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The Poem's Intention

This course and its inquiry are based on the premise that a poem asserts its own emotional, thematic, and narrative intention, distinct from its author’s (poet’s) intention.

In making the distinction between the writer’s intention and the poem’s intention, writers acquire the benefit of awareness of their artistic creations as energy and impulse that arises out of, but has an independent expressive life from, them. That awareness promotes new strategies for composing and revising poems, including how to do the following:

  • Be loyal to the poem, rather than life-event facts
  • Make intentional, disciplined decisions during revision
  • Read all styles of poetry with interest, sympathy, and imagination
  • Be unbound by previous definitions of poetry

Course inquiry will form around such questions as the following:

  • How does the poem want to make meaning?
  • What discoveries, confessions, revelations, etc. does the poem want to convey?
  • What technical or formal support will facilitate the poem’s voyage of discovery?

Students are invited to leave behind their preconceptions about what a poem can be, and are encouraged to bring their curiosity, enthusiasm, open-mindedness, and playfulness to class.


Location: Online
Duration: 8 weeks
Tuition: $567

Upcoming Offerings

Start Date
Seats Available
Start DateMon, Oct 2, 2023
  • Mon, Oct 2, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (class/lecture)
  • Mon, Oct 9, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (class/lecture)
  • Mon, Oct 23, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (class/lecture)
  • Mon, Oct 30, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (class/lecture)
  • Mon, Nov 6, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (class/lecture)
  • Mon, Nov 13, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (class/lecture)
  • Mon, Nov 20, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (class/lecture)
  • Mon, Nov 27, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (class/lecture)
InstructorJami Macarty
Seats Available12

Writing experience

To get the most out of this advanced course, you should:

  • have completed at least one poetry course (The Poem’s Intention is a good fit for writers who are post-TWS certificate, or post MFA)
  • be at serious work-play on individual poems or a series
  • be at serious work-play on a chapbook or full-length collection of poems
  • want to deepen your conversation about poetry
  • wish to deepen your intimacy with your own poems

What you will learn

By the end of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Distinguish between the poem’s intention and the writer’s intention
  • Define emotional, thematic and narrative characteristics in a poem
  • Articulate how a poem’s characteristics contribute to its intention
  • Understand and evaluate a poem’s relationship to the reader
  • Draw from diverse strategies and techniques to re-see poems
  • Incorporate experimentation into the revision process
  • Write and develop poem series and sequences
  • Bring poems to more complete, satisfying, engaging and publishable forms

How you will learn and be evaluated

  • Lectures
  • Discussions
  • In-class exercises
  • Independent assignments
  • Reading
  • By discovering and following your emergent interests

Your grade will be based on the level of commitment you demonstrate to your class participation and writing assignments.

Learning Materials

No textbook is required. We will provide all course materials online.

Technical Requirements

For online courses, you will need a computer with audio and microphone that is connected to the internet. Canvas is the online system that will be used for the course. For more information and online support, visit Online Learning.

Note: To participate in this course, please be sure to use a computer capable of running Office 365.