The Art of Craft: a series of craft classes for writers, readers, and teachers

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The Art of Craft: a series of craft classes for writers, readers, and teachers
Big Blue Marble Bookstore
Thursdays, 7-9 pm
April 9th – May 14th

April 9th Thinking Like a Poet
April 16th A Density of Sound
April 23rd Spines and Joints
April 30th Measuring Meter
May 7th Walking the Line
May 14th Case Study: The Persona Poem

Welcome to the Art of Craft, an ongoing series of craft classes by Big Blue Marble Staffer and Writer-in-Residence Elliott batTzedek. Each week we’ll take on a different element of the poet’s craft through learning, discussion, and hands-on work with poems by many of the best contemporary poets.

The Art of Craft is for poets, for poetry fans who want to learn more about the art, and for writing teachers who want to bring new tools to their students. An ongoing writers’ workshop will also be available for poets who want to apply these elements to expand and deepen their own work. More information about each topic is below.

Cost: The craft classes are $50 each, $90 for any two, $160 for any four, or $200 for the series of six. Philadelphia public-school teachers (or staff who work with kids) may enroll for $15 each or $120 for the whole series. Discounts are also available if you bring a friend; please email me for more information.

Pre-registration and a deposit are required. Please email Elliott at or register online at: The Art of CraftThe fee includes all handouts and materials.

A writers’ workshop is also available, meeting weekly for 6 sessions. The cost is $200 for one poet or $300 for 2 (that is, bring a friend and you each save $50!). Workshops will include reviews of craft elements, writing exercises, and discussions of our poems. Register online at: Art of Craft Writers’ Workshop

About the Topics:

Thinking Like a Poet —Rather than asking, What does a poem mean? this series asks How does a poem mean?, a question we’ll answer through studying aspects of the poet’s craft. In the first section we’ll be exploring:
Formal/Big Strategies
Music and Clatter
Words, Diction, un-Microwaveable Language
Time and Space

A Density of Sound—How does the poem sing? What is the chatter, the clatter, the smooth move, the structure, the improv? How do poets use sound to structure the poem and to convey its emotion, context, meaning, and urgency?

Spines and Joints—What is the central axis of your poem? Where does it bend, rotate, flex? How and when do other voices/views come into the poem?

Measuring Meter—The inherent meters of English live in everything we write. We’ll study how meter control the pace and meaning of poems, and how to use meter as a tool for revising.

Walking the Line—Never again worry about where to put in line breaks—because lines don’t break. Lines end, when their work in the poem is complete. Break the myth of the break, and free your lines to be the great engines of your writing.

Case Study: The Personal Poem—Persona poems, or poems that speak in a first person voice that is clearly not the voice of the poet, have been adapted to many interesting uses in the past decades. We’ll look at some of the most original and most startling voices, while considering structural issues such as how poets enter and leave the persona poem.
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Publishing for Poets

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Publishing for Poets
Wednesday March 18th, 7 pm
$25, pre-registration is required

Print journals, online journals, famous journals, upstart journals, submission services, contests, open reading periods – how’s a poet supposed to navigate all of this and still have time to write?

Elliott batTzedek, MFA, is the founder of Poetry Business Manager, a submission management service for poets. In this 2 hour workshop, she’ll introduce you to the world of poetry publications and help you learn to find the right match for your work. Learn to avoid publication scams, stay away from high fees, and where to begin your search for submission calls and reading periods.

To register, email:

Learn to Love Poetry Again: a workshop for readers and writers

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Saturday March 7th OR Saturday March 28th, 2-4 pm
Big Blue Marble Bookstore
551 Carpenter Lane
Philadelphia PA 19119

Workshop is free but pre-registration is required. Email

As children, we loved poetry for its sounds, its silliness, its relevance to our daily lives and our dreams. Then, for too many of us, years of poetry “education” took all the fun away and gave us headaches looking for hidden meanings and themes. Enough of that! You can turn back the clock and learn to love poetry again!

The workshop is led by Big Blue Marble Poet-in-Residence Elliott batTzedek. Elliott has an MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation from Drew University and years of teaching and workshop experience.

In this two hour workshop we’ll touch on the huge variety of amazing contemporary poets, and look at their work the ways poets look at poetry – not as a mystery to solve, but a celebration of sound, music, and image. If you know you like poetry but don’t know quite where to start reading, this workshop is for you!

Book Reading & Art: The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters

3-5 pm, Sunday March 22nd, 2015
Paradigm Gallery + Studio
746 South 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

An afternoon of readings about girlhood, coming of age, and the female body, with Lauren Rindaldi, Dawn Lonsinger, Laura Madeline Wiseman, Kimberly Rinaldi, Elizabeth Akin Stelling, Shevaun Brannigan, Marion Cohen, & Elliott batTzedek

Find Out More


NaNo(inPo)WriMo 6 – An Idyll

An Idyll

Bone idle
bone dry
I have a bone to pick with you

bone shards
bone head
make no bones about it

Bone up on it, rag and bone man, throw
me a bone, grab hold tight on my
bone of contention, find what was
bred in my bone, yes dig for the bones in
it, measure the skeletons that rattle
in my closet, and after give rest to
my weary bones.

blood and bone
telling bone
to the marrow of the bone

knick knack paddy whack
the patient dog gets the fattest bone

fe fi foh fum
Death smells the blood of every one
and grinds their bones to make
his bread

I rolled them bones and took my chance
still Death it was got the bigger half
of my wishbone

My bone cleaveth to my skin, and to my flesh—
about this, there are most surely
no bones

NaNo(inPo)WriMo #5 – what is known is not always true

5. what is known is not always true

a tisket a tasket
a something something basket

mareseatoats and doeseatoats
and littlelambseativy

and a little lamb followed her to
school one day, school one day
a lamb followed her to school one day
which was against

follow follow fallow

to lie then fallow which means not wild
but plowed and then unseeded
and how has that never been a synonym
for fucking while wearing a condom?

fellow with a fallow phallus
a fallow phallus had the fellow
if a fellow has a fallow phallus
how can he have children that
a lamb can daily follow?

and if a fellow with a fallow phallus
nonetheless had a child could the fallow
phallus protect her? Wherever there are lambs
there are wolves nearby and that’s
a fact.

The International Wolf Center interrupts this rambling
to state unequivocally that the inevitability
of wolves stalking lambs is a fallacy,
and fallow fields left full of wildlife
will keep a hungry wolf from traveling
far afield to eat your lambs.

Wolves eating lambs = bad
Dogs eating lambs made into chow = good
It always comes back to purpose you see

Besides nearly all of the lamb-eating wolves
are wolves of the whistling human
variety. One such wolf attacked my
lamb leaving her bloody but alive
to be hunted again. Which is how I knew it was
a human wolf for actual wolves kill to eat
then go back to their peaceful female-headed
family lives while human wolves
say “tsk tsk the child reads too many
fairy tales her imagination is out
of control”

a tisk tisk, a task task,
a basket full of human crap

for more info on wolf/human interaction in reality, not myth, see:Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

NaNo(inPo)WriMo 4 – A Good Life

A good life

Death in the country is I suppose
somewhere on the psychotic scale.
The old farm dog when he dies is
sobbed for and mourned and buried with a stone
marker and the stories about him grow
to legendary while the calf you saved by
bottle feeding 10 times a day gets sent to slaughter
and eaten through a long cold winter

and both animals had good lives, that’s how you learn
to understand it, having had a good life,

though one was much much shorter and ended
in a planned and choreographed murder
and dismemberment.

Stay practical. Everything has its
purpose and purpose matters more than
time. Wasteful stupid waste to
outlive your purpose.

The purpose of a calf is to be beef.
The purpose of a dog is to be guard
and companion.
The purpose of a truck is to run.

Purpose over? Time to go. No sense
being sentimental over what by its
nature is finished.

But half the barns round this way
hold an old rusting truck. No sense
in being sentimental.

NaNo(inPo)WriMo 3 – Clearing the Path

Clearing the path

This truck used to be a bull not the actual
truck although I suppose with the chrome running
boards and stacks and AM stereo it was
a horny young bull but I mean

that here in the old lean-to on the sunny south side
of the barn was the stall for the resident bull the
minotaur of my childhood nightmares. Come near
the fence and he would charge and the look in

his eyes told you he could open the locked
gate anytime he chose and we would run screaming not
in the kid way of then falling to the ground and screaming
in laughter but solid sweaty fear so the whole backyard was off

limits. Except to the barn cat named fuck
I’ve forgotten her name I always knew her name
the things you think you can afford to forget in the
maze of your mind will do you in, that’s a fact

but that cat was fearlessly evil she would stir
up the neighborhood dogs and restless they
would pursue faster nearly snatching her
tail and then she would leap between the rails

into the pasture and the dogs would bay
bloodlust and the bull out of nowhere would bear
down upon them while the cat sat on the trough
cleaning her paws until her path was cleared to saunter

back to the porch to beg cream. She died doing that.
Led a pack of dogs to the their doom, dove over
the third rail and dropped dead of a heart attack.

She died doing what she loved most to do, died at the
pinnacle of her attitude. She hated kids as much
as dogs, loved only herself and my grandma
pouring cream. I still carry scars from her claws
I still fear her still want to be her.

NaNo(inPo)WriMo #2


So goddammed much stuff broken
here the truck’s axle all the messing
around with the motor just to lie on the rough
of the idle just to imagine

what was broken in the past or maybe
the past was whole but each second
of its immense feet marching across
the old farmhouse floor wore

down the foundation so life now
is iffy enough and the future
is bound to fall in on all
who survive to see it

I won’t survive the fall

I mean this fall I mean not some time
later when the last bits of these floors are
splinters in the last toes of the last children here
I mean lying here I’ve pulled the choke

back out and the rust of the truck floor rattles
with the motor’s idle roar, clacks the knobs
of the window handles shakes this seat
shakes my bones I’d rather

stay here and open the throttle wide
and let the engine shake my bones apart
rattle loose the hard dark stones my bones
shown in black and white are harboring

I mean I was made to the rhythm
of this truck’s shimmy-shake and if
I want to be unmade here as well
that’s my own goddamed decision