Focus on Form: Poetry Workshop | May 29-July 7


Do you love writing poetry but feel stuck in free verse?

In this 6-week workshop, we will focus on one new form each week. We’ll read examples of each and share our work, not with the intention of revision or polishing, but in the spirit of practice and experimentation.

Come try your hand (whether for the first time or as a refresher) at learning about and writing specific forms of poetry. Rather than trying to get out of the box we’ll spend these six weeks exploring what boxes of various shapes and sizes have to offer and what they can hold.

Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing. – James Tate


There’s a saying that within form, there is freedom. Sometimes having structure and guidelines, and yes, even “rules,” liberates us.

Imagine a dog park: Within the designated area, the humans can schmooze and the dogs can run free, and nobody is worried about cars or non-dog people getting upset. There’s a reason for the parameters. Now, this is not to say our group will be like a dog park, but if you’d like to write a sonnet about that, go for it.

On the one hand, Katharine Hepburn said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” On the other hand, there’s the age-old aphorism, “You have to know the rules before you can break them.” This workshop will be a chance to learn the rules so that you’ll know what rules you’re breaking! Come play, challenge yourself, support your peers, and add to your poetic toolbox.

Writing with the constraints of form can give rise to a greater economy of words, tension or synergy between form and content, and ear for music, sound, and pacing. Having seemingly fewer options sometimes opens up more options. It’s a wonderful paradox.


Anyone with an interest in deepening your knowledge-base of poetic forms and structure, regardless of (writing and life) background. This workshop will be beginner-friendly as well as engaging for more experienced poets. Be sure to bring a positive attitude, interest in supporting others, and sense of humor!


Each week will deliver an email to your inbox, including that week’s poetic form, some background and examples — both older and contemporary, and suggestions for your own practice.

We will gather in a secret Facebook group to share questions and notes from the field. Then, on Thursdays, everyone will post their own poems, for feedback and discussion. In the final week, you will have the option of choosing one poem to revisit and revise. There will be suggested books, but no required purchases.

  • Week 1: Starting where we are. This week will bring the opportunity for participants to write several short #rightnow poems. By beginning with free verse, we’ll essentially warm up for the following weeks.
  • Week 2: Sonnets
  • Week 3: Villanelles
  • Week 4: Found Poems
  • Week 5: Sestinas
  • Week 6: Revisions


May 29-July 7, 2017


Limited to 12 participants


Please choose from the following tiers, according to an honest self-assessment. You may also choose to simultaneously save your spot in the July Dive Into Poetry for an additional $30.

Payments by installment are also possible; contact me to discuss.

  • Tier 1: Folks who have to scrimp, squirrel, and save to participate in this kind of group. $140
  • Tier 2: Anyone who’s moderately comfortable and has some disposable income. $210
  • Tier 3: Those of you who have the ability and desire to pay it forward. $280

Payment options:

Additional thoughts from Jena:

In addition to preparing and guiding us through the workshop, I’ll be writing right alongside you, as I do in almost all of my groups. I am a poet by vocation, and a practitioner at heart — meaning, everything I do is practice. I worked with form in my early 20s as a graduate student in an MFA program at Emerson College, though most of my poetry would probably fall into a “free verse” category. I steer clear of labels, love learning, and find it thrilling to play with poetry as part of my work in this world. It’s also not an accident I don’t teach in a higher ed setting. I’ve seen many folks who didn’t know they were poets discover just that, as well as long-time poets become freer and more confident with their voices when given the room to “just write.” No matter what draws you to this workshop, I can promise you it will be supportive, playful, and encouraging. Join me! 

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