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Found Poetry: An Online Maker’s Workshop with Sheila Squillante

NOTE: This workshop is sold out! If you'd like to be on the waiting list in case somebody bails, email yobarrelhouse at gmail dot com with the subject line "waiting list for Found Poetry workshop." 


This is an 8-week, online workshop that starts on February 4, 2018. Participation is limited to 12 people. 


  • 8-week online workshop
  • Starts February 4, 2018
  • Registration $250
  • Limited to 12 participants
  • Each participant will workshop 1 poem per week

 What is Found Poetry?

In this course, we will be working within the realm of Found Poetry. What does this mean? Generally speaking, it’s a mode of composition that uses already existing texts that may or may not seem to possess poetic qualities (economics textbooks, recipes, public signage, the visit summary from your elderly cat’s last well check, your old poems) to re-mix, sculpt, combine, forge them into something new. You can think of this as the literary equivalent of visual collage, where the comfort and familiarity of narrative takes a back seat to the delights of association, juxtaposition, risk and wonder. Found Poetry encompasses many techniques, including erasure, cut-ups, centos and free-form excerpting. We will make use of tools both digital (hello, Internet!) and material (grab your scissors and paste!) to create work that I hope will engage and surprise you. It’s a new year, so let’s shake up our writing process a little!

Why Would I Mess Around with That?

Sometimes I use these techniques to push my language further—to strange it up; sometimes I use them because I am exhausted by writing personal narrative, or maybe I’m just bored with my usual obsessions. Or, really, bored with the expression of my usual obsessions. Because every time I work in collage, pulling from texts that have seemingly no relationship to each other or to me, hot damn, there it still is!-- Sheila’s obsession with The Body or The Domestic. Or creepy baby dolls or cats. (not cats.) But I’m not bored or exhausted anymore. I go into the revision process exhilarated and primed for discovery.

How Does This Workshop Work?

Each week I will provide a prompt that will ask you to work with a particular process or medium. Often I’ll offer examples of other work in the world that uses that technique. You'll post your poem inside of a discussion forum, and will get feedback from other workshop participants and from me. We will also have the chance to talk to each other about more general issues in poetry, and about the landscape of journal publication.  The workshops are run using the Canvas learning management system, a user-friendly, cloud-based education forum, which means, this is a virtual space. You can check in and out according to what works for your schedule within the parameters of the course.  

By the end of the eight weeks you'll have a sheaf of poems that have been thoroughly heard and worked on. It should be a ton of fun!

Who is Sheila Squillante?

Sheila Squillante is the author of the poetry collection, Beautiful Nerve (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016), and three chapbooks of poetry: In This Dream of My Father (Seven Kitchens, 2014), Women Who Pawn Their Jewelry (Finishing Line, 2012) and A Woman Traces the Shoreline (Dancing Girl, 2011). She is also co-author, along with Sandra L. Faulkner, of the writing craft book, Writing the Personal: Getting Your Stories Onto the Page (Sense Publishers, 2015). Recent work has appeared or will appear in places like Copper Nickel, North Dakota Quarterly, Indiana Review, Waxwing, TYPO, Quarterly West and Eleven Eleven.

Sheila has almost two decades of experience teaching poetry to beginning and advanced-level learners, both in the university classroom and the community. She currently teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, for which she serves as both associate director and assistant professor. Every summer, she plans and directs Chatham’s Summer Community of Writers, a ten-day residency for all MFA students at the beautiful Eden Hall campus. Since 2013, she has been Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth River, Chatham’s  journal of nature and place-based writing. She was blog editor for PANK for a bunch of years, and now does the same thing for the good people of Barrelhouse.  

She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with one philosopher, two existentially-sensitive children, two ancient cats, one exceedingly handsome lizard, two darling rats and three fish that everyone tries to remember to feed. For more information, visit

Read some of my work:  

“Petunias” and “The Pool,” at Waxwing.

A suite of poems about Round Baby at Menacing Hedge 

“You Would Become” and “It Take Strength to Be Gentle and Kind” at Sweet: A Literary Confection

“Criterion Films of the Long Married,” and “Aubade” at Hobart


Learn about my book, Beautiful Nerve

Named one of “The 14 Best Poetry Debuts of the Last 5 Years” by Bustle

The poems in Sheila Squillante’s debut collection, Beautiful Nerve, are meant to unsettle. They draw on our anxieties and fears—somatic, linguistic, metaphoric—leading us somewhere somehow calming in its familiarity but troublingly unsteady: a bridge that ends abruptly as you cross it, the doomed deck of a haunted ship, a three-cornered room, the cutlery drawer, a table where you lie still beneath the surgeon’s knife. Miscommunications and disorientations abound in these poems. Memories and dreams collide with nature and media, creating something superficially simple, but too unstable for us to ever get comfortable. “Look at the landscape for a while,” they tell us. But then “pull out and be on your way.” 

“In these stunning poems filled with the weight and hungers of milk, honey, and sensuous blood-pulse, Sheila Squillante deftly slips between exterior and interior spaces of embodiment and intellect, quotidian and sublime, dream and wakefulness. With a painterly eye and an impeccable ear for linguistic sound and phrasing, the keenly-thrumming poems in Beautiful Nerve will rivet you with their quirky precision, and make you swoon with their wild and gorgeous music.”   Lee Ann Roripaugh, Author of Dandarians

“These poems contain characters that grapple with finding verisimilitude in impossibility. Squillante explores the limits of body and the boundless aspects of perception as the catalyst of growth—to possess the nerve and have that be enough.“–review in The Los Angeles Review

 “The intricately telescoping tangle of these poems—like neural wiring, like arteries, like roots of plants—resists an easy decoding, offering instead a brilliant bouquet of “nervous yellow bloom[s].”--review in Hot Metal Bridge


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Later Event: March 7
AWP 2017 - Tampa, FL