reading and writing 21st century poetry

Live on Zoom. Ten weekly one hour sessions of poetry readings, discussion, writing exercises, work sharing and feedback opportunities. Group size: 8 max.

All the poems under discussion can be found in this book so please buy a copy before the start of the course.

Staying Human: New Poems for Staying Alive (Edited by Neil Astley) – Click here to purchase on Amazon. It is also available in many bookshops including Waterstones in Ipswich.

Starts: Thurs 20th Jan (7.30-8.30pm)

Ends: Thurs 24th March (7.30-8.30pm)


To sign up for the course or ask a question about it, email me at

If you need my bank details, text me on 07943 068033 and I’ll send them over to you. You can also bring cash, post me a cheque or use PayPal by clicking this link.

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Members of 2020 Poetry Course

Week OneWhat’s different about 21st Century Poetry?

First, I will welcome everyone to the course and we’ll all briefly introduce ourselves.

Then we’ll discuss the difference and similarities between Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ and ‘The Red Gate’ byJohn F Deane. (p. 75 of Staying Human).

Homework – Write a 21st century style poem inspired by either ‘Daffodils’ or ‘The Red Gate.’

Week Two – Choosing a form and structure

Compare and contrast the structure of ‘What Was Mistook’ by Michelle O’Sullivan (p. 74) and ‘The Red Gate’ byJohn F Deane. (p. 75 of Staying Human). ‘Discuss layout, rhythm, punctuation and enjambment (run on lines).

Homework – Write a poem which uses a list of unusual images paying attention to form and structure.

Week Three – Poetic Voice

Compare and contrast the poetic voice of ‘Delivery Room’ by Mona Arshi (p. 129) and ‘Night Watch’ by Niall Campbell. (p. 137).

Homework – Write a poem about a parent or child using an informal, intimate voice.

Week Four – Theme and Subject

Discuss common themes in ‘Staying Human’. Talk about how you can use your real-life experience and poems you have read to inspire new work.

Poems under discussion – ‘Magdalene Afterwards by Marie Howe’ (p. 63) and ‘Ars Poetica’ by Arcelis Girmay (p. 105)

Informal writing exercise based on today’s poems. Brainstorm ideas for homework.

Homework – Write a poem to share with the group or edit an old one to make it seem more modern. Choose a short poem from ‘Staying Human’ to read to the group.

Week Five – (Free Choice Week) Read aloud a poem from the book and also share one of your own.

Week Six – Metaphor and Simile

Discuss metaphor and simile in ‘A Visit’ by Elaine Feinstein (p. 241) and ‘You Were a Bird’ by Katharine Kilalea (p. 220).

Homework – Write a love poem using metaphors and/or similes.

Week Seven – Sensory Imagery

Discuss the imagery in ‘A Healing’ by Leanne O’Sullivan (p. 77) and ‘Marmalade’ by Louis De Paor (p. 93)

Homework – Write a poem linking the senses with memory and feelings.

Week Eight – The Prose Poem

Read ‘Happiness’ by Jack Underwood p. 82 and ‘Fish Out of Water’ by Louis Jenkins p. 255. Discuss why these are regarded as poems, rather than prose. Consider what other forms and structures Underwood and Jenkins could have chosen. Why might they have picked ‘prose poetry’?

Homework – Write a prose poem on the subject of happiness and/or fish.

Week Nine – How to Find an Appreciative Audience for Your Work

Say which is your favourite poem from the course and why. Read out your favourite stanza. We will then discuss where to find other examples of 21st poetry and how to find an appreciative audience for your poetry – for example live readings/open mic, social media, radio, self-publishing, poetry magazines, competitions etc.

Week Ten – Free Choice – Everyone will share a poem from the book or one of their own.

Afterwards, everyone will share something they have learned on the course. There will also be the opportunity to ask the group (and me) any general questions about poetry.

To sign up for the course, or to ask any questions, email me at or visit

Mai Black – Course Co-ordinator

About me: I am an English Literature graduate and former schoolteacher who, for the past ten years, has run creative writing and poetry groups for adults. I’ve won (or been a runner up in) nine poetry and short story competitions, have featured in prose and poetry anthologies and have written educational materials for CGP Publishing. I am just about to publish my first poetry collection called ‘Thirty Angry Ghosts’ which features the ghostly voices of thirty famous historical figures including Shakespeare, Tutankhamen and Marie Antionette.

Here is some of the lovely feedback I have received about previous poetry courses.

‘This course has been great fun giving me the experience to return to poetry and fully appreciate it.  When I was at school the teacher hated poetry so I never went back to it. I have learnt so much in a relaxed and informative way.  Thank you, Mai, for a great experience.  I look forward to the next one.’ – Jacqui Martin

‘All I can say is thank goodness for lockdown. Without it I’d never have found this lovely group. Mai is great – I’ve learnt so much in such a short length of time.’ – Sue Dale

‘Brilliant insightful course, rediscovering the beauty of language.’ – Ian Speed

‘It’s such a supportive group and Mai does such a great job in keeping us motivated.’ – Ian Hartley

With Mai’s courses I finally learned to understand and enjoy poetry, and even write my own, delving into aspects of the English language I had never thought about before. Mai made each class a delightful experience, the hour rushed by, and the group members were exceptionally supportive. – Susan Sadler

Suffolk Writers at work and play (2019)

To reserve a place, please email me at

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