Obsession and the Lyric Essay 6-Week Class, Starts Monday, September 18, 2023
Begins Monday, September 18th, 2023
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Taught by Jack Christian, author of the poetry collections Family System, winner of the Colorado Poetry Prize, published by Colorado State University's Center for Literary Publishing, and Domestic Yoga, published by Groundhog Poetry Press. His work has appeared in periodicals including Bennington Review, Black Warrior Review, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Review of Books, ArtForum, Atticus Review, Cleveland Review of Books, The Diagram, The Journal, and Slate. Jack holds an MFA in poetry from University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Learn more about Jack in our Meet the Teaching Artist series.
The lyric essay is a hybrid form that combines the personal essay with the figurative language of poetry, and often includes research and reportage as well. Because of its hybridity, the lyric essay allows writers to bring their whole selves to the page, navigating subject matter that might otherwise remain too complex and too nuanced to attempt. This is the lyric essay’s promise. But, this promise is double-edged. The lyric essay seems to require a writer’s whole self as well.
Given this, it’s no wonder the form is often guided by obsession, anxiety, uncertainty, and passion. When reading a successful lyric essay, a reader is likely to experience the most generous of gifts: the feeling of joining someone else’s brain. For writers, is there anything more noble to offer than this?
In our six week class, we’ll plant ourselves in the rich overlap between the essay and poetry, allowing our obsessions, our desires, and our intuition to guide us. Beginning with Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (2009) and branching out from there, we’ll study exemplars of the form as we design and begin to draft (or, should I say accumulate?) our own projects. Along the way, we’ll discuss our readings, share our discoveries, and undertake generative, low-stakes writing assignments meant to inspire us and grow our crafts.
An additional benefit of attempting lyric essays is that they are like cross-training for one’s writing practice. Its multiple modes of expression encourages writers to dabble, sharpening one’s skills in multiple directions at once, while never locking us into any one structure, tone, or style of narration. In this way, the lyrics essay is a most forgiving of forms. It is great for getting a lot of writing done in a short time, and for avoiding writer’s block. The challenge arising from this is often one of organization: What to keep in, what to leave out, what order to present it all? But, what better way to explore these dilemmas than in a nurturing community of writers who are dealing with the same issues? That’s what our class will be about.
Students can expect weekly reading and writing assignments, including opportunities to share and to respond to one another’s work. Though our class will be asynchronous, we will hold one optional zoom meeting at the beginning of our session, and, if there is interest, an additional one at the end of our session. The course is designed for students at all levels and experience in writing the lyric essay.
The lyric essay lives in the overlap between poetry and the essay, allowing writer's the ability to bring their whole selves to the page. In this 6-week class, we'll plant ourselves in that spot and see what accumulates.
Students will gain experience and skill:
- Working in multiple modes of expression.
- Finding nuanced ways to face the blank page and to handle difficult, complex subject matter.
- Experimenting with organizational strategies.
- Producing a complete lyric essay.
Week 1: Bluets
Week 2: Bluets, further exploration of lyric essays
Week 3: Further explorations of lyric essay, developing our own ideas
Week 4: Drafting lyric essays
Week 5: Drafting lyric essays (focus on editing, expanding, organizing)
Week 6: Sharing complete drafts / works in progress
- Maggie Nelson, BLUETS, Wave Books, 2009 (required).
- Other lyric essays, as assigned, will be provided by Jack via online link or as PDFs.
"I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your class. Prior to this, I had given up all creative writing and thought I could only produce academic writing. I cannot thank you enough for all of the kind and helpful comments you have left on my experiments, and the confidence you have given me to start actually writing things that I am proud of. This has been my favorite class I have ever taken, and I am sad that I didn't take a class of yours earlier."
"This one of the best classes I've ever taken - seriously. I had never written creatively before, but your and class' encouragement, critique, and enthusiasm was unmatched. The types of assignments we had pushed all of us out of our boxes and let us learn a new skill/style."
"Jack has an amazing way of engaging conversations and my peers were immensely helpful with their feedback. I felt both encouraged/validated while also seeing the room for improvement within my pieces. I never felt discouraged after receiving feedback, and Jack fosters a great culture within his class."
ONLINE COURSE STRUCTURE:
This class is entirely asynchronous which means you complete the weekly assignments on your own schedule. There are no set meeting times in order to allow for greater participation; your cohort will consist of writers from across different time zones, which allows for a wonderful diversity of voices.
Along with your weekly deadlines there is plenty of interaction with Jack and your peers within Wet Ink, our dedicated online classroom. Craft materials, lectures, reading assignments, and writing prompts are all available through the online classroom. Students also post work and provide and receive feedback within the online classroom environment.
You can get the work done as you see fit week-to-week, so it is perfect for any schedule. There are discussion questions each week inspired by the assigned readings and topics in the lecture notes. Students are encouraged to take these wherever is most compelling and/or useful for them. Jack engages with these discussions throughout the week and you will receive feedback from all assigned writing activities.
HOW DOES WET INK WORK?
Wet Ink was built and designed specifically for online writing classes. Wet Ink is private, easy to use, and very interactive. You can learn more about the Wet Ink platform by Watching a Class Demo.
Class starts Monday, September 18th, 2023