The qualities that make a voice a voice can be vexingly hard to describe when a reader encounters this voice in a poem. The reader knows when that vibrant authenticity is there, or the reader intuits when it’s not fully there.
In this three-hour class, we’ll examine the thematic and formal energies that shape the voice in a poem, giving that voice its credibility, force, and pathos. We’ll look at exemplary work by singular poets and pay granular notice to the technical moves that make the reader listen to, and inhabit, the voices these poets conjure on the page. We’ll also look at how distinct deployments of voice—such as persona and the first-person collective speaker—can broaden and complicate our resourcefulness as poets.
The ideas and examples we discuss are meant, of course, to bring new powers and inflections to your own poems. Lots of writing prompts will be given along the way.
Rick Barot's most recent book of poems, The Galleons, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2020 and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, The New Republic, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and The New Yorker. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Stanford University. He lives in Tacoma, Washington and directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University.