The Sonnet

This online workshop will delve into the ubiquitous sonnet: a form at once elastic and strict, durable and dissolute, old fashioned and ever renewing. What once was the standard for courtly love poetry has become perhaps the most versatile vehicle for lyric thought. What is it that makes the sonnet so useful as a baseline for composition? How can working on sonnets strengthen a poet’s prosody—even if you don’t wind up completing a sonnet at all? This generative workshop will help you wrestle with these questions while refining your relationship to form and content. We’ll read sonnets by old masters like Petrarch, Dante, Shakespeare, Sidney, Keats, Hopkins and Millay, on up to contemporary innovators including Denis Johnson, Henri Cole, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Nick Demske and Paul Legault. At the start of the workshop, the professor will provide a video overview of the sonnet form, and each week he’ll provide video and written instructions to a new sonnet assignment. Students will write a new sonnet and write/receive critiques by the end of each week. Weekly work for the course will be done asynchronously on Wet Ink, and at the end of the course, the professor will conference one-on-one with each student electronically.

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.