Writing the Silence with Jen Fitzgerald

Poetry and Essay share a cerebral kinship. They follow their own paths, but are born of living. In this three-week workshop, learn how to draw from your life to create art.

Your Instructor: Jen Fitzgerald, essayist and poet

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 25

Price: $250

Class Description

How can we draw from our lives to create art?

Poetry and Essay share a cerebral kinship that require a distillation of life. They make their way to the page from the creative center of existence that follows its own synaptic leaps to revelation. But they are born of living.

The human interactions, the brick and mortar, and the witnessing of events all shape our individual and collective consciousness. Writing comes from this space—poetry keeps it primal and essays stretch and contort their paragraph bodies into shapes we can all recognize as part of ourselves. 

Tap into that primal place in this three-week workshop with Jen Fitzgerald in Writing the Silence

Jen is a poet, essayist, and native New Yorker who received her MFA in Poetry at Lesley University. She is the host of New Books in Poetry Podcast as part of the New Books Network, a member of New York Writers Workshop, and was a Bread Loaf 2014 Conference attendee. Her first collection of poetry, “The Art of Work” is forthcoming with Noemi Press in Spring 2016. Her work has been featured on PBS Newshour and Harriet: The Poetry Foundation Blog and in Tin House, Salon, PEN Anthology, and AAWW: Open City, among others. She is at work on her memoir.

Poetry isn't just for people who want to write poetry. Amy Hempel tells her students to read poetry. Tom Spanbauer teaches poetry in his Dangerous Writing class. Poetry is writing boiled down to its essence—it teaches you tone and timber and pacing. It teaches you the weight of each individual word, and how that word fits into the word next to it. Poetry is just as valuable for prose writers as it is for poets. 

The essay, like the poem, is a mind at work, reaching from the singular to the infinite. Author and essayist Dinty W. Moore writes:

“A few years back I devised my own metaphor to replace “meaning,” my own way of trying to guide young writers to acknowledge the intuitive vapor of emotion, metaphor, image, and idea that makes a piece of creative nonfiction—an essay, a memoir—more than just a collection of scenes or observations, something greater than the sum of its many parts.  How does a piece of writing open up into something wide and powerful, or reflect a truth that is “older than the flow of human blood in human veins”? The term I chose was Invisible Magnetic River…the truth is sometimes not in the words but between them, in the permeable tissue that runs from moment to moment.”        

We miss so many opportunities for connection each day. This class is about losing yourself in other people and new places. Literature’s place in the world is defined by its ability to re-establish our bonds and guide us towards seeing ourselves in the narratives of others. If it fails, we fail. What do we know as truth and how can we reach beyond it to grab at the infinite?

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What This Class Covers

Week one

Reading: Craft Essays

“Writing the Australian Crawl” by William Stafford

“The Triggering Town” by Victor Hugo

An excerpt from “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard

  • Read and discuss craft essays.
  • Print out the "Mapping a Moment" chart and take it out into the world with you.
  • Create a vertical "train of thought" list using its prompts, leaving room for synaptic leaps.

Week Two

Reading: Poems of Witness

“The Colonel” by Carolyn Forche

“Facing It” by Yusef Komunyakaa

“They Feed They Lion” by Philip Levine

“Bread” by Frances Chung

“Dulce et Decorum” by Wilfred Owen

  • Read and discuss poems of witness.
  • Revise vertical list into poem. 
  • Submit for feedback and thoughts on trajectory of future essay.

Week Three

Reading: Creative Essays

“Against Gunmetal” by Lia Purpura

“Jesus Shaves” by David Sedaris

“The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” by Audre Lorde

  • Read and discuss creative essays provided.
  • Revise poem into essay, allowing for fragmentation. (Bonus time to resubmit revised essay for comments after the three weeks.)

Goals Of This Class

  • Show participants how to trust their creative drive and instinct after our time together (it is why you are a writer).
  • Show writers how to create their “written reality” from real and lived experiences.
  • Fuel the poet’s imagination and load up their arsenals.
  • Fill in the silences we create between one another. This is at the heart of literature’s place in the world.
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