Poetry Apprenticeship Specifics

Poetry Apprenticeship Specifics


There is a required orientation meeting at the Loft at Open Book on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 6pm-7:30pm


Winter/Spring Term 2021

Tuesday Evenings, 6–9 p.m. 

  • Full Cohort Meetings with Teaching Mentor February 2, 9, 16, 23, 2021 
  • Weekly One-on-One Meeting with Teaching Mentor 

Tuesday Evenings, 6–9 p.m. 

  • 1st-3rd Tuesday of the month: Reserved Space at Open Book for group cohort meetings (without  your teaching mentor, who meets with each cohort member individually these weeks)
  • 4th Tuesday of the month: Full Cohort Workshop (with your teaching mentor)
  • Weekly One-on-One Meeting with Teaching Mentor 

*Final Class of Winter/Spring Term: April 20, 2021

May 2021:
Week of May 1: One-on-One Meeting with Teaching Mentor

The focus here is on your own writing and on reading assignments customized for you by your teaching mentor. Some poets also use this time to rest and regroup. With the help of your teaching mentor, you’ll create a plan for making the best use of your summer months. 

During the month of May you’ll also have exclusive access to at least two of The Loft’s Wordplay authors and/or publishing industry professionals, in the form of a cohort meet and greet/ conversation on craft/Q and A.


Summer Term 2021

May 30-June 5: Work Independently
June 6-June 12: One-on-One Meeting Scheduled with Gretchen for this week
June 13-19: Work Independently
June 26 : Cohort Workshop at Open Book, 10am-2:30pm. 
June 27-July3: Work Independently

During the month of June, your classroom is available at Open Book from 6-9pm on Tuesdays.

July 4-10: Work Independently
July 11-17: One-on-One Meeting Scheduled with Gretchen for this week
July 18-24: Work Independently
July 31: Cohort Workshop at Open Book, 10am-2:30pm. 

During the month of July, your classroom is available at Open Book from 6-9pm on Tuesdays.

August 1-7: Work Independently
August 8-14 One-on-One Meeting Scheduled with Gretchen for this week
August 15-21: Work Independently
August 28: Cohort Workshop at Open Book, 10am-2:30pm. 

During the month of August, your classroom is available at Open Book from 6-9pm on Tuesdays.

Fall Term 2021
Tuesday Evenings, 6–9 p.m. 

  • 1st-3rd Tuesday of the month: Reserved Space at Open Book for group cohort meetings (without your teaching mentor, who meets with each cohort member individually these weeks)
  • 4th Tuesday of the month: Full Cohort Workshop (with your teaching mentor)
  • Weekly One-on-One Meeting with Teaching Mentor 

*No Class November 23

*Final Class December 14 

During the fall term, you’ll have exclusive access to at least two of The Loft’s Wordsmith conference authors and/or publishing industry professionals, in the form of a cohort meet and greet/ conversation on craft/Q and A.

Final Public Reading

Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 7 p.m., in the Performance Hall at Open Book 


Poetry Apprenticeship Program Description

The time has come to gather and assemble your work. Individual poems that stand alone can, with purposeful ordering, also reinforce and illuminate each other. In this year-long apprenticeship with poet Gretchen Marquette you’ll develop your voice through customized individual mentorship as well as cohort meetings. You’ll also receive peer and teaching mentor feedback on all stages of your poetry collection and develop a supportive community of like-minded writers and readers who are eager to engage, grow, and develop as poets.

Over the course of your apprenticeship, you’ll find what anchors your collection, cultivate your gut feeling for a satisfying and strategic arc, and discover and articulate your work’s primary concerns. You will also discover how your collection stands in conversation with other good work being done in contemporary poetry.

Over the course of the next calendar year, we will:

● write earnestly and revise discerningly, looking, as Jane Hirshfield says, “to
edit the poem in service to itself, and not the poet.”

● read and discuss brilliant collections that embody everything a book of
poems can be.

●  converse with guest poets on everything from aspects of craft to what it means to put a collection out into the world.
●  interview publishing industry professionals to discuss the process of bringing out a book from a publishing angle.

● develop the skills, artistic practice, contacts, and resources necessary to cultivate and nourish a writing life, far beyond the end of our time together.

The 2021 Poetry Apprenticeship program includes intensive one-on-one instruction, monthly cohort meetings and workshops, access to visiting writers and publishing professionals, and reserved space at Open Book. Please see the program schedule and component list for more detailed information. 

Program Components

Teaching Mentor Consultations

The topics of these meetings will be wide-ranging. Their primary function is to help the poet to  develop skills in aspects of craft at their own pace, with a set of tools, expectations, and enough guidance to settle into and find their own artistic voice as an emerging poet. These meetings will offer a chance to discuss one-on-one the readings assigned by the teaching mentor and to get feedback on a new poem each week. We’ll also discuss ways in which to manage time, write through challenging times and creative blocks, and tend to larger concerns regarding the writing life, including where individual poems might be placed, and what to do with your collection when the year is complete. 

Your teaching mentor will have a conversation with you at the start of the program where the following questions will be discussed,  forming the basis of your relationship moving forward: 

  • What are your goals? Are you hoping to put a collection together for publication? Is the collection solely for your own sense of purpose and accomplishment? What is the length of your project – a chapbook? A full-length collection? If you are hoping to publish your book, have you looked into any contests or open reading periods? Do you have a sense of where you might want to submit both individual poems or a completed chapbook or manuscript? 
  • Where are your strengths? In what areas of craft do you feel comfort or even mastery?  What are the areas in which you’re looking to grow? What specific collections or craft texts might best help you learn structure, more compelling syntax, or original figurative language? Which books might model for you how you might put together a collection around a theme or narrative arc?
  • Which poets and poetry collections will challenge you most as a writer and critical thinker? How can reading already published collections challenge your worldview and make your writing better, stronger, and more fully developed?

Designated Workspace at The Loft

The teaching mentor will lead a workshop with the full cohort one Tuesday per month from 6-9pm. During weeks when there are no workshops scheduled, The Loft has reserved your classroom as a community workspace during the same hours that you’d regularly have class. You are welcome to use this time and inspiring space to read and write without interruption, to form smaller workshop groups within your cohort, to discuss texts, or for any other reason that you feel would help you honor your need for community and sacred reading and writing time. The teaching artist will also provide a common writing prompt/topic that the group can choose to discuss/attempt each week. 

(Please note: in the event of ongoing need for Covid-19 mitigation, you are encouraged to set aside this time however you can at home. Meeting virtually with a small group to discuss a podcast, article, or collection, or to workshop would be one option. Other poets who have completed the program have also used this time to retreat to their rooms or home office spaces for uninterrupted writing time.)

Visiting Authors and Publishing Professionals

In addition to the four Wordsmith and Wordplay authors you will meet, you will have access to many visiting agents and authors from a variety of agencies and publishing houses. Past visiting poets and industry professionals include:

  • Ross Gay
  • Danez Smith
  • Jim Moore
  • Elena Cisneros
  • D. Allen
  • Roy Guzmán
  • Hieu Minh Nguyen
  • Richard Blanco
  • Mira Jacob
  • Laila Lalami
  • Courtney Maum
  • Rumaan Alam
  • Joey McGarvey, Editor and Former Editor for Milkweed Editions
  • Jeff Shotts, Executive Editor at Graywolf Press

The purpose of these visits is to introduce students to powerful collections of poetry, and the people who wrote them. Please take advantage of the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions and listen attentively to the answers. These visits will be largely informal and include ample opportunity for interaction.

The Reading

Along with a short list of common books that will be read alongside your cohort, a reading list of craft texts, interviews, essays, and poetry collections will be customized for you by your teaching mentor based on your aesthetics, interests, and those areas where you’re looking to grow and develop. 

Past reading lists have included:
Deaf Republic​ by Ilya Kaminsky
The Black Maria​ by Aracelis Girmay
Like a Beggar​ by Ellen Bass
Requiem for the Orchard by Oliver de la Paz
Book of Hours​ by Rainer Maria Rilke
Diván​ d​ el Tamarit b​y Federico Garcia Lorca
Blood Dazzler​ by Patricia Smith
Quiver of Arrows​ by Carl Phillips
I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman​ by  Jude Nutter 
Narrow Road to the Interior​ by Kimiko Hahn
Haiku​ by Richard Wright
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds
Life on Mars by Tracy K Smith
Blessing The Boats by Lucille Clifton
Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis
Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

The Workshop

The purpose of the workshop component is to help poets see their work in a new light, to ask thoughtful questions of their peers, and to generate new energy for revising. To this end, we will be using Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process workshop model, a supportive and writer-centered process that puts the control in the artist’s hands.  We will learn more about this in class, but on a basic level, workshops function like so:

  • The readers state for the writer what was working. Readers provide statements of meaning– what was memorable, interesting, and engaging about the work.
  • The writer asks question about their poetry. (Ex: “What part of the poem held the most weight for you?” or “How did you interpret the ending of this piece?”) The readers answer the questions ​without​ suggesting changes.
  • The readers ask the writer neutral questions about their work. (Ex: “How did you make the decision to place this poem in couplets?” or “Where do you feel the core of the poem is located?”)
  • The readers ask the writer for permission to offer opinions about the submitted work. (Ex: “I have an opinion on the poem’s title if you’d like to hear it.”)
  • The writer ends the workshop by briefly discussing how the workshop went, any ideas they have for revision, asks for any clarification, etc. 

The work you share with your peers should be relatively polished and sophisticated. This is not to say it needs to be “perfect” or “complete.” (This would obviously eliminate the need for a workshop.) However, the work should be well-written and carefully presented. Each workshop will last between 45-60 minutes.

The End of Term

At the end of the apprenticeship, students will be expected to submit their final and complete manuscript. The teaching mentor will:

  • read each submission (up to 70 pages) and provide a written critique of the creative work (1-2 typewritten pages).
  • meet individually with each poet to present the critique and answer what questions remain.
  • discuss next steps in each poet’s artistic life - from continued growth as a writer to places in the world that may be receptive to the work produced, from publishing opportunities to simple submission practices

Final manuscripts will be due on the last day of the apprenticeship, in the fall term (December 14, 2021). If poets finish prior to then, please submit them early. The teaching mentor will be reading twelve collections at the end of this year, and any head starts will be much appreciated. Final manuscript consultations will be completed by February 28, 2022; there are no exceptions to this time frame possible. At this time, poets will move beyond their apprenticeship and will become emerging public poets.

Emerging poets will be asked to give a final, public reading from their collection at The Loft, in the Target Performance Hall at Open Book, on Wednesday, January 12, 2022. 

Each reading will be a selection of poems, about five to seven minutes long. Consider this a celebration!

PLEASE NOTE: final manuscripts must be properly formatted and turned in no later than Tuesday, December 14, 2021, which is the final date of the program. Single-sided manuscripts ONLY. Pages must be numbered. It is the responsibility of each poet to finish their manuscript by the final class meeting. If a student fails to complete it, the teaching mentor will only read what has been submitted on the final day of class.

Please note that enrolling in this apprenticeship does not ensure publication of your book. However, part of this program is designed to help emerging poets locate potential good homes for their work, and to help navigate the process of sending new work out for consideration. The teaching mentor has read more than 1,500 book length submissions for various national poetry contests; she is well equipped to understand what publishing houses, contests, journals, and magazines are seeking with regards to submissions, and can help each poet to develop their own unique voice while shaping a collection into something others will be interested in picking up.            

For more detailed information about the schedule for the year, Gretchen Marquette’s bio, past examples of reading lists and visiting authors, etc, please click on the link below for The 2021 Poetry Apprenticeship Creative Plan, and see the FAQ page.