Poetry | Workshop

The Poetry Generator: 12 Months to a Full-Length Manuscript

To apply, please submit a writing sample of up to 5 pages of poetry. Writers will be accepted on a rolling basis, but only applications received before Dec. 1 will be eligible for financial aid. 

One of my favorite poetry teachers and people once said to me, “If you are writing a poem...then you are writing a book.” I love him for this and also I hate him for this. What a relief! What a burden! A Burden, because writing books is Very Hard™. But a relief because it means that every time we sit down and strive to write a single good poem, that poem is not only meaningful and complete on its own, but it is at once in dialectic with all the other poems we already wrote and gesturing towards poems we have not yet written. At Catapult, we believe there’s a better—or at least less lonely—way to write a poetry collection. Our competitive 12-month poetry course is designed to help poets generate and refine a submission-ready collection in a supportive and motivating atmosphere. Ever arduous, surprising, rewarding, and down right freaky: Writing a collection of poems is a one foot in front of the other process. Every effort made is a vital piece towards completing the whole of your book.

Writers will spend a year thinking deeply about their voice and process by generating new work, analysis and discussion of contemporary collections, work-shopping individual poems (and eventually, full manuscripts), one-on-one consultations and guest lectures with nationally celebrated authors and editors and agents. Alongside a group of talented peers each participant will have the opportunity to capitalize on a vibrant and dedicated space for writing to gain strategies for filling in the holes of their manuscript, engage in rigorous craft lessons, explore sequencing tactics, and develop the specific concerns at the core of their body of work.

This class is open to poets of all styles, but is best suited to those with a clear goal of what they want to work on over the course of the year. The program will be divided into three phases, each focusing on a different element of the writing process and building upon earlier lessons. Each phase will feature guest speakers—emerging poets, seasoned writers, speaking agents, and poetry editors from journals and publishing houses—with invaluable insights on how one can best write and publish their debut collection.

We believe the writing process is sacred and should be protected from publishing concerns in the early stages. With that in mind, phase one will focus on helping writers explore and hone their voice; phase two, on sequencing, refining, and identifying and developing the thematic and structural threads of their collection. We also believe that the opaque barriers between the publishing industry and creative writing classes should be broken down, and that writers who hope to publish can be better served by writing education that treats publishing like a challenging, but achievable, component of a writer’s life. For that reason, phase three will focus on the how poets establish and build their readership and writing community.

Throughout the year, class will meet 40 times for two and a half hours per session with several breaks for holidays and “between” phases. There will be one remote Skype check-in scheduled in the break between phase one and two. Writers will graduate the 12-month poetry generator with a substantial number of new pages, valuable connections, and productive and strategic skills that will aid in transformation for not only your manuscript but for a sustainable writing practice and career.

Phase 1: Honing your voice (begins Jan. 8)

In the first phase, weekly sessions will alternate between craft and workshop. Whether you’re rolling into class with several completed poems or simply the desire to write, we will embark together on in-class work geared toward helping each writer explore, hone their voice, and establish and discuss the major thematic and structural threads of each writer’s poems. We will examine contemporary collections of luminaries like Yusef Komunyakaa, Marie Howe, Patricia Smith, Patrick Rosal and more to take a closer look at how some of the most legendary and original collections are created. Craft classes will be geared towards generating new pages, with specific attention paid to meeting each writer where they are. In this phase, students will have the opportunity to workshop twice, and will meet with the instructor for an individual conference following their workshop.

Phase 2: Assembling and refining the collection

The second phase will focus on strategies for refining and heightened revision. This will be the first substantial engagement with the full poetry manuscript. With all or most generative work and drafting out of the way we will begin to consider sequencing and the arc of your collection. Is your collection best divided in sections? Do the poems follow a linear logic or a textural and tonal one? We will look closely to find what narrative, what resounding messages, are pressing through the lyric of your collection and how best to order and put them in conversation. Students will have the opportunity to workshop twice during phase two, and will meet with the instructor following these workshops to further discuss strategies for revision and their progress.

Phase 3: Establishing your readership

The third and final phase of the 12-month poetry generator will help writers begin the process of thinking about how to establish their readership. Students will each have a final workshop, submitting their entire draft for peer review, and will also meet with a 2nd reader who will read the draft in full and meet with the writer to discuss. Guest speakers will either attend class in-person or via a Skype session and will include speaking agents, poetry editors, and published poets. Students will have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with select guests for individual craft and career consultations. Graduation will be celebrated at a public capstone reading featuring each student, and their poems will be featured on Catapult’s website. The capstone event will take place in March, 2020.

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- 120 hours of instruction, including five workshops per student

- Two one-hour 1-on-1 meetings with the instructor

- 20% off all Catapult conferences, classes, and events, including residential programs and writers retreats, for the duration of the program

- Free enrollment in Catapult’s Don’t Write Alone weekend

- 2nd Reader: In addition to the dedicated feedback from the writer/instructor as well as members of the class, each student will submit their manuscript to another poetry instructor for a close reading and an 1-on-1 meeting to discuss their work

- A passionate and talented community of peer readers

- A deeper understanding of the craft of poetry

- A substantial body of new poems and a clearer sense of one’s vision and voice (Please note that no class can promise that you’ll write a full collection. But this class is carefully developed to help emerging poets generate and refine a collection-length body of new work over the course of one year.)

- Greater fluency with the contemporary poetry marketplace

- Access to regular guest speakers and networking events

- Showcase publication and graduation reading and ceremony

FAQs:

Why Catapult, and not an MFA program?

Catapult is an award-winning independent publisher of literary fiction and nonfiction. Good writing is our business: every day we work to help the stories and writers we love find their audience. Our program is designed to unite the best things about an MFA program—community, mentorship, and intensive craft analysis—with specialized and practical publishing advice.

Why does this class cost so much?

The 12-month poetry generator is an MFA level course, taught by a published poet who is also an experienced educator with years of creative writing teaching experience. Your tuition helps pay your instructor a living wage, and covers the cost of booking guest speakers, arranging second readers, scheduling events, and administering the program.

I finished the poetry generator. When will I get published?

We can’t promise that every writer who leaves the 12-month poetry generator will get published right away, or ever. Publishing is a tricky business, involving lots of luck and time—as students who enroll in this course will learn! That said, as publishers ourselves, we strongly believe that we can help prepare emerging poets to better navigate the publishing world, and that our program and the connections made here will increase your chances of success.

In the course description, there are mentions of meetings with guest speakers, agents, and invitations to special events. I want the details right now! Why can’t I have them?

People who work in publishing are busy and we confirm guest speakers on a rolling basis, as their schedules permit.

I have only written a couple poems in my life. Is this class too advanced?

Maybe. How serious are you about working on your poetry over the course of a year? If you have taken at least a couple of workshops in the past, and you’re committed to coming in and focusing on that idea over the course of the year, this class might be the right fit for you. The key thing is that on the first day, you come ready to write. No one will write your poems for you, but this course can help you apply structure to your ideas.

I’m still not sure if this class is for me. Could I talk to someone about it?

Yes! We would love to meet with you. Please email Julie Buntin (julie.buntin@catapult.co), Director of Writing Programs, to set up an appointment.

How much does this class cost? Are scholarships, financial aid, or payment plans available?

Full tuition for this year-long course is $5,750. Payment plans of varying installments are available upon acceptance to the course. Applicants with demonstrated need will be considered for a limited number of financial aid awards. If you have questions about payment plans and/or financial aid, email our Writing Programs Coordinator, Stella Cabot Wilson (stella.cabot_wilson@catapult.co).

Angel Nafis

Angel Nafis is a Cave Canem Fellow and author of BlackGirl Mansion (Red Beard Press). Her work has appeared in The BreakBeat Poets, Buzzfeed Reader, The Rumpus, Poetry, and more. She represented the NYC at the National Poetry Slam and the Women of the World Poetry Slam. An Urban Word NYC Mentor and founder, curator, and host of the Greenlight Poetry Salon. Recipient of the 2016 Ruth Lilly Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship and the 2017 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, she is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Warren Wilson College. With poet Morgan Parker she is The Other Black Girl Collective.

Testimonials

"Angel Nafis is exactly who you should be reading. Her poems are acrobatic, interested in the everyday as a portal to something better, and they know and care that the reader is there. The speaker’s eye here is everywhere, ready to praise even the parts of our existence that we’re often tired of — and I know a lot of us are tired. I hope this poem gives you a kick in the same way it did for me. It reminded me that poets are always here to take us forward."

Alex Dimitrov author of TOGETHER AND BY OURSELVES and BEGGING FOR IT

"Angel Nafis’ poems swallow blood and witness truth at its deepest roots. Nafis writes, 'I count myself among the graced' and you do not doubt the wisdom of her spirit and her craft in BLACKGIRL MANSION. The poems you will find here climb mountains! They share the glory and pains of survival against and within the narrative of family and womanhood. They fight for the love they are and know. The cadence of her heart is to be celebrated! The poems of Angel Nafis undo gravity with their shine and holler. Listen, for hers is an original and astonishing voice: 'I am here now,/speaking and giving/in bursts/of chest, and effort,/and temperature.'"

Rachel Eliza Griffiths author of LIGHTING THE SHADOW, MULE & PEAR, and MIRACLE ARYTHMIA

"I don’t always open the workshop by saying this is one of the most important poems of the 21st century when I’m about to teach Angel Nafis’s ‘Gravity’ but I could, and I do sometimes, because it is. In a cultural moment where students have an ever-expanding ensemble of terms to describe their experiences of alterity (micro-aggression, fetishization, anti-blackness, appropriation), but not always the tools needed to deal with the way interlocking systems of domination affect them in their everyday lives, Nafis’s poem strikes me as an instrument for living, a special resource for those of us trying to sustain a kind of life in a place we were never meant to survive."

Joshua Bennett author of THE SOBBING SCHOOL

"This workshop series has opened my mind to an entire new way of thinking. Because Angel uses texts of all kinds, not limiting her source material to poetry only, but drawing on interviews, SNL sketches, and dialogue from plays, I have begun to view each part of my daily life as an excavator. I had done this previously as a hobby; I love to view the world through imaginative eyes, however, this workshop has helped me discover how to put this creative lens to use in my actual writing. The workshop has also provided me with the only place I have found so far in New York where I can safely share my new writing with others. There is a common language of trust, imagination, and bravery among those who participate regularly in the workshop, and I feel both nurtured and challenged in the group."

April Ranger poet, playwright, and former student

"One of the main things that sets it apart is the writing prompt Angel creates based on the texts we read. She selects source material that is relevant to our lives, but surprising in form. Then she asks us to apply what we have learned, or more importantly, the questions we have gathered from the reading, to our own act of creating. As a teacher, Angel also sets an incredible tone. She asks questions that direct us toward the truth. She doesn’t want us to try and ‘sound smart‘ or impress each other. It’s like she’s driven the ego out of the room with the way she poses questions, so we’re left with the only final option: to be our real selves, to tell the truth."

former student

"I am writing pieces that have been buried in me. Angel Nafis' prompts unearth the most unusual, necessary gems from me. I feel able to take huge risks - because she as a facilitator chooses such unlikely, yet cohesive prompts (SNL skits matched with strict contrapuntal poems, for example) and is so openhearted and real with us as participants. I feel held in a space in a way that I have never felt in a workshop. She fosters an environment of incredible rigor, friendship, and support. I find it an invaluable part of my week."

Shira Erlichman author of ODES TO LITHIUM and former student

"The workshop has created an amazing opportunity to delve in deep into the rich material of the every day in order to create poems that surprise and drive me forward. It has been an amazing routine to have that has added to my manuscript, filling it out and giving it a different sense of completion. It also has sharpened my vision of how I'd like to approach my writing practice, whetting the perspective in which I use to search for what to write down next."

former student