module 1

Module 1: Poetry as a Built Environment


In this module you will:

  • understand the concept of iterative writing
  • choose a focus for your iterative writing
  • choose a detail from one of your previously-written poems as the basis for a new poem using repetition as a building block
  • make connections between the process/products of architecture and creative writing


  • Begin by watching the film The Sketches of Frank Gehry (see below). This film talks about the iterative process Gehry uses between drawing and making models. He begins with an idea and then switches between sketching, creating a mock-up, and talking with his team about his vision. This is what we’ll be doing in this class. I’m asking you to start with one theme and generate new writing which may function as “sketches” or “studies” toward the final poem rather than the final poem itself. (It’s also possible that you’ll leave workshop with multiple poem drafts you’d like to keep revising, but I’m trying to take the pressure off 😀.) The workshop will be a conversation about your works in progress and the idea(s) behind them. While you watch the Gehry film, please take notes about connections (or differences) between architectural practice and the practice of writing. We’ll talk about this in our first class.
  • After watching the film, please go to your Architecture Workbook (which you can download at the bottom of this page) and complete the exercises for Module 1.
  • Finally, read the 2 poems by C.D. Wright (see bottom of page). They give an example of what iterative writing can look like in its final drafts. When you’re reading, pay particular attention to the way Wright uses repetition in the “Detail” poem. Then choose a poem you’ve already written (this is the one poem for this class which probably won’t follow the theme in your iterative writing). You’ll want a poem which has a small mention (of a detail or image or moment) that you can expand. For example, you might consider a repeating pattern that refocuses the reader’s mind on the most striking elements by changing or rearranging adjectives, nouns, verbs in each subsequent phrase. Consider C.D. Wright’s use of fragments and punctuation as you decide how you want the reader’s mind to linger on or gloss over the repeating pattern. C.D. Wright’s “Detail” poem has no punctuation until the last line. The last line is a full sentence with a full stop at the end, which leads the reader to a feeling of closure. This writing should take about 40 minutes. You may not feel finished with the poem by that time, but you’re welcome to stop there. If you don’t want to leave the poem, consider taking a few notes on how to continue, then come back to it after you’ve completed all the modules.


For the MFA workshop, we spent the first hour discussing the readings, the second hour doing in-class writing (prompt below), and the third hour workshopping poems by the participants.

Writing Prompt:

Freewrite or mind-map everything you can think of that connects to your theme. Consider categories like: • people, •places, • your own idiosyncratic associations, •memories, •snatches of speech, sounds, smells, •moods, • time periods, •any details of the environment, •enduring (open-ended) questions, etc.

Try not to think too much about what you’re writing down. Try to keep typing/writing/dictating. If you exhaust a category and stop, choose another category and start again. Let the writing take you where it wants to go.