Sophomore Seminars

Write Like a Poet: From Tradition to Innovation


In this poetry workshop, we will spend the first half of the quarter reading and writing in traditional forms and the second half innovating from those forms. When discussing poetry, what do we mean when we talk about craft? What is prosody and why is it important? What are the relationships between form and content? What does a modern sonnet look like? We will consider how a writer might honor a tradition without being confined by it. The culmination of the course will be a project in which the student invents (and writes in) a form of their own. All interested students are welcome—beginners and experts alike.


Meet the Instructor(s)

Michael Shewmaker

Michael Shewmaker

"I’m a poet and Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program. My first collection of poems, Penumbra (Ohio UP /Swallow), won the 2016 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. I grew up in Texarkana, Texas, around amazing storytellers, and so my work often explores the intersections of song and story. Recent poems appear in Best American Poetry, Missouri Review, Oxford American, Narrative, Yale Review, and elsewhere. I received my MFA at McNeese State University (the bayou) and my Ph.D. at Texas Tech University (the desert).

Growing up, I probably spent too much time in the local arcade playing the latest games. To this day, I’m a gaming enthusiast: board games, card games, video games—you name it, I’m probably into it. I’m a big believer in the idea of 'play' and am convinced that my attraction to games is very similar to the attraction that brings me back to the page, again and again, as a writer.

I currently live in the Bay Area with my wife, Emily."