From sestinas and sonnets to haikus and villanelles, poems have inspired readers and writers throughout the ages, and especially so in the darkest times. As U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo suggested in an interview with Time, “When there’s uncertainty, when you’re looking for meaning beyond this world—that takes people to poetry.” In difficult and unpredictable times, writing poetry can be an act of reclamation, remembrance, and survival. Poetry is an answer in a world full of unanswerable questions.
Whether you consider yourself a lover of poetry, an emerging writer, or a seasoned poet, taking a poetry class or workshop is the perfect way to develop your voice, learn more about the craft, and find inspiration. Here’s a roundup of upcoming online poetry classes and workshops for poets of all ages and types.
The Best Online Poetry Classes and Workshops of 2021
Lighthouse Writers Workshop: Best Overall
Founded in 1997, Lighthouse Writers offers a compelling array of innovative and affordable poetry classes for writers of all stripes. The service provides instruction, artistic criticism, community events, and support for writers of all levels, ages, and backgrounds.
Younger poets can sign up for a wide and changing variety of classes on using poetry as a form of activism, a generative workshop on Instagram poetry, or join in on an afternoon cross-genre writing studio. Additionally, they can take classes specifically geared toward the development of young writers as well as classes for academic writing. Adult poets in search of a break from their daily routine can join in on Daily Zoom classes covering a variety of in-depth themes, cross-genre classes, deep dive classes on various craft elements, theme classes, and a great variety of specialized classes for advanced writers.
Writers in search of new ways to approach the page can enroll in craft intensives with poets like Honor Moore, take a class on lineation and structure, or explore the world of beat poetry.
Whether you’re new to the form or a well-seasoned bard, Lighthouse Writers’ courses are bound to inspire. Financial assistance is available for all courses. While the cost varies by course, there are tons of offerings for under $50. Some courses may cost up to a few hundred dollars.
The Poetry Barn: Best Budget
Taught by award-winning poet Stacey Balkum, The Contemporary Ode is an immersive, self-paced workshop that reimagines the potential, shape, and power of the ode as a form.
Organized into four modules, this expansive, independent study includes the work of literary visionaries like Lucille Clifton, Angel Nafis, Kiki Petrosino, Marcus Wicker, Kevin Young, Sharon Olds, and more. By investigating “the craft elements that make a contemporary ode—especially those on unexpected or mundane subjects,” students will acquire the tools necessary to create them.
Each lesson touches on a new technique and educational lesson for using the form and will include prompts for “celebrating objects, creating narratives, reclaiming history, and finding bold new ways to write about the self and body.”
Due to the format of this class, students will not receive feedback on their work. Students can enroll and begin the class at any time. The course costs about $99.
Catapult: Best for Honing Your Voice
A generative introductory workshop for poets ready to delve deep into “the craft behind feelings,” Catching Feelings/Evoking Emotions on Catapult aims to “reverse engineer how poems use literary devices to evoke emotions and recreate these techniques in our own work.”
Students will read the works of published poets alongside the work of their peers in addition to crafting new works. By the end of the class, “each student will have a portfolio of 8 to 10 poems in-progress and a toolbox of literary techniques to take with them.”
This six-week workshop, led by Quincy Scott Jones, will explore feelings and emotions like frustration, curiosity, grievance, nostalgia, liberation, remembrance, and more. Via haiku, imagery, Ars Poetica, and other stylistic techniques, this workshop will remind students why they return to the page. The workshop costs about $395, and classes will be held via Zoom. More information can be found over on Catapult’s homepage.
The Loft: Best for Young Poets
In the age of online learning and screen fatigue, it might be difficult to get teens excited about writing, but The Loft’s poetry classes for young writers are a timely and meaningful way to inspire and empower the voices of young writers.
All Loft classes are being taught online until at least Sept. 1, 2021.
One offering from the Loft is "What the Prose Poem Can Do" by Thomas R. Smith. It is a four-hour class taught over zoom. Students will examine the prose poem which gets away from traditional structures such as rhyme and meter. They will explore narrative and descriptive styles of prose. The class costs $70 dollars and Loft members pay $63.
Another offering for poets from the loft is "Sunrise Poetry: Write Five Poems in One Week". This course is taught by Chelsea DesAutels. She has a wealth of experience and has been published in many publications. This class meets for 5 days in the early morning for two hours each day. Students will study the works of great poets for learning and inspiration. However, the focus of the classes is on writing. It's a way for students to come together as a community and get some writing done. The students will be challenged to produce a new poem each day. Great practice and craft honing for any poet. The course costs $175 dollars or $157.50 for members of The Loft.
MasterClass: Best for Gifting
If you’re ready to take your craft to the next level, consider signing up for former U.S. Poet Laurate Billy Collins’ MasterClass on Reading and Writing Poetry.
A self-guided class comprised of 20 video lessons, this deep dive into the potential and power of poetry—for readers and writers—includes a close look at form, “how to embrace the freedom of poetry to embark on explorations of subject,” generative exercises, innovative techniques, and discussions with Marie Howe and others.
By examining subjects and humor intensely, students will not only be given the space to find their voices as poets, but will also “discover the profound in the every day.”
This enlightening expedition into the world of poetry led by a literary titan is one of the many writing intensives students can access through an annual membership on MasterClass. Membership costs $180 annually and includes unlimited access to current and future classes.
Brooklyn Poets: Best for Poets of Color
Award-winner and 2018 National Poetry Series Finalist Candace Williams’ Poets in Space class with Brooklyn Poets is a six-week workshop that will have students “create sonic, conceptual and visual space” in their poems through the use of “strategic absence.”
In addition to comparing “historical and contemporary poetic structures, from the ghazal and sonnet to the prose poem and erasure poem,” students will also delve into the work of poets like Morgan Parker, Melvin Dixon, Hanif Abdurraqib, Wendy Xu, among others. Plus, students will learn new strategies and approaches to their craft and have the opportunity to create five poems.
Feedback will be given asynchronously via WetInk. Students will also have access to video introductions, required readings, and assignments, in addition to a one-on-one video conference with the instructor. The workshop costs about $345, and fellowships are available for students in need.
How We Chose the Best Online Poetry Classes
We researched at least 20 different poetry classes and workshops, mainly focusing on craft-centered offerings. Out of that selection, we selected seven poetry classes and workshops for poets of various ages and levels of experience. Many dynamic poetry classes and workshops didn’t make this list because they were sold out or are already widely celebrated.
We chose the Lighthouse Writers’ poetry classes and workshops as our best overall pick because it offers an array of courses in different formats and has a variety of price points. The Contemporary Ode course at The Poetry Barn was our selection for best budget because of its cost and the additional benefit of flexibility since the course is self-paced. The Loft earned the title of best for writer's block because writers are given the feedback and tools they need to craft dynamic and memorable poems in whatever form they choose.
What Are Online Poetry Classes?
An online poetry class is a structured workshop or course where students read and discuss selected poems and written works, learn new approaches to craft, and use prompts, exercises, and feedback to create new work or revise previously written drafts.
How Much Do Online Poetry Classes Cost?
Online poetry classes or workshops generally cost anywhere from free to about $450. For instance, The Loft's pricing ranges from $189 for members to roughly $210 for nonmembers, while Lighthouse Writers ranges from approximately $25 to $355.
What Types of Online Poetry Classes Are There?
Online poetry classes or workshops can be synchronous, asynchronous, or a hybrid of synchronous/asynchronous. They can occur in one or two sessions or take place over a series of weeks. Most online poetry classes or workshops either take place on Zoom, Google Classroom, or WetInk.
Olivia Waxman. "The First Native American U.S. Poet Laureate on How Poetry Can Counter Hate." Time. Accessed December 24, 2020.