The Poet’s Toolbox for Readers and Writers | Gwyneth Box | Skillshare

The Poet’s Toolbox for Readers and Writers

Gwyneth Box, Poet, translator, lifestyle journalist

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22 Lessons (2h 36m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. What is a poem?

    • 3. The poet's tools

    • 4. An introduction to metre

    • 5. Syllables and stress I

    • 6. Syllables and stress II

    • 7. Stress in the English language

    • 8. Traditional poetry forms

    • 9. The villanelle

    • 10. The sonnet, blank verse and free verse

    • 11. The Haiku and the SciFaiku

    • 12. Introduction to rhyme

    • 13. Imperfect rhyme & other sound techniques

    • 14. Layout: the poet's special tool

    • 15. The stanza

    • 16. Linebreaks

    • 17. Line length

    • 18. Ambiguity

    • 19. Front and end stress

    • 20. Sound as a connector

    • 21. Beyond sound

    • 22. Conclusion

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About This Class

For non-poets and for novice writers, modern poetry can seem very arbitrary: poor writers proclaim themselves poets and present us with chopped-up prose labelled as poetry. Unless we understand the poet's tools and techniques, we are powerless to discriminate between good and bad and recognise when we are being sold short.

This course aims to introduce some of the techniques used in modern English poetry and explain how they are used, leading to greater skill in writing and better appreciation when reading.

Learn to recognise and appreciate the techniques that lie at the heart of modern English poetry.

  • Discover what poetry is and how the definitions lead us towards the tools and techniques available to the poet.
  • Learn about the emotional effect of metre and discover the innate rhythm of the English language.
  • Take a closer look at sonnets, haiku and other poetic forms.
  • Explore the different types of rhyme and other sound effects.
  • Learn about format and layout, the poet's own specific tools, and discover how line breaks and line length affect the way a poem is read.
  • Explore other devices that bind a poem together and distinguish poetry from prose.

Whether you want to read or write poetry, enhance your enjoyment by increasing your understanding of the poet's tools.

Poetry is one of the oldest art forms, a way of expressing and channeling our emotions. For both readers and writers, poetry offers a means of exploring topics that may be difficult to talk about: we turn to poetry in times of grief and in times of celebration; we write it to comfort ourselves and to communicate our experience with others; we read it to better understand own feelings and to learn about the world beyond our own experience.

Benefits of writing poetry include improved verbal expression, articulation, self-awareness, spiritual growth, and enhanced linguistic skills, while reading poetry encourages empathy, and memorising poetry can help long-term brain function.


The course contains more than 20 lectures and over 2 hours of video content. It is especially suited to novice poets and readers, as well as  writers of other genres who are interested in expanding their repertoire or in understanding their poetical colleagues.

Note: the course focuses on modern English poetry; it is non-technical and does not attempt to teach formal literary criticism.

I have been reading and writing poetry since I was a child; when I first started reading. I simply enjoyed the poems, although I didn't know why, so when I started to write, I just wrote what felt good to me. Sometimes one poem seemed more successful than another, but I didn't have any objective criteria by which to judge that success. Then, when I started to study the tools and techniques that are the essence of poetry, it was like adding a whole layer of meaning and it suddenly all became a whole lot more fun.

Later, I started to attend writing workshops and I realised that much of the time even writers of other genres don't really understand what is going on inside a poem: all too often, they would tell me they thought poetry was entirely a matter of personal taste and if I'd written my poem like that it must, automatically, be right.

I developed this course to shine a light on to some of the inner workings of poetry, to enable others to understand and appreciate what poets are doing, and to help them recognise when this is working. Like most things in life, poetry is more fun when you know what's going on: I hope that by taking the course, you, too, can share the fun.