2016 Summer Poetry Workshop: The City Speaks, I Speak Back

“But he chooses

against the Lord. He will not abandon his life.

Not his childhood, not the ninety-two bridges

across the two rivers of his youth. Nor the mills

along the banks where he became a young man

as he worked. The mills are eaten away, and eaten

again by the sun and its rusting. He needs them

even though they are gone, to measure against.”

— Jack Gilbert


How does an abandoned building speak? What about a fern rising up through a crack in the cement? Who and what are responsible for the history behind this row of buildings, or this park? Where does the city’s history intercede with yours as a human living in it? What is it that draws you to certain landmarks, and how do your past relationships with humans and the places they built define these interactions?

Responding to your surroundings in verse is something you’ve already tried, but the task changes when attempting to enter into conversation with a city. The act moves beyond depicting what can clearly be seen and becomes a process of extracting narrative from the complexities of man-made landscape. But, there is mostly you, for a city-poem is about how you see it — how you have come to converse with it, for better or worse.

Our goal in this workshop is for writers to leave with a handful of poems that can be used as a kernel for their own exploration of the conversation between city/self.

This workshop is not only for the poet, but for the observer. Students of all backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to participate.

Writer outcomes for workshop include:

  • gain understanding of the connection between nature and the man-made landscape of city.
  • learn to exercise better use of concision on a line-by-line basis.
  • explore use of plain-spoken meter. In conjunction with this: exercise use of “showing” as a vehicle for “telling.”
  • emerge with a new set of tropes derivative of city/self.

Workshop Details:

  • Workshop begins Friday, June 24th (first submissions due)
  • Workshop ends Friday, July 15th.
  • Group discussions and feedback will be through email.
  • Individual feedback can be done via email, phone, video chat or in person, if you’re local.
  • Selected readings will be availabe a week before the workshop begins.

To sign up:

  • The fee for the workshop is $100.
  • To reserve a seat: click here to submit via paypal, or send check to 20200 Lichfield, Detroit, MI, 48221
  • Limited to 14 students
  • Have questions? Contact Tom here.


Tom Laverty, M.A., M.F.A., released his first book of poems, Saginaw, in December 2012. His poems have been published in Unsaid, The Cortland Review and Passages North. He lives in Detroit and teaches throughout Southeast Michigan.

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