Poetry Apprenticeship Specifics

2023 Poetry Apprenticeship Program


The 2023 Poetry Apprenticeship Program is a mixture of one-on-one time with Gretchen Marquette, and time spent with your full poetry cohort. 

Your one-on-one sessions will be tailored specifically to you and your goals. Gretchen will choose poetry collections for you to read and discuss together and provide more intensive craft instruction as desired. You’ll also spend a good deal of your one-on-one time workshopping and line editing your work. 

Your cohort time will be either “formal” or “informal,” depending on the week. During the winter/spring and fall terms, Gretchen will lead cohort time during the first two weeks of the month, providing lectures or guiding the group through poetry collections, podcasts, articles on craft, the writing life, organizing manuscripts, and more. 

In the past, lecture topics have included craft concerns (such as line breaks, crafting successful beginnings and endings, and varieties of poetic forms), the discussion of essays by Gregory Orr, Ada Limón, and many others, and topics such as the intersection of the sacred and the mundane in poetry, and an examination of what makes a poem or collection of poems “publishable.”  Lectures will be tailored to the group, once Gretchen meets everyone in January. 

During the second two weeks of the month during winter/spring and fall terms, you will meet with Gretchen one-on-one, and on those Tuesdays, you’ll meet on your own with your cohort. You’ll decide as a group how you’d like to spend this time. Cohorts typically devote some time to sharing work with one another, and also to discussions of published poems and recently published articles. In the past, cohorts have subscribed to the same literary journal and used that as a jumping off point for discussions or taken turns bringing prompts and using time to write quietly with one another. The “informal” cohort time is not mandatory, and in the past, a few poets who had particularly busy lives found they had to use that time for their own drafting or reading, By and large though, writers find the cohort experience (both formal and informal) a cornerstone of the program. 

Please see below for a week by week breakdown. All specific lectures and assigned readings will be tailored to individuals and to the cohort, once Gretchen has gotten a feel for what you want and need in 2023. Detailed syllabi will be provided each term—what you’ll find below is more of a calendar.

Note: All weeks run Sunday to Saturday, though the vast number of activities and meetings will take place during the week. Occasionally, a visiting writer or publishing professional might need to meet on a weekend, so for consistency's sake, you’ll see the weeks organized with weekends involved. 


January 22–28:
  • Orientation Meeting: Wednesday, January 25, from 6–7:30 p.m. CST on Zoom
  • One-on-one orientation meeting with Gretchen
    • During the week of the 22nd, you’ll meet with Gretchen to discuss your goals and to be sure the program is a good fit for you. You’ll also schedule a regular, 75-minute, one-on-one meeting that will take place with Gretchen during winter/spring term. 
    • You’ll come to this meeting with the following information: 
      • A short statement from you (informal is fine!) about why you enrolled in the program and how poetry already functions in your life. (Where does it appear, what does it give you, why is it important? Which poets do you love? Which collections are your lodestars?) One page should do it.
      • Three of your poems. (These poems can be chosen because you’re proud of them, or because you feel like they teach Gretchen about your aesthetic or because they show her what you’re working on right now. They need not be final drafts.)
      • Three poems written by others that you feel moved to share. (What poems have you read that excite you, give you permission, or move you?) These can be pasted into a word document or shared as links.
      • A second statement that explains your goals for the year. Please be as specific as possible. (“I want to write sixty poems this year—at least one new draft each week” is better than “I want to write a lot this year.”) Tell Gretchen what your goals are in the short term (“I want to study the work of Mexican poets” or “I would like to study Carl Phillips entire career this year” or “I want to study line breaks more carefully”) and the long-term as well (“At the end of the year I would like to have a polished collection (or chapbook) to submit to contests” or “My final goal is to feel more comfortable in my poet identity and its roles, both publicly and privately.”) Whatever your goals are, Gretchen will need to know!
January 29–February 4
  • First cohort meeting: January 31
  • We’ll spend this first meeting discussing what makes a poem effective, powerful, and memorable. We’ll also do a writing exercise and series of “interviews” so you all can start to get to know each other.  


February 5–11
  • Cohort Meeting February 7
  • This meeting will give us a chance to finish our discussion around memorable poems, as well as to conclude our “interviews” of cohort members.
February 12–18
  • Cohort Meeting February 14
  • Lecture and Activities TBD
February 19–25
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen
    • This 75-minute meeting will be tailored to your individual needs. You’ll likely discuss a collection of poetry Gretchen has assigned and begin workshopping your own work. 
  • Informal cohort meeting: February 21, 6–9 p.m. CST
February 26–March 4
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen
    • This 75-minute meeting will be tailored to your individual needs. You’ll likely discuss a collection of poetry Gretchen has assigned and begin workshopping your own work. 
  • Informal cohort meeting: February 28, 6–9 p.m. CST


March 5–11
  • Cohort meeting: March 7, 6–9 p.m. CST
March 12–18
  • Cohort meeting: March 14, 6–9 p.m. CST
March 19–25
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen
  • Informal cohort meeting: March 21, 6–9 p.m. CST
March 26–April 1
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen
  • Informal cohort meeting: March 28, 6–9 p.m. CST


April 2–8
  • Cohort meeting: April 4, 6–9 p.m. CST
April 9–15
  • Cohort meeting: April 11, 6–9 p.m. CST
April 16–22
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen



There are no formal cohort meetings in May; instead, you’ll use the month for independent writing and reading time, so you can put into practice what you’ve been learning and absorbing over the last several weeks. This time is meant to allow each apprentice to regain equilibrium; those who are feeling stressed can take time to slow down. Those who want to push forward and gain momentum with their collection can fill their time in a way that best serves them. Here are some options for how you might spend your time: 

  • Take a break and fill your well. This might mean taking a trip, spending time with family, reading purely for pleasure, spending time outdoors, etc. (This is a good option for folks who already have thirty pages of drafts they are happy with.)
  • Use the month to revise. Go back through everything you’ve written since January and start revising. This is a good option for folks who draft a lot without looking back. 
  • Deepen your writing practice; continue working independently. Keep drafting two poems a week. This is a good option for poets who are feeling stressed or behind. 

Remember that you’ll want to have 60–70 pages of solid drafts by the middle of September and that you’ll write 24–28 new poems over the summer. 

This is also a good option for those who will be doing a lot of traveling in the summer months and will want to take some of those weeks “off.” 

During the month of May, most cohorts choose to continue meeting every Tuesday night from 6–9 p.m. CST, though some take a break. You will decide as a group what you’d like to do. 

Your first visiting writer will also appear this month. They will visit on a Tuesday night. You’ll meet with your cohort and Gretchen from 6–6:30 p.m., and the visiting author will arrive at 6:30 and stay until 7:30 or 8. 

A note on visiting authors: When crafting your questions for our visiting authors, please do your very best to be thoughtful and stay on task. Your questions should be focused on the content of their collections or else on their process for drafting and revising, organizing a collection, submitting work to journals, their creative process, etc. Please refrain from asking personal questions. Please also be thoughtful about the questions you pose. Please ask if you’d like examples of successful and unsuccessful questions. Gretchen is also happy to look at your questions in advance if you prefer. 



During the summer months you’ll have three program related engagements: 

  • You’ll meet with Gretchen once a month to discuss your work.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to meet a visiting author. 
    • Please note that our author dates are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday nights, but this may change based on author availability. Gretchen will give you plenty of notice around visiting author dates.
  • You’ll meet informally with your cohort.
    • Summer is often a good time for a cohort to discuss their collective goals and recalibrate. This might mean sharing work more (or less) often, or focusing more on prompts, or the published work of others. You can also splinter into two groups during the summer months if half of the group wants to workshop and the other wants to read, etc. Gretchen will provide more guidance on this when the time comes. 

June 4–10
  • Informal cohort meeting: June 6, 6–9 p.m. CST
June 11–17
  • One-on-one Meeting with Gretchen 
    • We’ll use the entirety of this 75-minute meeting looking at your drafts.
  • Informal cohort meeting: June 13, 6–9 p.m. CST
June 18–24
  • Visiting author: June 20, 6–9 p.m. CST
June 25– July 1
  • Informal cohort meeting: June 27, 6–9 p.m. CST


July 2–8
  • 4th of July: no cohort meeting 
July 9–15
  • Visiting author: July 11, 6–9 p.m. CST
July 16–22
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen 
    • We’ll use the entirety of this 75-minute meeting looking at your drafts.
  • Informal cohort meeting: July 18, 6–9 p.m. CST
July 23–29
  • Informal cohort meeting: July 25, 6–9 p.m. CST
July 31–August 5
  • Informal cohort meeting: August 1, 6–9 p.m. CST


August 6–12
  • Informal cohort meeting: August 8, 6–9 p.m. CST
August 13–19
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen 
    • We’ll use the entirety of this 75-minute meeting looking at your drafts.
  • Informal cohort meeting: August 15, 6–9 p.m. CST
August 20-26
  • Visiting author: August 22, 6–9 p.m. CST
August 27–September 2
  • Informal cohort meeting: August 29, 6–9 p.m. CST



The first two weeks of September should be reserved for you to be revising and assessing your body of work. You’ll be handing in the bulk of your work to Gretchen when we are back in session on September 19! 

September 17–23
  • Cohort meeting: September 19, 6–9 p.m. CST
September 24–30
  • Informal cohort meeting: September 26, 6–9 p.m. CST
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen 


October 1–7
  • Cohort meeting: October 3, 6–9 p.m. CST
October 8–14
  • Cohort meeting: October 10, 6–9 p.m. CST
October 15–21
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen 
  • Informal cohort meeting: October 17, 6–9 p.m. CST
October 22–28
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen 
  • Informal cohort meeting: October 24, 6–9 p.m. CST
October 29–November 4
  • There are five weeks this month. We’ll decide together how best to utilize this bonus week. By the end of October, we’ll be busy organizing collections.


November 5–11
  • Cohort meeting: November 7, 6–9 p.m. CST
November 12–18
  • Cohort meeting: November 14, 6–9 p.m. CST
    • Note: This will be our final formal cohort meeting! 
November 19-25

Thanksgiving week break

November 26–December 2
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen
  • Informal cohort meeting: November 28, 6–9 p.m. CST



You’ll spend the last two weeks of class meeting one-on-one with Gretchen to finalize your projects. Informal cohort meetings will continue. 

December 3–9
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen
  • Informal cohort meeting: December 5, 6–9 p.m. CST
December 10-16
  • One-on-one meeting with Gretchen
  • Informal cohort meeting: December 12, 6–9 p.m. CST

Your public reading will take place on Zoom: Tuesday, January 23, 2024, 7-9pm CST


Teaching Mentor Expectations


A full manuscript for a collection of poetry is typically 48–60 pages. A chapbook has anywhere from 25–40. Each poet will set their own goals in terms of the length of their project and their project’s ultimate purpose or destination. Are you aiming to have a polished manuscript to send to the National Poetry Series or to the Ballard Spahr? Are you aiming to send your book to a press’s open reading period? Are you hoping to self-publish? Being clear with me around your intentions is important, so that I can help you meet your goals. 

Some of you will come in with pages already written, and some of you will not. In both cases, I think it’s reasonable to expect to write (or rewrite) two poems every week for the entire year, generating (and/or revising) between 50–75 poems. This is in addition to any reading or other assignments given during our winter/spring and summer terms.

Hybrid projects welcomed. 



You will be revising and editing a great deal this year. Some of the material you write and revise will ultimately be cut from your final manuscript. This is a good thing! It is best to have more than enough work when we start putting a manuscript together, so that the strongest, tightest version of your book can emerge. One of the most valuable experiences this program has to offer is in how a person puts a book together, from the selection of individual poems, to the ordering, to the epigraphs and title. Often, the work that is not selected for your book can still find a home in a literary journal, and/or in a different project that will come along later. Be courageous, always making editorial decisions that serve the poem/collection and not the poet.  



I will assume that each member of the cohort will read and thoughtfully digest your readings each week before we meet. If you need a refresher on how to read like a writer let me know—I’m happy to provide some guidance.



Before you begin the class, catalogue your barriers to writing and start thinking about how you can mitigate them. Work. Partners. Childcare. Transportation. Elderly parents. Pets. Weather. As much as possible, plan contingencies for your barriers. 

Please note: These are not just barriers around making it to our meetings but potential barriers around setting up and keeping a solid reading/writing practice during the week. 

 Another barrier all poets face is the emotional work that the writing and reading might have on you. Most of you will write something uncomfortably vulnerable, and you will certainly read work from your classmates that falls into that category. You will also be participating in deep and thoughtful discussions of your work and the work of others that will undoubtedly be constructively critical. You might get tired or frustrated, and you may miss some of the smaller goals you’ve set for yourself. When that happens, what and who will be there to support you? Reach out to folks now and let them know what you will need. (Patience? Prodding? Permission? Praise?) 

The Syllabus

I go to great lengths to craft careful syllabi for each poet and for the cohort at large. I always want the folks who work with me to know what’s expected of them, and what’s going on. With that in mind, please (please) familiarize yourself with and revisit the syllabus often throughout the year. A lot of confusion can be mitigated this way. 

Safer Classroom Spaces
  • Please see the Loft’s official policy against harassment which I’ve included at the bottom of this document. 
  • I am committed to creating safer spaces for all poets who study with me. I have never had a malicious or cruel student who set out to hurt another poet intentionally, but it has happened. With that in mind, I want to do my best to foster a healthy and safe artistic space and would like to offer a few guidelines for you to consider. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I am hoping it will be a start. These are my own guidelines and not an official statement from the Loft. Please let me know if you need clarification on any of these items—I will do my best to meet with you outside of your regularly scheduled poetry time to discuss them.
    • When a poet provides work that is emotionally challenging or whose content contains details of sexual abuse, self-harm, or other trauma, we as a cohort will not ask for more information than is provided in the piece but will assume everything the writer wanted to share is on the page. (Note: If the poem is too opaque or vague for it to be successful, this is valid and necessary feedback—asking the poet to expound on the experience referenced in the poem is not. We will try to remember that our purpose is to help each other create powerful, impactful poems and not to provide therapy, particularly when the poet didn’t ask for it.) 
    • LGBT and BIPOC poets will not spend class time educating the cohort about racism or homophobia; nor will they be asked to expound upon their own experiences with racism or homophobia in order to illuminate others at their own expense or discomfort.
    • LGBT poets, BIPOC poets, poets with disabilities (and indeed any poets who find themselves outside the dominant group) will be encouraged to write the story they want to tell, not the story the dominant group wants from them. 
    • All writers in our cohort will strive to be perfectly clear on the lens that they are bringing to their work, as well as the biases and assumptions they may need to interrogate or lay claim to for the poem to function as a public document. For our purposes, once a piece of writing is shared with the cohort it is public. Work written as an act of self-discovery may be shared with me “privately.” 
    • All poets will be conscious of how their content might impact others and stive not to re-traumatize members of their audience. Loft classes tend to be filled with thoughtful, intelligent people who are aware of what is happening in the world and in our communities, especially as it relates to matters of social justice. Please bear in mind that a poem authored by a white poet that simply acknowledges and describes violence toward communities of color has not gone far enough to become a public document, and indeed is likely to do more harm than good in the public sphere. (There are many ways in which issues of racism, homophobia, and other social ills are about craft and this is one of them.)
    • All readers in our cohort will be humble about their role in the creation of the work of others. We will accept that while we are not always going to be the audience for a poem or collection of poems, we can do our best to comment on craft and to engage with the work in a meaningful way. 
    • We are all learning, and I encourage you to give one another grace as often as possible. I hope you will also extend this grace to me. However, please reach out to me if there is something I could have handled better or if I could have supported you differently in class. I would be honored to receive this feedback. 


All of our manuscripts are disbursed on paper, electronically, and sometimes both. You must have basic Microsoft Word and email literacy, as well as access to a working printer/directions to an Office Max. 

I prefer all documents shared with me be Word docs, partly because of my filing system. (I keep a record of everything we worked on this year for you.) 

Workshop Preparation and Etiquette

Over the course of the year, you’ll be reading and participating in discussions about your cohorts’ work. This is an important touchstone of the class. Because our class model favors one-on-one time with me, we don’t have time to complete eight full workshops before the end of the winter/spring term. We do, however, have time to do some small group workshopping. I will teach you a few different forms of workshopping before we begin. 

Access to Me

I will be available to you outside of class via email throughout the year. I ask that if you email me during the week, you allow me 24 hours to respond, though I will often get back to you sooner. If you email me after 5 p.m. on Friday or during a weekend or holiday, please be patient.

Please call or text if something feels urgent, such as if you feel ill at the last minute and must miss our scheduled meeting. As long as folks are respectful, I also don’t mind getting texts around non-urgent matters! If you get a poem published or have a quick question, please feel free to send a text instead of an email. 

For information about the Loft’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and anti-racism, and the Loft’s expectations around behavior in classrooms, events, festivals, and conferences, please see loft.org.


The Loft Literary Center’s Harassment Policy

The Loft is committed to providing a harassment-free space for all students, conference attendees, staff members, volunteers, and program participants regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, physical ability, appearance, race, ethnicity, age, religion, class, or identity. We expect participants to treat each other with respect in all interactions.

Harassment could include:

  • deliberate intimidation
  • repeated disruption of classes, lectures, or discussions
  • unwelcome physical contact
  • unwelcome sexual attention
  • verbal comments or displayed images that harmfully reinforce structures of oppression
  • written contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene letters, notes, invitations
  • verbal contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene comments, threats, slurs, epithets, jokes about gender-specific traits, sexual propositions
  • visual contact, such as leering or staring at another's body, gesturing, displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures
  • Continuing to express sexual or social interest after being informed directly that the interest is unwelcome
  • Using sexual behavior to control, influence or affect the career, salary or work environment of another

**Harassment does not include respectful disagreement or critique in good faith. Reading and writing, by their nature, include exposure to controversial, challenging, and sometimes offensive language.**

Anyone asked to stop harassing behavior is expected to comply immediately. Those violating these expectations may be expelled at the discretion of Loft staff.

If you are experiencing harassing behavior, report it to a staff member or teaching artist as soon as possible. All incidents will be brought to the Loft’s executive director. She will follow the Loft’s harassment protocol which may include removing an offender from a program without a refund, reimbursement, or pay.


Gretchen Marquette earned her MFA in poetry from Hamline University, where she served as the assistant poetry editor for Water~Stone Review. Her work has appeared in Harper'sTin House, Poetry, the Paris Review, and other places. Her first book, May Day, was released by Graywolf Press in 2016 and was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award. She lives in the Powderhorn neighborhood in South Minneapolis, and teaches at various colleges and universities in the Twin Cities.