Writing the Narrative Poem

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There’s more to a good narrative poem than telling a story in lines rather than paragraphs. In this workshop we will examine the distinction between lyric and narrative poetry and look at some contemporary narrative poems to see what makes them succeed or flounder. We will discuss the varying perspectives from which a story can be told and the elements that bring it to life in a poem. If time allows, we’ll draft a brief narrative in prose that can be turned into a poem, paying particular attention to the techniques that good poets use to lift their words above the level of simple, straightforward storytelling.

About Sue Ellen Thompson

Sue Ellen Thompson is the author of five books of poetry, including This Body of SilkTheyThe Golden Hour, and The Leaving: New and Selected Poems, as well as other publications. She is also the editor of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. Her work has been included in the Best American Poetry series, read on NPR by Garrison Keillor, and featured in U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s nationally-syndicated newspaper column. She taught at Wesleyan University, Middlebury College, Binghamton University, and Central Connecticut State University before moving to the Eastern Shore in 2006. She was awarded the 2010 Maryland Author Prize from the Maryland Library Association. More about her at: sueellenthompson.com.

Teaching style: I am very serious about craft--what I can teach adult students that will help them write better poems. As a result, I tend to be very organized in my approach to teaching a workshop and averse to letting the discussion wander off-target. Many poets, even those with graduate degrees, lack formal education in areas such as metaphor, line breaks, revision, tone, syntax, and organizing a manuscript. My goal is to fill in the gaps and give poets the tools they need to writing moving, well-crafted poems.


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