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Stop Making Sense: An Online Meaning-Making Poetry Workshop with Natalie Eilbert

Note: This workshop is currently sold out. If you’d like to be on a waiting list, please email yobarrelhouse at gmail dot com with the subject line “Natalie Eilbert workshop.”


  • This 8 week online poetry workshop starts on July 7, 2019

  • Cost is $250

  • Participants will write one poem per week following a prompt from the instructor

What is meaning-making in poetry?

In this course, we will consider what meaning means in poetry. Poetry cannot and should not be read like prose, as it is not meant for information gathering. We read poetry because we cannot shake the ineffable from our faculties; because poetry locates a supreme feeling and reasoning cannot define its bounds; and because such immensity is never linear or straightforward. Multidimensionality siphons into every poem, and so we might see the poem as a snapshot or vignette, compelled not by narrative but felt experience. This is to say, poems offer a complex kaleidoscope of meaning, and they give us permission to wander and to study images of the mind. We will read poems by Alice Notley, Sylvia Plath, francine a. harris, Sara Borjas, torrin a. greathouse, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and many other poets who write with astonishing lyric clarity. We will make use of resources such as the OED and historical texts to make sense of others and our own poems.

Who is this class for?

This course is intended for anyone who has ever been told their poems are too evasive or obscure. I want this class to help empower those who have different interpretations of meaning, and who have arrived at poetry because they have a passion for writing the human condition. All poets arrive at the line with a uniquely difficult undertaking, whether due to structural and/or systemic oppression, a lack of access to traditional education, and/or cultural or linguistic differences. This course is for anybody who wants to enhance their lyric voice, and to find meaning apart from the status quo.

How does this workshop work?

Each week I will provide a prompt that will ask you to work with a particular experience, sometimes fixed in memories or even in the etymology of a word. Examples of this prompt dominate class discussion, as close reading is a core aspect of this class. You’ll post your poem inside of a discussion forum, and will receive feedback from other students and from me. We will also discuss how poems go viral, and the specific reasons for this, since so much of the work we’ll explore has to do with a unique set of parameters and relatability. What makes a poem understood at a mass scale even to those who do not read poetry on the regular? What, by contrast, fails being understood on a mass scale, and isn’t it still worth publication? The workshops are run using the Canvas learning management system, a user-friendly, cloud-based education forum. You can check in and out according to what works for your schedule within the parameters of the course.  

Who is Natalie Eilbert?


Natalie Eilbert is the author of Indictus (Noemi Press, 2018), winner of the 2016 Noemi Press Poetry Prize, as well as Swan Feast (Bloof Books, 2015). Her poetry and essays have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, Tin House, Granta, Poem-a-Day, The Rumpus, Black Warrior Review, and many others. She was the 2016–17 Jay C and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow through the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. She has taught at Columbia University, Barnard College, SUNY Purchase, the 92nd Street Y, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives and writes in Madison, WI, where she is at work on an essay collection, a novel, and a third collection of poetry.

Read some of my work:

Mediastinum” and “Bacterium” in Poetry Magazine

Crescent Moons” in Poem-a-Day

“The Limits of What We Can Do” in The New Yorker

“from The Lake” in The Brooklyn Rail

“from The Lake” in The Bennington Review

“With Her” in Muzzle Magazine

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Earlier Event: June 20
Writer Camp 1