularly updated in the sidebar.

Suitable for single sessions:

Suitable for multiple sessions:

My time is quite flexible – I’m available for workshops during working hours on most weekdays as well as on weekends. Contact me to discuss your requirements.

Writing groups may be eligible for local government funding towards the costs of workshops, masterclasses etc – contact your local Creative Communities advisor.


Jump-starting the Muse – Poetry Exercise Workshop (single session)

Looking for inspiration? Can’t find the time to write? Want to meet some other poetry writers and have fun writing? A full-on session of writing exercises designed to get the creative juices flowing. Along the way we’ll look at questions of technique, and read lots of great poems.

Each writing challenge is designed to address some specific aspect of poetry writing, such as persona, anaphora, curses and blessings, subverting clichés, and responding to pre-existing poems.

Intended for those who already have some experience at writing poetry, although no history of publication is required.

– Recommended length 3 to 6 hours in total.
– Minimum of six, maximum of twenty-five participants.


Reading for Writing (single session)

Those who want to write good poems should be reading good poetry, not how-to books. Indeed, every fine poem is a how-to manual.
– Billy Collins

If you wish to know the time, look at the clock face: if you wish to build a clock, take off the back. As writers we learn from our betters by taking off the back.
– Owen Marshall

Join poet Joanna Preston for a workshop that climbs inside poems, finds out what makes them tick, and explores ways to use that knowledge to create poems of your own. A combination of close reading and creative writing exercises.

It is aimed at people who already have some familiarity with writing poetry and who wish to end a dry spell, kickstart new work, or just investigate poetry that they may not have come across before.

– Recommended length three to five hours.
– Minimum of 6, maximum of 25 participants.


Writing Love Poems

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
But how do I manage
to say something new?

Ever wanted to write a poem for that special person, but not known how to go beyond greeting-card boring?

This course takes you through some of the surprising strategies that poets have employed to write love poems – lots of poems to read, lots of exercises to try, lots of fun to be had.

– 2 to 6 hours long, either as one session of 2-6 hours, or two sessions of 3 hours each.
– Minimum of six, maximum of thirty participants.


Introduction to Haibun

Long before the French writers experimented with prose poems, Japanese monk and master-poet Matsuo Basho was combining haiku with prose to tell of his travels along the Narrow Road to the Deep North. Part diary, part travel journal, part zen discipline, this Japanese prose poem form has captivated writers around the globe.

The class will begin with an overview of the history of the form and how it is being written in the modern era, with plenty of examples from local writers. This will be followed by writing exercises, to put theory into practice.

Assumes some awareness of the haiku form.

– Recommended length 2 to 3 hours in total, structured as a single session.
– Minimum of six, maximum of twenty-five participants.


Editing 101

It’s the thing we all hate to do, and the most valuable skill to learn – how to take a piece of writing and shape it into a poem. Intended to provide a supportive environment for learning some simple, mechanical techniques to apply to your own work.

We will begin by looking at some of the common mistakes writers make, and apply some basic principles of editing to a couple of supplied poems. The second part of the class will be an opportunity for a couple of participants to have a poem of their own edited by the group under the tutor’s supervision.

Intended for people with some experience of writing poetry, although no publication experience is required.

– Recommended length two to four hours hours, depending on numbers.
– Can be run as a stand-alone class, or as part of a longer series.
Minimum of six, maximum of twenty participants.


Editing Masterclass

This class is intended for those who have already had some publication, and are looking to have some hard workshopping done on a specific poem. We will apply a variety of mechanical techniques to perform major editing on one or two poems per session. The intention is to guide you through the application of a set of principles that will help to improve your own technical editing skills, as well as giving you the chance to have other people edit your work. Not suitable for beginners – admission to this class will be at the discretion of the organisers.

– Recommended length 3 to 12 hours in total (depending on numbers), structured as sessions of no more than three hours each.
– Minimum of four and a maximum of ten participants.


Introduction to Writing Poetry

Want to write poetry, but don’t know where to start? Would you like to understand what poetry is all about? Whether you want to write poems to mark rites of passage like birthdays, weddings and funerals, or simply to have fun with words and gain the satisfaction of making something well, this course is for you.

A fun, supportive class, designed to spark creativity and show you how much poetry there is out there. Each session will focus on different skills, with lots of example poems and exercises to stretch your imagination.

The course will cover:
◊ what a poem is, and what makes it different to prose
◊ how to read a poem
◊ where poem ideas come from, and how to find them
◊ how to start turning ideas into poems
◊ how line breaks work
◊ rhyme, and where it’s gone
◊ images, metaphors and simile, and how to safely dispose of clichés
◊ a selection of rhyming forms such as epigrams, limericks, triolets, and ballads
◊ how, and why, to revise your poem.

It is intended for people who have limited or no previous experience of writing poetry, and who would like to learn in a supportive environment with people of a similar level of knowledge.

– Recommended length 15 hours in total, structured as five sessions of 3 hours each.
– Minimum of six, maximum of twenty participants.


Return to Rhyme – The Contemporary Formal Poem

Rhyme and rhythm is back. The new innovators of poetry have headed back to their roots, and are doing things with formal poetry that Shakespeare could have only dreamed of. From the sonnet to the sestina, by way of terza rima and the triolet – a chance to explore the world of contemporary formal poetry.

This course is designed to examine modern approaches to writing formal poetry. It will cover aspects of formalism such as rhyme and metricality, and examine poems in various fixed forms, both contemporary and historical. Each session will be an investigation of one or more form, with an opportunity to put the knowledge into practice. There will also be the opportunity for critical feedback for those who want it.

Intended for people with some experience of creative writing and some basic familiarity with poetry, although no publication experience is required.

– Recommended length 12 hours in total, structured as either six 2 hour sessions or four 3 hour sessions.
– Minimum of six, maximum of twenty-five participants.


Jump-starting the Muse – Poetry Exercise Workshop

Looking for inspiration? Can’t find the time to write? Want to meet some other poetry writers and have fun writing? This is the course for you. Each session will be based around a number of writing exercises designed to get the creative juices flowing. Along the way we’ll look at questions of technique, and read lots of great poems.

The course will be structured as a series of writing challenges, designed to address some specific aspect of poetry writing, such as persona, anaphora, curses and blessings, subverting clichés, and responding to pre-existing poems. The sessions will also look at basic editing techniques and polishing a poem for publication.

Intended for those who already have some experience at writing poetry, although no history of publication is required. Especially intended for those who need inspiration, or who would like to commit a certain amount of time each week to their writing.

– Recommended length 12 to 20 hours in total – either six to ten sessions of 2 hours each, or three to five weekend sessions of 4 hours each.
– Minimum of six, maximum of twenty-five participants.


Reading for Writing

Those who want to write good poems should be reading good poetry, not how-to books. Indeed, every fine poem is a how-to manual.
– Billy Collins

If you wish to know the time, look at the clock face: if you wish to build a clock, take off the back. As writers we learn from our betters by taking off the back.
– Owen Marshall

Join poet Joanna Preston for a workshop that climbs inside poems, finds out what makes them tick, and explores ways to use that knowledge to create poems of your own. A combination of poetry appreciation with creative writing, this class looks at honing the writer’s most important skill: attentive reading. Each session will feature discussion of a number of provided poems, followed by writing exercises and the chance to receive feedback on what they have created.

It is aimed at people who already have some familiarity with writing poetry, and who wish to end a dry spell, kickstart new work, or just investigate poetry that they may not have come across before.

– Recommended length 12-18 hours in total, structured as either four to six sessions of 3 hours each (preferred option) or six to nine sessions of 2 hours each.
– Minimum of six, maximum of twenty-five participants.

There are a number of possible variations, with a slightly different focus each time:

  1. Introduction: Takes a wide view of both contemporary and historical poetry, and provides an overview to the ideas of close reading, and using other poems to trigger poems of your own.
  2. Love Poems, Praise Poems and Elegies: Looks at the varied ways that poets have dealt with the three fundamental subjects of human experience – love, death, and thanks. Considers poems from a wide variety of sources, both modern and historical.
  3. American Women: Explores the work of a number of contemporary American women poets, including Sharon Olds, Jane Kenyon, Mary Oliver, Louise Glück, Carolyn Forché and Rita Dove.
  4. The British New Generation Poets: Takes a sampling of work from some of the British poets chosen as part of the 1994 New Generation poetry promotion, who have gone on to be the superstars of contemporary British poetry. Sessions begin with an introduction to the work of one or two poets, followed by a chance to write your own poem in response. Poets discussed include Moniza Alvi, Simon Armitage, Michael Donaghy, Carol Ann Duffy, Lavinia Greenlaw and Don Paterson.
  5. The British Next Generation Poets: Takes a sampling of work from some of the British poets chosen in the 2004 Next Generation poetry promotion, who are tipped to be the new superstars of contemporary British poetry. Poets discussed include Jane Draycott, Paul Farley, Sophie Hannah, Alice Oswald, Pascale Petit and Jean Sprackland.
  6. The Irish Poets: An introduction to some of the big names in contemporary Irish (English-language) poetry, including Heaney, Boland, Longley, Muldoon, Morissey and Laird.
  7. Beyond British: A chance to encounter the work of a number of contemporary poets who have marked out their own National territory alongside (and inside) the British. Includes Welsh, Scottish and Irish poets writing in English such as Gillian Clarke, Dannie Absie, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Don Patterson and Kathleen Jamie, as well as the Northern English poets such as Tony Harrison, Sophie Hannah, and Simon Armitage.
  8. Four of the Best: An exploration of some of the best contemporary poems from Australia, The UK, the USA and New Zealand. A chance to investigate what exactly makes a poem “best”, looking at work chosen for the annual anthologies Best Australian Poetry, Best American Poetry, Best New Zealand Poetry, and The Forward Book(s) of Poetry, as well as a selection of prize-winning poems from competitions in those four countries.


Poetry Workshop Group

Want to begin honing your poems, but don’t know where to start? Want honest, constructive feedback, but don’t know who to ask? This is the course for you – a chance to meet regularly with a group of like-minded writers and work on improving your poetry under the guidance of tutor Joanna Preston. An opportunity to make the first foray into sharing your poetry with a wider audience, in a fun, safe and supportive environment.

Each session will feature the group workshopping members’ poems, and one or more writing exercises designed to address specific areas of craft.

Intended for those who have been writing poetry for a while, and who are ready to work seriously on their poems. (Not suitable for complete beginners.)

– Recommended length fifteen hours, structured as five sessions of three hours each.
Minimum of six, maximum of twenty participants.