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When Life Gives You Lemons: Embracing Cliché

Dates: 2 Thursdays, October 27 - November 3
Time: 6 - 8 pm PST
Instructor: Shara Lessley
Format: ZOOM
Genre: Poetry
Price: $195    
Shara Lessley

As writers we’re taught that language loses power through overuse, and that we should strive to avoid what’s tired or trite. In this class, we’ll consider cliché as a generative resource—one that enriches, enlivens, and helps readers engage with our work.


How, in other words, can we exploit common expressions, idioms, or stock images in order to push our drafts in unforeseen and surprising directions?


Considering examples by Ai, Kevin Young, Kim Addonizio, Chen Chen, Phillip Larkin, Analicia Sotelo, and Louise Glück, among others, we’ll discuss love poetry, humor, (re)invention, how to reimagine the given, pattern-making, and how to make what’s old new again.

Shara Lessley is the author of The Explosive Expert’s Wife (University of Wisconsin, 2018), winner of the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize, and Two-Headed Nightingale (New Issues, 2011), as well as coeditor of The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice (Pleiades Press, 2018), an anthology of essays.


A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, Shara has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Washington College’s Mary Wood Fellowship, the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Colgate University’s Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship, and a Discovery/The Nation prize, among others.


Shara's recent work appears in American Poetry Review, Copper Nickel, Magma, Bennington Review, Kenyon Review, and the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. She's a Consulting Editor for Acre Books.

Click here to learn more about Shara.

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