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The poet’s ultimate representation on the page is the poetic voice. Sharon Olds sounds like “Sharon Olds” because of her language choice, syntax, and line breaks. Yusef Komunyakaa’s linguistic swing is identifiable in a room full of poets thanks to his unique understanding of assonance, consonance, and imagery. Fortunately, for those of us who write poetry, the “voice” of the poet isn’t always the same thing as the “voice” of the speaker in a poem. There is a natural, creative separation between the language we use to order a meal and the language we use to create a poem. That creative language and the ways it is constructed for poetry is the true “voice” of the poet. It is, in fact, a poetic persona. 

In this class we will study the work of poets with clear poetic personae or “voices” in order to develop a more effective poetic voice for ourselves.  We will also look at a small sampling of persona poems and talk about the use of persona to explore the mechanics of voice. The poems we read will serve as models for new poems we will generate together through a series of free- and directed-writing exercises. This workshop will be relaxed and supportive and ideal for beginning poets as well as more advanced writers who would are interested in experimenting with voice and persona.

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Instructor: Adrian Matejka

Adrian Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany and grew up in Indiana. He is a graduate of Indiana University and the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is the author of six books, most recently a mixed-media collection inspired by Funkadelic, Standing on the Verge & Maggot Brain (Third Man Books, 2021), and a collection of poems Somebody Else Sold the World (Penguin, 2021). His book The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Among Matejka’s other honors are fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and a Simon Fellowship from United States Artists. He is the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University Bloomington and was Poet Laureate of the state of Indiana in 2018-19.