New Catharsis, New Classroom

Online poetry workshop stresses form and feeling

Richard Morgan contemplates the possibilities.
Portrait by Clark Hodgin

This has been a year for lockdown-inspired introspection, and now there’s an opportunity to turn those inner discoveries into poetry by enrolling in “Writing Personal Poetry,” a three-session class taught by Richard Morgan at Blue Ridge Community College’s Center for Lifelong Learning in Flat Rock.

The author of six books of poetry, Morgan also holds a degree in physics and was the only physics major in his college creative-writing class. “I love physics, math, and words,” Morgan says. “I can’t tell you how this combination happened, but I have been enthusiastic about them for a lifetime.”

This month’s BRCLL course follows Morgan’s “Introduction to Writing Personal Poetry,” taught last year. “This new course starts by reviewing and restating the key points of the earlier course,” he explains. “It extends the ideas and viewpoints in new directions. I see it as appropriate for both new and returning students.”

Morgan’s own poetry, concise and accessible ruminations on events and people in his own life, has been published in five Sea Glass collections illustrated by his wife, watercolorist Pat Morgan. Sea glass — shards tumbled for aeons by ocean waves into new shapes — serves as a metaphor for the distillation of complex thought into poetic form (and also reflects the nine years the couple spent on the New Jersey shore). “Prose writers can take 50,000 words to express themselves,” Morgan notes. “Poets get 50. They must carefully select and order them to convey their message. They don’t have the luxury of countless words.”

Morgan believes there’s poetry in all of us — even in what we write on greeting cards. They are, as expressed in one of his own poems, “The words you write to express joy, love or frustration and / Then put away in a special drawer for safe keeping.” His students will learn how to express reactions to personal experiences, using the discipline of a limited word count to organize and convey emotion. “If this were a sport,” Morgan says, “I’d be their coach, cheerleader, and a major fan.”

Like much else today, the course will be taught online, and the poetics of this is not lost on Morgan. Rather than the voice of authority at the front of the classroom, “I will be in a little square among the student squares,” he says of his virtual self. “Students come to this course with at least a suspicion they feel something inside that wants to be released. I simply say, ‘Yes, you can do it. I’ll show you how.’”

“Writing Personal Poetry” is offered by the Blue Ridge Center for Lifelong Learning in a virtual workshop on three consecutive Tuesdays: Oct. 13, 20, and 27, 1-3pm. $40/members, $50/nonmembers. Visit for more information and to register (deadline is Oct. 7).

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