The Elegiac Tradition

What Departs and What Emerges

What is it about grief that makes us need to sing? The elegy, or the poem of mourning, is a strange event—but it is also omnipresent, and the impulse behind it is as natural as breathing. In a time of so much deprivation all around us, it is especially fitting that we learn the elegiac mode. In this five-week online workshop, we’ll examine the tradition of the elegy and its use in modern poetic practice. Alongside texts by Peter Sacks and Sigmund Freud, we’ll look at poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Walt Whitman, Richard Siken, Marie Howe, Mark Doty, Tracy K. Smith, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Jason Koo, Mary Jo Bang, and more. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the norms and rhetorical moves that shape elegiac writing—and will have five new poems to show for it. Weekly work for the course will be done asynchronously on Wet Ink, and the professor will provide video introductions to course material and assignments and, at the end of the course, a one-on-one video conference with each student.

Workshop 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 chapbook The Rest of the Body (YesYes Books, 2017). A 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 Key West Literary Seminar. His poems have recently appeared in Denver Quarterly, Washington Square, LARB Quarterly Journal and Horsethief. He holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and he has taught workshops for Poets House, the Academy of American Poets, Rutgers and the MFA program at Columbia University.