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Workshops are funded in part by Humanities Nebraska. 

Writing Classes & Workshops 

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Caleb "The Negro
Artist" Rainey

Hook, Line & Sinker: Using Spoken Word Techniques to Capture & Hold an Audience

Saturday, March 9th 10:00a CST

When a poet steps to the microphone, truth on the tip of their tongue and vulnerability in their voice, you listen. But what writing techniques does a performance poet use to hook their audience? From the syntax of the first line, to the structure of the whole poem, spoken word artists have found multiple ways to keep the audience’s attention.
     You may be a master at creating images, a poet that can capture passion and pain, even a talented storyteller, but if you cannot hook your audience they won’t stick around long enough for you to prove it.
     This workshop, designed for novice and experienced poets, will focus on the hook by examining the spoken word artists that have found a way—in just a minute—to capture the attention of millions of viewers online. The artists include names such as Neil Hilborn, Javon Johnson, Sabrina Benaim, Blythe Bard, and many others.


is an author, performer, and producer. His debut book, "Look, Black Boy," was awarded first prize in the North Street Book Prize, and his second book, "Heart Notes" was published in 2019.

     He released two spoken word albums, a studio version of Look, Black Boy, and a performance album titled, Heart Notes Live!

     For three years in a row he was named Best Poet/Spoken Word Performer in Cedar Rapids & Iowa City. He is the winner of several slams across the United States, has shared the stage with spoken word titans such as Siaara Freeman, Javon Johnson, Ebony Stewart, Anthony McPherson, and Patricia Smith. Videos of his performances can be found on his YouTube channel, Write About Now, and Button Poetry.

     When he is not writing and performing he is actively curating a community of spoken word poets in Iowa City through his high school program, IC Speaks, and producing events like the Mic Check Poetry Fest.

After you register, you will receive an "admission ticket" with the zoom link information on it.

$35 or FREE to Members

Annual Membership $35

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Michael Broder
Taking Your Temperament: Working with Story, Structure, Music & Imagination

Saturday, June 15th 10:00a CST

In an influential 1988 essay, poet Gregory Orr identifies story, structure, music, and imagination as the four temperaments that define poets and their poetry. What is your poetic temperament?   

     In this class, we will explore Orr’s model, delving into his ideas about the interaction of finite temperaments (story, structure) and infinite temperaments (music, imagination).

     Reading poems by Julia Alvarez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, Frank O’Hara, Dorothy Parker, James Wright, and others, we will observe how the four temperaments allow poets, in the words of Orr, “to forge language into the convincing unities we call poems.”

     This class is suitable for writers and readers alike. Poets will gain new insight into their own poetic temperament and how they can refine it to achieve their creative objectives. Readers will deepen their engagement with poetry by acquiring a new interpretive framework.

     A segment devoted to generative writing will allow writers and non-writers alike to explore their poetic temperament. 

MICHAEL BRODER is the author of "Drug and Disease Free" (Indolent Books, 2016) and "This Life Now" (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry.

     His work has been published in Columbia Poetry Review, The American Poetry Review, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and numerous others.

     He holds a BA from Columbia University, an MFA from New York University, and a PhD in classics from The Graduate Center, CUNY.

After you register, you will receive an "admission ticket" with the zoom link information on it.

$35 or FREE to Members

Annual Membership $35

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Eleanor Reeds
Impossible Listeners: Using "You" in Poems

Saturday, April 20th 10:00a CST

Poems often address those who cannot be reached. We appeal to the west wind or reproach an absent lover, knowing it is impossible for them to hear us and yet trusting in the power of poetic language to communicate. In this session, we will explore poems that can be read by everyone except the "you" to whom they are addressed. We will then experiment with using techniques such as invocation and apostrophe in our own poems. 

ELEANOR REEDS (she/her) is a poet, essayist, critic, and educator from the United Kingdom who has served as the Associate Editor for Plainsongs for the past five years.

     Her work has appeared in aurora journal and Long River Review. She received a PhD in English from the University of Connecticut and currently teaches at Hastings College. 

After you register, you will receive an "admission ticket" with the zoom link information on it.

$35 or FREE to Members

Annual Membership $35

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Matt Mason
It's Time for the Lightening Round!

Saturday, July 20th 10:00a CST

Poetry is always about concision, about writing something small and quick with no excess of words or lines or ideas or lines like this way-too-long sentence. Let's see what we can do with shorter poems, fitting ideas into a smaller spaces like snapshots or meditations. 

MATT MASON is the Nebraska State Poet and was Executive Director of the Nebraska Writers Collective from 2009-2022. Through the US State Department, he has run workshops in Botswana, Romania, Nepal, and Belarus.

     Mason is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Nebraska Arts Council.

     His work can be found in The New York Times, on NPR’s Morning Edition, in American Life in Poetry, and more. Mason's 4th book, At the Corner of Fantasy and Main: Disneyland, Midlife and Churros, was released by The Old Mill Press in 2022.

     Matt is based out of Omaha with his wife, the poet Sarah McKinstry-Brown, and daughters Sophia and Lucia. Find more on his website.

After you register, you will receive an "admission ticket" with the zoom link information on it.

$35 or FREE to Members

Annual Membership $35

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Kelsey Bigelow
Bridging the Page & Stage Gap: How All Poets Can Learn from Both

Saturday, May 18th 10:00a CST

Too often, poets segment our genre into "traditional page poetry" and "modern spoken word poetry," believing we are one or the other. This creates a divide and only grows the disconnect between page and stage poets. Join Kelsey Bigelow, a poet living in the spectrum between both styles, as she guides us through how to bridge this gap and learn how each style informs the other. 

KELSEY BIGELOW is a spoken word and page poet based in Des Moines. In her work, she molds incredibly specific emotions into something human, digestible, and cathartic.

     She released her chapbook, "Sprig of Lilac," in 2018 and released her spoken word album, Depression Holders and Secret Keepers, in 2021.

     Her work is published in or forthcoming with Central Avenue Publishing, Pile Press, Lyrical Iowa, Backchannels Journal, Spirit Lake Review, and elsewhere, and she is a 2024 Pushcart Prize nominee.

     She's the founder and leader of the Des Moines Poetry Workshop, the chair for the Iowa Poetry Association Poetry Slam, the co-tournament director for the BlackBerry Peach National Poetry Slam, and more. Get to know Kelsey through her website.

After you register, you will receive an "admission ticket" with the zoom link information on it.

$35 or FREE to Members

Annual Membership $35

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Javon Rustin
Bringing Home Metaphors - From Stars to Constellations

Saturday, September 7th 10:00a CST

Every line of poetry is a star. In this class, we will be making constellations. We will lay out our stars into a shape that will guide readers / listeners to a deeper meaning the same way stars have guided ship captains through nights at sea.

     All constellations are extended metaphors. We will be going through the process of beginning and editing poems in ways that make our extended metaphors clear to audiences and easy to create.

     Our constellations will be made of stories and the people we hold close.

JAVON RUSTIN is a poet, performer, and programmer; a writer of stories, stanzas, and software. He started competing in poetry slams after graduating from North Carolina A&T in 2013. Since then Javon has been a National Poetry Slam finalist and Regional Slam champion. He ranked 5th in the 2023 National Blackberry Peach Poetry Slam and has worked as a teaching artist for youth in D.C. and Dallas Public School Districts.

     He has been published in six anthologies and his performances can be found on Button Poetry, Write About Now, and All Def Poetry. Javon continues to compete with his poetry but always returns to his love of writing and speaking on topics such as mental health, Black joy, and diversity.

After you register, you will receive an "admission ticket" with the zoom link information on it.

$35 or FREE to Members

Annual Membership $35

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The Nebraska Poetry Society is a non-profit 501c3 organization.

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