Workshops I: The Sonnet

Compression, Intensity, Sound

From medieval Italy to Kings County, New York, the sonnet has remained one of the most popular poetic forms for 800 years. And just a few decades after the English stole it from the Italians, Shakespeare was already mocking it as corny. (See Sonnet CXXX.) Still, despite the well-founded association between sonnets and love-dove clichés, poets continue to find powerful new ways of finessing meaning and tonality from its simple, if challenging, constraints. In this workshop, students will work on exercises meant to hone their basic skills with the sonnet form and develop their resourcefulness with language and other formal and imaginative elements of poetry. To these ends, we will discuss a broad variety of sonnets drawn from the whole history of the form, covering traditional sonnets as well as nontraditional rhymed, blank and free-verse variations. A primary aim of the workshop will be to move beyond the idea of the sonnet form as a formula and toward a deeper grasp of it as a means to a surprising range of expressive ends. Readings will include sonnets by Petrarch, Wyatt, Shakespeare, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Keats, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Rimbaud, Frost, Borges, Langston Hughes, Auden, Gwendolyn Brooks and others.

Workshop Details



Joshua Mehigan’s second book, Accepting the Disaster, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2014 and has since been cited as a best book of the year in the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement and other publications. Mehigan’s first book, The Optimist, was a finalist for the 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His poems have appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times, Village Voice and Poetry, which awarded him its 2013 Levinson Prize. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Mehigan currently teaches creative writing at the College of Staten Island. He is a faculty member of Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference and has led poetry workshops at Stonecoast Writers’ Conference and the West Chester University Poetry Conference. He lives in Windsor Terrace.