Poetry Show & Tell: Exploring the Delicate Balance Between the Concrete & the Abstract

Often cited as one of the most critical “rules” for writing well is the idiom “show, don’t tell.” While there’s immeasurable value to be gleaned from this pithy directive, poems of excellence will evidence—in any number of imaginative ways—that it is actually the relationship between concrete and abstract language that offers readers the emotional, intellectual and sensorial returns on their investments in the words on the page. Such a balance, however, does not require an even distribution between language that animates and language that describes. Rather, like any great rustic Italian dish, such a vital balance is achieved through proportion. Lines of verse can be well-crafted and satisfy whether they’re heavy in notions or particulars; it is only in how language is contextually devised—how lines of verse are crafted in relation to the uniqueness of a poem’s form, texture and tone—that we feel nourished by its balance. In this weekly drop-in class, we’ll observe, discuss and deconstruct the delicate art of showing and telling and celebrate the nuanced power this equilibrium holds to make all the difference between a good poem and a purposeful work of literary art. Designed to be a reading and writing instruction class, we’ll immerse ourselves in masterful works that exhibit how a poem successfully engages our mind as much as our mind’s eye, and we’ll muse through exercises that illuminate how the ability to show and tell with finesse serves up the secret sauce that feeds a reader’s soul. Sharing will be encouraged but optional. (Note that drop-in classes are not a forum for critique of work; students looking for critique should register for multi-week workshops.)

Drop-In Details


  • Teacher: Danielle Gasparro
  • Dates: Jan 21–Mar 11, 2023
  • Time: Saturdays, 11:00 am–12:00 pm
  • Location: 144 Montague
  • Cost: $23 in advance / $25 at the door
    $20 for members anytime

Click Register to check the class schedule on Eventbrite—classes are sometimes canceled due to teacher unavailability. Save by becoming a member or registering in advance on Eventbrite.

Danielle Gasparro

Danielle Gasparro

Danielle Gasparro is a Brooklyn-based wordsmith, songsmith and teaching artist. She holds an MFA in poetry from New England College and a BA in creative writing with honors from Florida State University. Her poetry and essays have been published in the Daily Palette, Chronogram, Shift: A Journal of Literary Oddities, the Red Wheelbarrow and elsewhere. Prior to 2018, Gasparro devoted nearly twenty years to performing, recording and building an avid following as a nationally touring singer-songwriter. The obtaining of her MFA signaled a shift in artistic focus to her long-term work as a writer, and Gasparro is currently developing a hybrid memoir that fuses poetry, nonfiction and photography. A passionate educator, Gasparro regularly presents poetry talks and workshops in partnership with public libraries and arts organizations throughout New York’s Hudson River Valley. A regional library tour of her popular poetry-demystifying program is slated to launch in the Northeast in the spring of 2023. On occasion, Gasparro still performs her music live, as curated with her poetry into a dynamic solo concert experience presented exclusively in intimate, piano-centered spaces: “An Evening of Voice & Verse.”