Poetry, Imagination & the Ensouled Life

5 days: Monday 10th May – Friday 14th May 2021 inclusive
There will be further weeks later in 2021

NEW IN 2021
A course for novice, intermediate and advanced poets interested in an holistic approach to writing (and living).

The work we will co-create will be immersive, and will unfold through:

Discussions (via Zoom)

What does it mean to live, and write, from soul in an industrial and rationalist culture? How can we restore the old bonds between nature and culture in what we read and write, adding resonance and depth to our lives?

The best poetry – and I would assert the best life – involves a good dose each of body, mind, heart, soul – and imagination. It will include the rest of the natural world. It will be rooted in the sensory world but point towards something larger. It will also draw together outer and inner worlds.

Poet-farmer Wendell Berry once said that so much of the poetry he reads has the speaker present but the world absent, or the world present but the speaker absent. (Richard Mabey, that icon of the ‘new nature writing’ world, in a recent interview in The New Statesman, said something quite similar.) Berry’s words will be our guiding light for this week.

There’s something sacred in such work. When we read an inspired and inspiring poem that integrates all these aspects, something in us breathes out, and breathes in more deeply afterwards. When we ourselves have written work that seems to incorporate all this, we feel more real, somehow; taking our place in the family of the world.

This is the ensouled life, and poetry offers an excellent crucible to ‘cook our stuff’. Our relationships with others – human, and the rest of the natural world, the more-than-human – as well as our relationship to our inner world, are central to our quest for meaning, and these too need to go into the crucible. Poetry as an alchemical process that emerges from our exploration of the above is cooked in the depths. It can move, stretch, startle, catalyse, comfort and uplift us, and even transform our life. Indeed, poetry can ‘save our life’, as Adrienne Rich declared.

So how do we do this? And at a time like ours, how can we write poetry that is relevant to the unfolding environmental and other crises while also contributing to a literature of hope with an emphasis on our oneness with each other and the more-than-human world?

The course will have a particular, though not exclusive, focus on our relationship to the rest of the natural world – and what it reflects of us.


We know that reading and writing poetry is therapeutic. In this online course we will be looking at how it is that poets such as Mary Oliver, David Whyte and Wendell Berry and others write work that inspires and even heals so many, poets and non-poets alike. We will also be looking in unexpected places for such inspiration: for instance, in prose written by certain scientists, mystics in their own way. What are the ingredients that speak to us? And, crucially, how can we cook them into our own poetry?

In your company, I’ll be exploring these ideas and relevant poems, and offering tips and tasks, and topics, for your own writing. I’m planning to include some time for you to share your own work.

On the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I will send you a PDF of the ideas for the next day, and relevant poems or passages for that day’s work. We will then meet up on Zoom each weekday from 5pm to 7pm (approximately – it won’t be longer) BST to talk about the ideas raised in that module, and to share our work, with feedback if liked. I will also be creating a private Facebook group for people to share the work written during the week, and to offer each other peer feedback.

Numbers on each week of this course will be limited to 12. As of April 1st, there is only one space still available, but do ask to put your name on the waiting list.

THE FEE of £175 is payable in advance, and is non-refundable. (1 concessionary place is available for someone who could otherwise not participate in this course.)

After you’ve taken this course (or even if you don’t), consider signing up for The Poetry Lab, a peer feedback group, which will help you to burn away the dross of first drafts until pure gold emerges.

You might also be interested in the opportunity to work one-to-one with me in my long-standing Elements of Poetry online course.

A few times in the year I offer Writing the Bright Moment – poetry, nature and mindfulness weeks, currently online.