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Poetics as Cosmology Workshops Fall 2022

June 20, 2022

Poetics as Cosmology

(Intro to Spontaneous Composition)

A five week online (Zoom) workshop for people who have had a little experience in spontaneous poetry composition and want more. Join Cascadia Poetics Lab and Poetry Postcard Fest Co-Founder Paul E Nelson in a lively course designed to start where the poetry postcard fest left off and help you understand how to tap into deeper levels of knowing that can begin inform your non-writing life and reduce your reliance on editing.

Some theory to understand the poetics of 20th/21st c approaches to spontaneous composition, some writing exercises, discussion and between class homework. The work of Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Nate Mackey, Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser and others may be discussed along with concepts such as seriality, investigative poetics & how to write more by reducing your reliance on editing.

2 courses are being offered in Fall 2022. All times PACIFIC. Daylight Savings Time ends Nov 6.

Thursdays, 4-6pm PDT, Oct 20, 27, Nov 3, 10, 17. REGISTER FOR THURSDAYS HERE.
Saturdays, 9-11 PDT, Oct 22, 29, Nov 5, 12 & 19. REGISTER FOR SATURDAYS HERE.

Limit – 12 participants in each session.


Paul E. Nelson’s “Poetics As Cosmology” course begins in a completely astounding way with a poem by Ed Dorn, “My Tribe.” If that is not enough to stop you in your tracks, what follows provides inroads and out roads from this seed sprout, this shake down. While Dorn would be embarrassed to be an initiator of such weight of purpose, he would also be so honored by Nelson leading “Poetics As Cosmology” and its poetic investigation via the stance of the Black Mountain School with his poem.

Nelson helps all attendees to explore the possibilities of language, and especially the long poem as an embodiment of instruction in one’s own life. Course materials, discussions, and work-in-progress all contribute to a sense of participation in the mysteries of the creative process made real and “organic,” to use Levertov’s term. Knowing that Nelson’s course is dispatched from deep in the Cascadia bio-region makes it even better. How wonderful it is to be a part of this.

– Susan Kay Anderson, Fall 2020 Poetics as Cosmology participant

Paul Nelson’s Poetics as Cosmology course was resonant and revelatory. I appreciated Paul’s high expectations for engagement. The workload was significant, and pushed me to meet the material: to engage with the demanding readings, to write a lot each week, and to make space in my life for artist dates. Paul pushed me to live as an artist: all-in, lit up, senses sharp, aware of life’s richness and magic. The experience felt like much more than a weeks-long, online course. It felt like a door onto something very good.

– Laura King, Fall 2020 Poetics as Cosmology participant

Paul Nelson’s organic poetry workshops are less a class than a journey, leading the participant not only to an ingeniously natural method of writing, but to the living energy of the poem itself. And he does this all with humor, profound inclusion and deep knowledge about organic verse, its origins with the Beats & Black Mountain school and its profound applicability to today’s poets. If you want to learn how to clip the strings of your mental editor and free your lines to run where they really want to, take this course.

– Rob Lewis, Fall 2020 Poetics as Cosmology participant

Expect to be surprised. Paul Nelson is a master at opening doors to fresh perspectives on poetry and your relationship with it. His Poetics As Cosmology workshop was challenging, fun, and inspiring. Paul is practically a living library of modern poetry whose depth of knowledge led me to explore readings and recordings of poets who were new to me as well as some I’d loved and forgotten.

The lessons and writing exercises offered insights into different poetic forms and the opportunity to experiment with them, each exercise like walking down a strange new street. The first writing exercise, a cover of Ed Dorn’s “My Tribe”, blew the lid off any reluctance I had to explore my own mythology. And that was only the beginning. The discussions and laughter shared with Paul and other participants, and hearing some of their poetry, added an even deeper level of richness to the workshop. I came away more confident and more disciplined in how I work and play with my poetry. Highly recommended.

— Carol Keslar, Fall 2020 Poetics as Cosmology participant

One of the great developments of the pandemic has been the opportunity for distance learning. I’ve had an amazing time facilitating workshops that allow people with some sense of spontaneous composition to explore that realm more deeply. Starting with seminal essays like Projective Verse and Some Notes on Organic Form, we move into concepts like Serial form and the Saturation Job. Postcards are the gateway drug and registration for this year’s Poetry Postcard Fest (Year 16) ends July 4.

Please check out the workshop page here, or a review of my last book here and drop me an email if you have more interest, or look at the testimonial page from years past. I have been working with a group for two years and the poetry they are writing is quite inspiring.

One of the great joys of this workshop for me is in creating writing prompts for the attendees. I try to tailor the exercises to match the interests of each group and they are usually loaded with content, such as the Inside the Day Song prompt offered on June 11. These writing exercises offer some glimpse into how to live a life as a poet and are created based on the notion that writing is something more important than a popularity contest. I love what Robert Duncan wrote in 1955 about this reported in Lisa Jarnot’s wonderful biography The Ambassador from Venus:

What if poetry were not some realm of personal accomplishment, open field day race for critics to judge, or animal breeding show – … but a record of what we are, like the record of what the earth is is left in the rocks, left in the language? Then what do we know of poetry … compared to this geology? and how silly we must look criticizing … as if geologists were to criticize rather than read their remains (144).

My 27 year study of Projective Verse, especially as practiced by Michael McClure is the main motivation. This practice has been life-changing for me and when one gets to learn how to quell editor’s mind, it leads to deepening of one’s own vibrant intuition, which is a quality that becomes increasingly more important as life becomes less predictable. My 25 year association with Sam Hamill has helped me to understand what kind of commitment is required by those serious about poetry as a way of life.

Thanks for reading and consider registering for the course, or letting a poet friend know about this. Like the Poetry Postcard Fest, writers of all levels of experience are welcome. We only ask that you be open to this stance toward poem-making. It is transformational.


  1. Daniel L. Smith

    I have been writing poetry for well over 50 years. Many of my poems including the early ones were long poems. The long poems were influenced by Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. I had some formal training in writing poetry at bread loaf writers conference three years in row during the 70s. And I taught the writing of poetry, creative writing, technical writing, research and report technical and professional writing, business writing, and the poetry all of these endeavors at the college level for many years. My post dock at the University of Michigan prepared me to teach technical and professional writing to other professionals; my dissertation was on creativity and madness; my writing at the time swung between those two polls no doubt. But nothing prepared me for what I experienced in Paul’s cosmology and seriality courses. He’s absolutely correct: if you want to transform the way you write poetry, and develop in uncluttered mind to write every day, then these courses are not for the faint of heart nor for the person who is serious about writing in iambic pentameter or free verse or anything else. Any preconceived notion that I had about writing poetry was ushered to an encyclopedia of past history by Paul’s course. He has a depth of understanding, a broad expanse of his own writing experience, and an absolutely marvelous internet-enabled zoom enabled reference library of first-hand experience from people who have succeeded at this. Success is writing the poem down or reading it aloud. It is not the number of likes that you get.

  2. Daniel L. Smith



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