Very Friendly Lighthouses, or How to Continue

How do we get started on poems? And once we have started and reached an impasse, how do we continue? What do we do if we find ourselves stuck? How do we move through difficulties and guide ourselves towards the strange, the familiar, the true? The late great singer Vic Chesnutt wrote that we are “Motorboating through our lives, only gradually gaining rudimentary / Navigational skills / And even sometimes offended by very friendly / Lighthouses.” We’ll look at exemplary poems closely to illuminate some rudimentary navigational skills and try them out. We’ll distinguish between friendly lighthouses and shiny, alluring disasters. We’ll discuss and enact all stages of the creative process, from beginnings, to continuing, to revision, to completion. We’ll read together, write and talk about how to continue as poets and artists in a culture inimical to privacy, difference and the creative act of writing poetry and living as an artist. Come to the lab with a draft, the rougher the better.

All participants will have access to a cloud recording of the craft lab for one month afterward.

Craft Lab Details


Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Father’s Day (Copper Canyon, 2019), as well as the prose books Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017) and Story of a Poem (Unnamed, 2023). He is editor at large at Wave Books, where he edits contemporary poetry, prose and translations. From 2016 to 2017, he held the annually rotating position of editor of the poetry column for the New York Times Magazine, and he was also the editor of Best American Poetry 2022. He teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Saint Mary’s College of California.