Creative Writing: Poetry

Author: Pat Pattison | Course Code: OLART-215

Creative Writing: Poetry is a course for writers—songwriters, poets, and anyone who wants to write more effectively. The course—authored by Pat Pattison, who developed the curriculum for the only songwriting major in the country at Berklee—will give you specific tools to help you craft and control your writing. You will be taken through a step-by-step process, each step handing you another tool to give what you say more power. You'll learn how to enhance your ideas through arranging lines into odd or even numbered line groups and creating either a feeling of tension or resolution with the composition itself, independent of the poem's meaning. You'll learn placement, timing, focus, and especially how to use rhythm in language expressively.

The course uses musical vocabulary to examine the elements and functions of poetry, exploring how to make things move and stop, stop and move, just like in music. You'll see how the compositional aspects of poetry create their own music, independent of what's being said, and act like a film score to underpin and color your ideas.

The course provides examples from great poetry—both via text and video—from such poets as Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Algernon Charles Swinburne, William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, D.H. Lawrence, e.e. cummings, W.H. Auden, Howard Nemerov, Allen Ginsberg, Galway Kinnell, and others. The focus of the course is not on inspiration and "flowology," though it will help you shape your inspiration more powerfully. Rather, the focus is on composition and how to craft your writing for maximum effect.

Each week, you'll have a new poem and a new tool to manipulate, moving through the counter-pointing of lines against phrases, use of rhythmic composition in blank verse, and ending in two traditional sonnet forms. When you post your poem, the instructor and your classmates will comment on your work, with special focus on how your structures help color and enhance your ideas. By the course's end, you will see poetry differently, both in terms how to approach writing in general, as well as the way that poetry can positively affect your lyrical output.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • write clearly and strongly
  • precisely control form and composition
  • counter-point lines against phrases to create musical effects
  • use language rhythms to create tension and resolution
  • understand the relationship between poetry and music
  • deeply understand prosody, the fundamental principle underlying not only poetry, but art in general

Lesson 1: Prose vs. Poetry

Prose: Phrase LengthsSentence Construction: Simple SentencesCompound SentencesSentence TypesPoetryPhrasesLines with Multiple PhrasesUnits of CompositionProsody

Lesson 2: Managing End-Stops

Creating Subordinate ClausesStable and Unstable Groupings"Days" by Ralph Waldo EmersonInstabilityStudent Poetry ExamplesSwitching Line Order

Lesson 3: Managing Caesuras

CaesurasFrontal, Medial, and Terminal CaesurasCreating TensionEmerson's Handling of CaesurasCreating Motion

Lesson 4: Managing Enjambment

EnjambmentMoving from Light to HeavyOther MovementManaging Emjambment

Lesson 5: Writing in Iambic Pentameter

Stressed and Unstressed SyllablesIambic PentameterBlending LanguagesWhy Pentameter?English PoetryGroove and Variation"Distractions" by Emma Joy Hanley"The Woman with Fire Engine Nails" by Caroline HarveyLearning your Craft

Lesson 6: Substituting in Iambic Pentameter

Substituting in Iambic PentameterThemes and VariationsCreating Emotion"After Long Silence" by William Butler YeatsSubstitutions in "After Long Silence"Going Against Expectations

Lesson 7: Writing in Blank Verse

Writing in Blank Verse"Birches" by Robert Frost"Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord TennysonCompositional Tools"Spring" by Elisa Lomazzo"Christmas Cheer" by Ian Henchy

Lesson 8: Blank Verse Again

More on Blank VerseBlank Verse and Substitutions"A Wake" by Ryan Toll"Still" by Rachel Borovik

Lesson 9: Using Rhyme

Using RhymeSound in PoetryRhyme SchemesPerfect RhymeConsonance RhymeMore on Consonance RhymeRhyme Schemes Revisited"Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe ShelleyUsing Rhyme

Lesson 10: English (or Shakespearean) Sonnet

English or Shakespearean SonnetSequenceSonnet 29Sonnet 73"When I Have Fears" by John KeatsModern Sonnets"Putting in the Seed" by Robert Frost"Baby Running Barefoot" by D. H. Lawrence

Lesson 11: Italian (or Petrarchian) Sonnet

The Italian (or Petrarchian) SonnetThe First Eight Lines"In Memoriam" by Alfred, Lord TennysonThe Italian Sonnet Road MapKeats"Mezzo Cammin" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow"Grief" Elizabeth Barret Browning"Design" by Robert FrostThe ccdeed sestete. e. cummingse. e. cummings Variation

Lesson 12: The Terza Rima

The Terza RimaRobert FrostThe First QuatrainThe Second Quatrain"Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Pat Pattison


Pat Pattison is an author, clinician and Berklee Professor of Lyric Writing and Poetry whose students have composed for major artists and written number one songs. At Berklee, he developed the curriculum for the only songwriting major in the country. His books, including Songwriting: Essential Guide to Rhyming and Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, are recognized as definitive in their genre, and have earned many ecstatic reviews. His clinics are attended by songwriters all over the country, and his articles appear regularly in a variety of industry publications.

Caroline Harvey


Caroline Harvey is an assistant professor in the Liberal Arts department at Berklee College of Music, in addition to being a writer, performer, and somatic therapist. She teaches and performs poetry nationwide, and is the creator of two original voice curricula, Free Your Voice™ and Embodied Poetics™. She was featured in two documentaries and appeared on Season 5 of HBO's Def Poetry. A past member and coach of multiple Poetry Slam Teams, Harvey has been a part of victories on both national and regional stages. Most recently, she helped the Berklee College of Music Slam Team win the "Spirit of Slam" award at the 2010 Collegiate National Poetry Slam. She has performed with Alicia Keys, Mos Def, John Legend, Reggie Gibson, Joshua Bennett, Donna De Lory, and others, and is honored to have been featured at schools and organizations such as YouthSpeaks, The Esalen Institute, Bristol Community College, Northeastern University, University of California at Berkeley, and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Harvey was awarded a BFA in Theater from Boston University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and won the Dean's Award for Academic Excellence. Her stage directorial debut dealt with the work of poet Anne Sexton and was chosen for review by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. She later earned a Master's degree in Dance from UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures. Harvey's writing, which explores ideas of the sacred and tracks her belief that even the fiercest traumas contain within them the capacity for profound healing and beauty, has been published in various literary journals and anthologies including the 2005 National Poetry Slam Anthology High Desert Voices and the Harvard publication The Charles River Review. She is currently working on a new collection of poems based on the women Salvador Dali painted and a book about her most recent travels in Asia and Central America.

All students enrolled in this, course must know English well enough to:

easily understand recorded videos and written class lessons;participate successfully in written and oral class discussions;read, write, and study without being hindered by language problems;possess intermediate or advanced grammar skills related to punctuation and verb conjugation.

Though the course uses a rudimentary musical vocabulary, no musical training is required.


PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higherMac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, SafariFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current version
Windows Vista SP2 or higherIntel Pentium or higher512 MB RAMSound card250 MB hard drive space recommended
OS X 10.7 or laterG4 or higher, Intel Mac recommended2 GB RAM250 MB hard drive space recommended


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Next Term Starts June 27

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