Writing poetry – new beginnings with Robyn Bolam

Creative writing and publishing

Ref: SWE11482

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About this course

Learn how to create memorable poems inspired by West Dean, its surroundings, your own experiences, and study the works of some of our most effective writers. You will develop your poetry-writing and poetry-reading skills while enhancing your understanding of the creative process.

Course Description

This course will guide you to find new things to write about in new ways, and will help you to move out of your comfort zone, should you wish that. It will also suggest new starting points for any problem poems, to enable you to complete them more successfully.

Using workshop prompts, writing exercises, and taking inspiration from the house and grounds, you will be shown how to write poetry in different forms and from new perspectives. Group reading and discussion will enable more confident solo writing and, through group workshops and one-to-one tutorials, you will learn self-editing and basic reviewing skills.

By the end of the course you will have: a wider understanding of contemporary poetry and its roots, the creative process, selected poetic forms and techniques, and the effective use of rhythm, rhyme and metre. You will also have an increased ability to identify strengths and weaknesses in your writing and in that of others.

To succeed on this course you will need to be willing to share your work with other participants and your tutor, write both alone and in collaboration, be willing to experiment with new ideas, join in group discussions to whatever degree you feel comfortable, and be prepared to give and receive constructive criticism.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • No later than one week before the course starts, please send up to two poems of your own and two poems by favourite poets to the tutor, via the bookingsoffice@westdean.ac.uk.
  • Bring a poem (one of your own or one by a favourite poet which best demonstrates your preferred subject and style) to the first session.
  • Own laptops, tablets etc. are optional
  • Notebook/paper and pencils
  • Warm, waterproof outdoor clothing is advised for outside workshop-walks

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Notebooks and pencils
Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toes or sandals. You may need safety boots, if specified above.


Robyn Bolam

Robyn has a D Phil from the University of York and is Emeritus Professor of Literature at St Mary's University. She has published four acclaimed poetry collections with Bloodaxe Books and edited a major anthology of women's poetry. Her libretto was performed by the Royal Opera House Garden Venture.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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