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Fetching the Bolt Cutters: Experimental and “Nonce” Forms of Poetry. Poetry Writing with Jane Huffman (in person Session 1 22) is a Course

Fetching the Bolt Cutters: Experimental and “Nonce” Forms of Poetry. Poetry Writing with Jane Huffman (in person Session 1 22)


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There is a separate application process for this course. If you have not been accepted into the Iowa Young Writers' Studio Summer Residential Program you are not eligible to enroll.

Poetry Writing with Jane Huffman: Fetching the Bolt Cutters: Experimental and “Nonce” Forms of Poetry

In this course, we will radically expand our definition of “formal poetry” by studying how poets have, for centuries, invented new forms for their work. Invented forms, sometimes known as “nonce” forms, allow a poet to benefit from the structuring, grounding, and generative properties of formal poetry without feeling reined in by tradition, precedent, or expectation. We’ll start by studying old forms made new, such as imaginative interpretations of the “sonnet” (Terrence Hayes, Diane Seuss, Wanda Coleman, Dora Malech, Olena Kalytiak Davis). These poets will be our guides as we imagine how to adapt other received forms. How can we borrow certain elements from formal traditions and leave the rest behind? What happens when we turn a “sestina” upside down? Double it? Scrap it for spare parts? How can elements of a traditional “pantoum” or “ghazal” lead us down new, wild pathways? How can rhyme and repetition function in free-verse poetry? How can we reimagine the “ode” or the “aubade” for the modern world? Next, we will explore the universe of nonce forms, such as the “bop” (Afaa Michael Weaver, Matsuo Basho, Seema Yasmin, Sonia Sanchez), the “golden shovel” (Terrence Hayes, Kim Addonizio, Francine J Harris, Percival Everett), the “duplex” (Jericho Brown), and many more. We will also explore the twenty-first century avant-garde tradition of “flarf” poetry –– that which is generated by AI or other algorithmic machines (Gary Sullivan, Jordan Davis, Katie Degentesh) as well as “found” and “erasure” poetry that is generated from extant primary sources or discovered in “the wild” (Jen Bervin, Sarah J. Sloat, David Dodd Lee, M. NourbeSe Phillip). In addition to close reading and discussion, you’ll write your own versions of these forms –– and, of course, invent new poetic forms of your own. By experimenting with line length, stanza construction, syllable count, rhyme scheme, white space, enjambment, and other tools of poem-making, you will explore the immense potential of “form” and discover new ways to express yourself on the page.

Jane Huffman's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Nation, POETRY, The New Yorker, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She was a 2019 recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Jane is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is founder and editor-in-chief of Guesthouse (, an online literary journal. She currently works as an instructor at the University of Iowa Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing and as a grant writer at the Iowa Youth Writing Project. Beginning in Fall 2022, she will be a PhD candidate in poetry at the University of Denver. Jane currently lives in Iowa City with her poodle, Gromit.



The fee for this course, which includes the fee for the 2-week session of the Summer Residential Program, is $2,500. Payment in full is required to enroll in the course.


Note: Your credit card payment will be processed by an external provider and will appear on your credit card statement as “UI Writing—Magid Center."


Cancellation Policy: If you cancel or withdraw before June 1, 2022 a $100 cancellation fee will be deducted from your refund. Thereafter no refunds are available. 




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