Creative Writing: Poetry


Authored by Pat Pattison


Course Code: OLART-215

Next Term Starts April 8

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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
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Lesson 1: Prose vs. Poetry

  • Prose: Phrase Lengths
  • Sentence Construction: Simple Sentences
  • Compound Sentences
  • Sentence Types
  • Poetry
  • Phrases
  • Lines with Multiple Phrases
  • Units of Composition
  • Prosody

Lesson 2: Managing End-Stops 

  • Creating Subordinate Clauses
  • Stable and Unstable Groupings
  • "Days" by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Instability
  • Student Poetry Examples
  • Switching Line Order

Lesson 3: Managing Caesuras 

  • Caesuras
  • Frontal, Medial, and Terminal Caesuras
  • Creating Tension
  • Emerson's Handling of Caesuras
  • Creating Motion

Lesson 4: Managing Enjambment

  • Enjambment
  • Moving from Light to Heavy
  • Other Movement
  • Managing Enjambment

Lesson 5: Writing in Iambic Pentameter

  • Stressed and Unstressed Syllables
  • Iambic Pentameter
  • Blending Languages
  • Why Pentameter?
  • English Poetry
  • Groove and Variation
  • "Distractions" by Emma Joy Hanley
  • "The Woman with Fire Engine Nails" by Caroline Harvey
  • Learning your Craft

Lesson 6: Substituting in Iambic Pentameter

  • Substituting in Iambic Pentameter
  • Themes and Variations
  • Creating Emotion
  • "After Long Silence" by William Butler Yeats
  • Substitutions 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 Tennyson
  • Compositional Tools
  • "Spring" by Elisa Lomazzo
  • "Christmas Cheer" by Ian Henchy

Lesson 8: Blank Verse Again 

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

Lesson 9: Using Rhyme

  • Using Rhyme
  • Sound in Poetry
  • Rhyme Schemes
  • Perfect Rhyme
  • Consonance Rhyme
  • More on Consonance Rhyme
  • Rhyme Schemes Revisited
  • "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • Using Rhyme

Lesson 10: English (or Shakespearean) Sonnet

  • English or Shakespearean Sonnet
  • Sequence
  • Sonnet 29
  • Sonnet 73
  • "When I Have Fears" by John Keats
  • Modern 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) Sonnet
  • The First Eight Lines
  • "In Memoriam" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • The Italian Sonnet Road Map
  • Keats
  • "Mezzo Cammin" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • "Grief" Elizabeth Barret Browning
  • "Design" by Robert Frost
  • The ccdeed sestet
  • e. e. cummings
  • e. e. cummings Variation

Lesson 12: The Terza Rima

  • The Terza Rima
  • Robert Frost
  • The First Quatrain
  • The Second Quatrain
  • "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley


English Proficiency Requirements

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.

No Required Textbooks

Software Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)




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.



Lillian Terry-Welsh is a novelist, poet, and songwriter from Chatham, Massachusetts. Lillian grew up studying classical piano and voice, and fell in love with writing of all kinds from a young age. They studied vocal performance and music production and engineering at Berklee College of Music, as well as performance poetry. During their time at Berklee, they became a student leader in the reVERB Poets and the Berklee Slam Team community, as well as winning an award for their excellence in the liberal arts. After completing their degree in 2014, they worked closely with poet, teacher, and activist Caroline Harvey, in creating and teaching performance poetry workshops across the country, including workshops at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Currently, Lillian is a masters candidate in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University in Bath, UK and is working on their first young adult novel.



Eric Leva is an artist, songwriter, and producer from Burlington, Massachusetts. He studied classical piano for 10 years at The New England Conservatory of Music and then pursued vocal performance and songwriting at Berklee College of Music, completing his degree in 2014. Post-grad, Leva won an ASCAP Foundation Award while on an extended stay writing songs in New York City. His cowritten song "Don't Wait", written with Brett Leland McLaughlin (Daya, Troye Sivan) and Matt Parad (Bea Miller, Tinashe) was released and recorded by YouTube celebrity Joey Graceffa in May 2015. This release, which debuted at #4 on the iTunes singer/songwriter charts, iTunes UK Top 40, and iTunes World Wide Top 75, has accumulated more than 25 million streams in the last year. Now, Leva travels between Los Angeles and New York City writing with other artists and producers in a circuit of rising artists.



Erica Charis holds a B.F.A. from York University. She works as a Librarian in her nine-to-five, but actively pursues opportunities for art making as a musician, dancer, and poet. Her poetry has been published in Borderline, Crab Fat, Broad!, and Anchor, among others. Her cross-disciplinary collaborative work has been performed at Lesley University, the Lydia Fair, and the Dance Complex among other community venues. She’s also an alum of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She posts excerpts of and links to her work on her blog:


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