Creating the Poetry Chapbook (Writespace 2021)

Course Description
From first poem to final publication, this workshop takes you through the ins and outs of writing, organizing, and sharing poetry in the chapbook format. Chapbooks, which have their origins in early modern Europe, are small collections of poems or prose poems of no more than forty pages. Often centered on a theme, chapbooks are an excellent way of sharing and promoting your poetry. Over the course of this workshop, we will discuss selecting a theme, explore resources for writing, write poems and discuss them together, talk about ways of organizing the poems in the chapbook, and consider different methods of publishing. Some previous experience writing poetry will be helpful, but not required. We’ll be working with Matthew Salesses’s book Craft in the Real World to help guide us in our workshop; I’ll provide scans below of the material we’ll use the most, but having a copy on hand isn’t a bad idea. Here’s an excerpt in which he writes about fiction writing, but it can be applied to poetry too.

Salesses, pp3-15
Salesses, pp212-216

How to Think About this Course
This course is focused on writing and providing writing feedback and guidance for poets who want to work towards the creation of a poetry chapbook. In order to facilitate this, there are some class rules.

This class is a community of writers. We will respect each other and each other’s work in offering feedback and while workshopping poems. We will acknowledge that we all write differently and approach subject matter differently, and that there is no single “good” way to do so.

As writers, we sometimes feel the need to use language in our writing that expresses hate speech in the form of racism, sexism, and other prejudices. Please consider whether such language really needs to be used: such speech is potentially hurtful for other participants to hear. If you feel strongly that you must use it, please either issue a content warning before sharing so that others can mute you while you read or use euphemisms (like “the n-word”) when you share.

This course will take place on Zoom. We will use breakout rooms in this course. For larger breakout rooms, we will use the following format. Each group assigns roles at the beginning of the breakout sessions. The facilitator organizes the task; the guardian/caretaker makes sure everyone is heard; the notetaker documents who says what; and the timekeeper makes sure every gets a fair share of the time allotted for the breakout session.

We will also use Padlet for posting questions and thoughts during the course—and you can be anonymous or not, as you decide. You can access Padlet here. To facilitate discussions among participants outside of class hours, we will use the Writespace Discord server. If you have not received an email invitation to join the server, please check your spam folder; if it isn’t there, email me for a new link. Email all assignments to me at

Course Outline
July 12: Beginnings. Why write a chapbook? What is good writing?
1. go to or and select a chapbook. Read it all the way through. What is its format, its structure? Is there a theme? How are the poems organized? What other works of literature does it reference?

2. Select your theme. Expand or revise at least one of the two-line poems you wrote in class, and write 2 new poems for the next class, including one that you’ll read for the group. Each participant should send that 1 poem to me by July 16.

July 19: Audiences. Who are we writing for, and how?
Identify who “the reader” is for your chapbook. How do/will you approach writing for your audience?
2. Write 3 poems for the next class, including one that you’ll read for the group. As you write, take writing notes: what is your process, who is your audience, what decisions about words, punctuation, spacing, etc., did you make as you wrote. Each participant should send 1 poem to me by July 23.

July 26: Maintaining Flow. Taking writing notes.
1. Read two of your poems aloud to a friend or to yourself. What works? What doesn’t? What is easy to read, and what is hard to read, and why? Make a recording of yourself reading. Listen to it at least twice. Play with your poem—change the font, the color, the spacing—and read it again. Listen to it as if you aren’t the author. (Adapted from Salesses, p. 191)
2. Write a short (under 500 words) introduction for 2 of your poems as if they are going to be published in an anthology. What do you want readers to know about them? Write about them as if you weren’t the author. Send one of these introductions and the poem it introduces to me by July 31.

August 2: Revising Poems. Listening to the sound of poetry.
1. Revise two poems and write about the changes you made in making t hose revisions
2. Write three new poems and send one to me by August 6.

August 9: Curating Your Chapbook. Selecting and ordering poems.
1. Create a table of contents for your chapbook and write an explanation of why you’ve ordered your poems like you did, and which poems you chose to keep and which you chose to leave out. Select one poem you’re keeping and send it to me by August13.
2. Consider your audience again. Has it changed from the beginning of the course? How has your writing changed, if it has?

August 16: Publishing Your Chapbook. Considering various types of publishing. Final thoughts.

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