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7 Online Courses to Improve Your Poetry Practice

Group meet-ups and face-to-face learning opportunities are on pause as stay-at-home orders across the nation are in effect. While some writers welcome the extended opportunity for solitude, others may feel stagnant or find inspiration hard to come by. If you’re in the latter group, don’t think growth is out of reach. Online learning presents a safe way to improve your poetry practice while maintaining a safe social distance from your fellow poets. To help you find a course that just might fit your fancy, we’ve picked out seven worthwhile online poetry courses. 


How to Make a Poem from Manchester Metropolitan University on FutureLearn

Cost: Free

This free online poetry course is great for beginners or less experienced poets looking for a door to further knowledge. Participants will experiment with different techniques and exercises, develop their personal voice, and discuss and collaborate with their classmates. With three weeks of learning broken down in easy-to-digest sections, no experience is necessary to join. In the first week, award-winning poets Carol Ann Duffy and Adam O’Riordan provide an introduction. Week two focuses on the art of crafting a poem, breaking down the parts and pieces, and explaining their potential. Week three focuses on drafting, editing, and workshopping your poem, as well as next steps beyond the course. 


Instagram Poetry: Create Personal, Visual Vignettes for Self-Expression with Alison Malee on Skillshare

Another free online poetry course gem is poet and performer Alison Malee’s skillshare course on Instagram poetry. This nine-part course totals an easy-to-follow 26 minutes of learning, in which Malee guides participants through her poetic process. For a lot of aspiring writers, getting started is the hardest part. Malee designed the course to be a friendly access point for beginner poets. In addition to guidance through on your first poetry project, Malee teaches viewers how to select and extract a line from the new work, then create a visual to share on Instagram. 


Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop from CalArts on Coursera

Cost: Free

Have you been writing poetry privately for a bit? Have you been thinking about taking the next step? This four-week online poetry course is free and takes participants a bit deeper into the art of poetry than the abovementioned one. Newbies won’t be a fish out of water in this course, but a little experience reading and writing poetry won’t hurt. Week one explores how lines, line breaks, sounds, and stanzas work together to connect with readers. Week two offers a deep dive into abstraction and imagery. Week three brings the metaphor under the microscope. And finally week four digs into rhyme. 


Studies in Poetry: “Does Poetry Matter” from MIT on MIT Open Courseware

Cost: Free

Whether you’re a seasoned poet or a newborn wordsmith, this course offers plenty to think about. However, this course doesn’t have an instructor at the wheel. Instead, MIT gives you the tools and leaves the pace (and participation) in your hands. With the guidance of the provided syllabus, calendar, reading list, and study materials, participants can go deeper into understanding the relevance, impact, and importance of poetry in the modern world. With a fantastic selection of readings from modern poets (most of which you can find online), you’ll be plenty busy. Since this is designed as a discussion course, we recommend taking it on with a friend so you can chat about what you’ve read. 


Writing Poetry on OpenLearn

Cost: Free

OpenLearn offers a little more guidance than MIT Open Courseware with videos for each lesson. There are four total videos in this course, so you can choose your own pace. You can also download a transcript if you’d prefer to read the lesson instead. Starting with an overview of the purpose of poetry and ending with rhyme and speech, participants can expect to be eased into the details as they go. 


Billy Collins Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry on Masterclass

Cost: $15/month billed annually

Yep, that’s former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. If you want your poetry lesson straight from the horse’s mouth, go here. This robust course includes 20 video modules, which you can watch at your own pace. In this online poetry course, Collins shares his approach to creating emotionally stirring poems. At the same time, he’ll encourage you to use your own. One of the most unique things about this course (and about Collins) is the use of humor. It’s so important to him that he dedicated a full video to it! Unfortunately, Masterclass requires that you purchase the full year upfront ($180), but you’ll gain access to courses beyond Collins’ as well—if that sweetens the deal. 


The Speakeasy Project

Cost: $225 or $295 per workshop (bulk pricing available)

While this online poetry course is the priciest on the list, it also offers the most personal experience. The Speakeasy Project hosts workshops every fall, winter, spring, and summer. It offers two types of workshops: Growth and Write Side By Side. Growth programs are intensive four-week workshops that center around small-group mentorships (with no more than six students per group). Students receive a syllabus with daily writing prompts and reading assignments, small group discussions, and access to mentors’ office hours—much like a typical college course, but shorter. Growth workshops cost $295 per session. 


Write Side By Side programs are also four-week workshops, but with a maximum of 25 students per session. This workshop is structured to help students hold each other accountable. Participants are assigned an accountability partner, who they will work with throughout the course and often beyond. They also receive a syllabus with prompts and suggested readings, a weekly lecture, and access to an online repository of reading samples. The Write Side By Side program costs $225 per session. Discounts are available for purchasing packages of two, three, or four (or more) courses at once.