Form & Freedom

Form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini.
—Paul Muldoon

Poetic form is scaffolding, is a cage, is temporary, is permanent, is a friend, is an enemy, something to wrestle with and break, a comrade. I have come to rely on form as a place to begin from when an empty page seems like an uncrossable boundary, and as something to help me revise when a draft seems unwieldy. Form is not unlike a kind of prayer, distracting our conscious minds with a difficult task so that the surprising line, phrase or image can get free. In this seven-week online workshop, we’ll practice and workshop a new form each week, trying on the sonnet, ghazal, cento, pantoum and beautiful outlaw. The final form we’ll invent ourselves. We’ll read work by poets including Agha Shahid Ali, John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Natalie Diaz, Suzanne Gardinier, Marwa Helal, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark Jarman, Bernadette Mayer, Claude McKay and A.E. Stallings. Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom every Thursday night, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.

Workshop Details


Miller Oberman‘s first book, The Unstill Ones, a collection of original poems and Old English translations, was chosen by Susan Stewart for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and published in the fall of 2017. A former Ruth Lilly Fellow as well as a 2016 winner of the 92nd St Y’s Boston Review/Discovery Prize, his translation of selections from the “Old English Rune Poem” won Poetry’s John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize for Translation in 2013. Oberman’s poems and translations have appeared in Poetry, Harvard Review, Tin House and the Nation. He has taught workshops in poetry, poetics and fiction at Georgia College and the University of Connecticut, where he completed his PhD in English. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, rock singer Louisa Rachel Solomon of the Shondes.