“It is difficult to get the news from poems,” William Carlos Williams tells us, and he isn’t wrong; but still we keep on coming back to poems for the new. The lyric poem is a conduit for new experience, or for familiar experience reformulated. When we read (and when we write), we’re actually seeking a balance of what we know and what we don’t—or don’t know yet. So part of the poet’s job is to learn how to surprise, where, and by how much. After all, it is only in surprising the reader that we can also satisfy them, even though these two feelings are quite different from one another.
In this craft lab, we’ll consider what it actually means to surprise a reader, and what it takes to do so successfully. We’ll close-read a range of classic and contemporary poems, looking both to understand them and to appreciate our not understanding. We’ll talk about ways to get around cliché—the enemy of surprise. And we’ll focus not only on how poems end (often a place for memorable surprise) but also how their middles can swerve, digress and disorient us, in ways that are both pleasurable and not. This exploration will help us to write new poems and to question our own relationship to the politics of surprise. (When is surprise a manipulation? and who needs to be shaken from their comfortable expectations?) The lab will also provide prompts for building poems in multiple ways founded on both pleasure and revelation.
All participants will have access to a cloud recording of the craft lab for one month afterward.
Craft Lab Details
Jay Deshpande is the author of Love the Stranger (YesYes Books, 2015), named one of the top debuts of 2015 by Poets & Writers, and the chapbooks The Rest of the Body (YesYes Books, 2017) and The Umbrian Sonnets (PANK Books, 2020). A 2018–20 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and the winner of the Scotti Merrill Memorial Award and Narrative‘s Annual Poetry Contest, he has also received fellowships from Kundiman, Civitella Ranieri, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. His poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, New Republic and New England Review, among many other places. He is an advisory editor for Northwest Review and writes criticism for Guernica, Pleiades, Kenyon Review and Boston Review. He holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and has taught workshops for Poets House, the Academy of American Poets and Columbia’s MFA program. Deshpande started teaching for Brooklyn Poets in 2017, quickly becoming one of our most popular teachers and selling out all fourteen of his workshops and mentorship courses since that time. He is our most sought-after mentor on the Bridge and the leader of our Mentorship Program.