Most poets alive during the 5,000+ years of recorded history have gone to some trouble to learn versification—poets from every region, culture and socioeconomic class on earth, writing in many thousands of languages. Why? Over the past century, answers have become less and less straightforward and intuitive. We’ll start there, with the expectation of finding substantial, recognizably human purposes that might make us want to challenge ourselves to learn meter. Over the course of this six-week, online workshop, we’ll dive into technical essentials, beyond the usual terminological preoccupations, to think about how metrical patterns arise and how they relate to rhythms of natural spoken English. Paying particular attention to key English-language meters, we’ll address some widespread misunderstandings and, via writing, workshop and reading, gain as much practical experience as possible with meter. The first goal is competency. The second is to explore, in our own work, ways of placing the varied rhythms of natural English into meaningful, expressive relation with artificial metrical patterns. We’ll aim to understand how versification works as a rhetorical tool, giving poets control at every verbal level, from the overall texture of a poem to the many emphases and tensions that, line by line, help determine tone and pacing and act like a genetic code for indirect meaning. We’ll continue to ask Why throughout the workshop, hoping to discover our own best answers. Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.
Joshua Mehigan’s second book, Accepting the Disaster (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), was cited in the Times Literary Supplement and New York Times Book Review as a best book of 2015. His poems have appeared in periodicals including the New Yorker, New York Times, Paris Review and Poetry, which awarded him its 2013 Levinson Prize. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Mehigan has taught English and creative writing at Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island and other CUNY schools, and from 2017 to 2020 he was an artist in residence at Northwestern University. He lives in Windsor Terrace.