Poetry of Attention
Poetry as Contemplative Practice.
Be more mindful, wake up, read, write, and live more fully.
Thank you for your interest in the course! It's now full for 2021.
I'll offer it again next year.
In an often-overwhelming world, come out of the constant noise into poetry, a form that invites greater attention and connection.
This class will take you deep into the craft and practice of poetry.
Write a strong body of original work as a poet—or prose writer.
Reconnect with spirit and presence and the world around you.
Go on a journey of discovery — and creative engagement.
Craft and Contemplative Practice
There is a common misconception that as writers, we either bring rigor and skill to our writing or we interact with the art form as a spiritual or healing journey. We approach an art form either from the head or from the heart. We care either about how “good” it is or how “expressive” it is.
But these are deeply limiting and misguided polarities.
In fact, throughout history, great art is made through the rigor of technical practice which itself allows for greater expressive, spiritual, and emotional discoveries, and communication.
Artists working in all mediums, whether dance, music, visual art, or poetry, know that we find our form of expression and our freedom through our mastery of form.
Similarly, people with serious spiritual practice understand that it is through the rigors, traditions, and discipline of practice that we go deeper into our own insights and connection with the sacred.
Technical, artistic, and spiritual practice go hand in hand. Similarly, art comes from the convergence of mind, body, emotion, and spirit.
The Poetry of Attention Course brings together the keen attention and insight of the intellectual mind together with meditation, personal inquiry, and spiritual growth.
Where to begin?! Some of the things I loved about Nadia’s poetry courses:
Being able to take the class as a complete beginner.
The amazing people I met, starting with Nadia.
The intimacy, the safe environment.
The division of class time between the studied literature and our work.
The literature we read.
The assignments which I took very seriously, often getting up at 2am to work on them–
Looking at my work as a whole–finding commonality between the poems, having them speak to each other–
Coming back session after session.
Starting my book.
Taking Nadia’s class changed my life and I do not exaggerate when I say it was how I found my true life, my true self.
Author of Come a Blossom
This class will guide you to:
Who is the class for?
BEGINNER POETS/ PROSE WRITERS
Beginning poets and prose writers of any level of experience who want to acquire new skills and techniques and engage more deeply with language, bring together mind and spirit, and connect more deeply with their creative voice. Don't worry about not having certain skills or levels of understanding. The course will meet you right where you are and will take you on a journey of discovery.
Poets ready to get new techniques to go deeper with their writing, bring mind and body together, read with new attention, and approach the art with new-found appreciation, enthusiasm, flow, and techniques. Sometimes, as experiences writers, we can lose our connection to why we write and to our pleasure and path of discovery in the process. This class will get you excited about poetry again and writing your best work.
ANYONE LOOKING FOR GREATER CONNECTION
Anyone, whether you consider yourself a writer or not, interested in focusing your attention, on coming into greater connection, and on taking a journey through language. This class will help you dive into the wisdom and insights of poetry. Anyone at a junction in life’s journey; trauma survivors; new parents; newly retired; and more will find resources and delights here
Perhaps you have wanted to write poetry for a long time, but haven’t been able to find the time,
or perhaps you are a prose writer but want some extra tools to refine your writing
or perhaps you feel that you have a song in you that wants to come out in the form of a poem
or an untold story...
This class will bring out the poet in you; it will help you get in touch with yourself, with language, and with the numinous.
It will give you a step-by-step process to become a more skillful, confident poet—or writer in any genre— who enjoys the process.
The course will guide you to pay closer attention and engage more deeply not only with poetry but with every aspect of your life, as you bring these forms of attention into the world with you.
As much as the word is overused, Nadia Colburn is an unusually gifted presence and teacher, helping many transform their practice and their willingness to trust themselves enough to get to the heart of what they are trying to say.
Nadia is that rare teacher who creates an atmosphere of trust and honesty. An accomplished writer herself, Nadia brings a rare balance to her teaching: deep reflection and critical thinking about language, ideas, images, and meaning; and a compassionate, open heart that allows everyone to feel safe sharing and offering personal responses to one another. —Marilyn Levine; MIT Faculty member, Comparative Media Studies and Writing
MIT Faculty member, Comparative Media Studies and Writing
"Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer" - Simone Weil
I believe the most important component for better, more enjoyable, more effective writing is powerful attention.
What do we pay attention to?
Listen to other poetry/ learn from careful, slow, attentive readings of master poems.
Our own work/ poetry
Careful reading and attention to our own language and drafts.
The world within us
Embodied practices and mindfulness practices help us pay deeper attention.
The world around us
Careful observation through our senses and perceptions, our relationships and interactions.
Unlike most other poetry classes, this class will guide you to make connections between the practice of poetry and the way you live and engage with the world around (and within) you.
My Journey Through Poetry
Hello! I’m Nadia Colburn.
Poetry has been part of my own intellectual, professional, personal, and spiritual journey for the past 30 years.
I was trained as a reader of poetry at Harvard, where I fell in love with poetry in a Whitman seminar with the critic Helen Vendler, who trained me in the art of close reading. The more I looked, the more I saw, and the more Whitman articulated his vision, the more his poems still pointed to what could not be said. Poetry felt like a window into other forms of perception and truth.
I went on to get a PhD in literature at Columbia University, where I wrote my dissertation on poetic authority in the 20th century: where does the authority of a poem and/or poetic expression come from? While I was studying this question intellectually, I was also living it.
I had my first child in my third year of graduate school and suddenly felt a strong need to write my own poetry and to take poetry writing seriously. Pregnancy and motherhood, like poetry itself, seemed like a window into the sacred that is everywhere around us, and I wanted to explore that more deeply.
When Gabriel was one, we moved from New York City to Cambridge, MA so that I could study with the poet Jorie Graham at Harvard.
I immersed myself in the world of contemporary poetry, running a reading series where I got to invite and meet many of my favorite contemporary poets, including Linda Gregg, Claudia Rankine, Robert Pinsky, and many others. My poems began to get published in such places as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Yale Review, and Kenyon Review.
Jorie encouraged us to bring our full selves to our poems, and I did that.
In part, it was my poetry that brought me to a process of self-inquiry and self-discovery and a conscious remembering of early childhood sexual abuse. I came to see that my poems had understood and pointed to my trauma even before my conscious mind had been able to name it. My poetry had a wisdom that my conscious narrative brain did not; it had helped lead me to my own remembering.
I needed to step away from being a professional poet to heal. For many years, I dove deeply into the world of healing, exploring many modes of therapy, immersing myself in Buddhist teachings, and getting trained as a yoga teacher. I understood that my healing needed to involve mind, body, and spirit.
But even as I was not publishing, I was writing poems, and in my poetry, I found a larger perspective, and greater wisdom and insight.
Over time, I began to publish my poetry again, and I founded the Align Your Story Writing School with the goal of bringing together the best of the head and the heart, mind, and body, as well as craft and practice.
I am the author of the poetry book The High Shelf, which explores trauma, healing, motherhood, the environmental crisis, the sacred, and the nature of language itself. I have also published individual poems in more than 60 publications and journals.
I’ve taught poetry as a visiting writer at Stonehill College, at MIT, Grub Street, The Muse, and the Marketplace, The Mass Poetry Festival, yoga studios, homeless shelters, and many other places.
Today, when I teach, I integrate the form of poetry with mindful and embodied practices. I am a serious student of Thich Nhat Hanh, a vipassana meditation practitioner, and certified yoga teacher. I have found in my own writing life and in teaching thousands of students over the past 15 years, that when we write from a more integrated space, first quieting the mind and engaging the body, we can get to the heart of our creative voice and vision more easily with more insight. I see poetry as a place of inquiry and celebration, traumatic silence, sacred silence, and authentic, fully realized voice.
It is my goal as a teacher to lead students to the tools and the rhythms of their writing life that work best for them. I do not believe that there is one size that fits all, but rather than in studying the work of master poets, and the things that they each do differently, we can come to discover what works best for us, at this particular moment, in our own evolving life and writing journey. In listening deeply to ourselves, in paying close attention to what is around and within us, our writing can be a deep and transformative journey and process of discovery, meaning, and also joy—as it has been for me.
My goal is for you to fall in love (or deeper in love) with poetry—and with your own poetic voice. And for you to bring that level of insight, appreciation, and engagement into other areas of your life, as well.
My work with Nadia in her poetry class was personally and also professionally transformative. I deepened my understanding of the psychological and spiritual benefit of attending to detail, and of recognizing significance in the ordinary. Nadia taught me to be still, to befriend silence, to tolerate uncertainty/ambiguity so as to penetrate “what happened”, in order to recognize what I was meant to learn from my situation and experience. There's a reason she has so many positive online writing class reviews. She encouraged and supported patience as a necessary skill when the intention is to dispel illusion and come to know what needs to be known in order to embrace growth and productive change.
CAMErON L. MARZELLI, PH.D.
Expressive Therapies, Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, Lesley University Certified Reiki Master, Co-Founder: Still Woman, Director of Spiritual Education: Villa Serra Retreat Center
"The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.” - Rainer Maria Rilke
The Unique Structure of This Class
The first module of the course will be release October 15th and the course will unfold, module by module over 9 weeks
I understand that everyone’s schedule is different. I’ve created this class to be primarily asynchronous, that means that you can go through the material on your own time, on your own schedule and once you enroll, you get lifetime access to all the material that is housed online so there's no falling behind.
Lifetime access to:
Close readings, mindful practices, embodied practices, writing, revision, engagement practices.
How it works:
When the course begins, on October 15th, you will get access to the course website, where all the material is housed online.
The course comes in video, audio, and text format so that you can engage with it in the ways that are most comfortable for you.
Each module will be released weekly, but after the last module is released you will have unlimited lifetime access to all the modules so that you can go back and use the teachings, practices, and prompts whenever you want.
A live discussion/ coaching session for each module is offered at different times of the week for each module. If you can come on those synchronously, that will be wonderful, but if not, no worries. You can always watch the recording and email your questions in advance.
Come back again and again to deepen your practices, continue writing, and develop your authentic voice and vision.
What you will learn: Careful attention: to the natural world, sensory perception, language and imagery.
Poet: Mary Oliver
What you will learn: Movement and flow in a poem, inward attention.
What you will learn: Putting it all in; going deeper, seeing farther; lineation and music.
Poet: Walt Whitman
What you will learn: What goes in a poem, what is left out of a poem, silence, rhythm, space, punctuation, inner-seeing, and vision.
Poet: Emily Dickenson
What you will learn: Claiming, naming, shaping ourselves and our experiences in language and off the page and the relationship between the two.
Poet: Lucille Clifton
What you will learn: Bringing in a wide range of lexicons, experiences, the ordinary, the sublime, tragedy, joy, contempoary life, and more into a poem. The audacity of gratitude and delight.
Poet: Ross Gay
What Comes with the Course:
Close Readings and Interactive Lessons
In each module, we will look very closely at one poem by a poet. The best teacher of poetry is poetry itself—in this course, we are going to be studying closely some of the most inspiring, moving poems of all time.
We’ll look at the poem line by line, considering imagery, formal considerations like lineation, punctuation, word choice, music, and rhythms of the language.
We’ll also put the poem in the context of the writer’s life and time. You’ll come away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the craft, form, context, and interpretations of a poem.
This process will also give you the tools to learn not only from these poems, but from any poem.
The close reading will guide you to read interactively—the lessons will pause and guide you to ask questions about poems. You will look and then look again, more closely each time.
You will be encouraged to be an active reader and to read as a writer: you’ll learn technique, structure, style, timing, and more from the poems. You’ll develop your own unique sensibility and voice from your interactive readings.
All poets are inspired, learn from, and borrow from other poets. But we don’t just model ourselves on other poets. We also form ourselves against and in opposition to them as we forge our own poetic voice.
- We’re going to read both reverently and not reverently;
- we’re going to talk back to the poems;
- we’re going to read greedily, as writers, learning and stealing/ borrowing;
- we’re going to experiment, play and be serious all at once;
- we’re going to weep, when appropriate;
- and, not least, we’re going to have fun!
The class will meet you wherever you are, whatever your background is as a reader, and whether you are in a period of your life when you are rejoicing or grieving, praising, or raging.
Writing Prompts and Lessons
Writing prompts are carefully selected to guide you through a step-by-step writing process and practice to expand your skills and range as a poet and create a strong body of work in your own unique voice.
Writing prompts stem from the close readings of the week and are paired with meditation and writing practices in the audio recordings but can also be accessed in text format.
The focus of this class is on your experience as a writer, on your writing process and on the poems that you create, and on the relationship between your writing life and your life off the page. The prompts will guide you to a rich, engaging, and enjoyable relationship with poetry and your own poetic voice.
While we will be learning from the poets we study, the primary goal is for each student to feel that she has the tools and resources to experiment with, enjoy and express their own unique poetic voice.
Each module comes with carefully selected mindful practice and writing prompts chosen specifically to go with the work of the author being studied that week.
Mindful practices include different forms of meditation and observation and come primarily in audio format so that you can simply hit play and be guided in the practice (where necessary, there may be a teaching video).
We will also explore the reading and writing of poetry itself as a mindful, contemplative practice. Our close attention to the process of translation between experience and language, and then back from langauge to experience will illuminate not only our writing lives, but our lives off the page as well.
Each module pairs an embodied practice with writing prompts chosen specifically to go with the work of the author being studied that week
Embodied practices include:
- gentle yoga for all body types,
- walking meditation,
- optional more rigorous movement to get the heartbeat and energy up before writing,
- and more.
Embodied practices come primarily in audio format so that you can simply hit play and be guided in the practice (where necessary, there may be a teaching video).
We will also consider poetry itself as an embodied practice and pay careful attention to the relationship between langauge and somatic experience.
Revision exercises guide you to pay close attention to your own work, learn from it, and grow as a writer.
We will approach revision as another form of attention, as both craft and practice so that you come away writing your best works and with polished, finished poems.
Carefully suggested supplemental suggested readings will guide you to go deeper with each poet’s work.
It can be daunting to dive into a poet’s body of work. The course will select some of the poets’ best works in a range of styles and from different periods. Read these supplemental materials the first time through the course or read them later.
Guided Series for Greater Engagement
Each module will guide you not only to engage more deeply with poetry, but also to bring this deeper attention and engagement to other areas of your life—from the personal to the social and political. You will be given a set of guiding questions and practices to come into greater awareness and action and to find the ways that make sense for you— given your unique insights, perspective, experience, and voice— to engage more deeply.
"Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity… It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action….The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems" - Audre Lorde
I had been searching for several years for a teacher who could help me take my writing to a new level of expression while preserving the integrity of my own voice. When I met Nadia, I knew I had found my teacher. Nadia helps writers find the authentic in their own work and in the work of writers they read together. Her workshops are thoughtful, well organized – and inspiring. Working with Nadia, I have created a coherent and strong body of work. Nadia is a smart, skilled, insightful, and kind teacher. Who could ask for anything more?
Nonprofit Fundraising and Management Consultant
PLUS Bonuses worth more than $600:
6 Live Discussion/ Q and A Sessions— Recorded if you can’t make them live ($300 value)
In each module there will be a 75-minute long (recorded) discussion period on Zoom where I will be available to answer any questions. This will also be a time to connect with other writers in the class, and explore the material of the course more deeply in community. We will look closely together at a poem, be guided in a writing practice and writing prompt, and go into small groups to connect with other writers, share work, and more.
These sessions will be at different times each week so that they fit as many people’s schedules as possible. I will take a survey of course members to try to find times that fit the most people’s schedules, and the calendar of live sessions will be posted at least a week before class begins. If you can’t make the sessions live, no worries! You can email any questions in advance and the recording will be available.
Bonus Module: Close Reading of work by Nadia Colburn and discuss my own process as a poet ($100 value)
I will provide share insights about my writing and revision process, how I put together a collection of poems, my publication process, and give an insider’s close reading of a few poems.
Signed Copy of The High Shelf by Nadia Colburn ($20 value)
A signed copy of my poetry book will be mailed for free to participants in the US. Students outside of the US will have the option to get the book for free if they pay for the postage.
Private Facebook Group ($150 value)
Private Facebook group only for members of the course. Participation is optional. If you are not on Facebook, you will not miss any of the core teachings, but this is a great way to connect with other writers and me, get questions answered, and be part of the community.
Revision Manual To Go Deeper Into the Revision Process ($40)
This handy manual will give you tips of the trade and a process to go through drafts of poems and turn them into great, polished, final versions.
The writing and revisions I’ve done since taking this course have seemed so much truer to my own voice, from which I had felt fairly removed for a while. Nadia’s teachings helped me find a renewed joy in writing. I feel overall freer, and my work is much more powerful as a result.
Poet and Teacher author of Rough Knowledge
How is this course different from other poetry classes? Does this class help me improve my writing? What kind of feedback do I get?
This class will guide you to have your own, deep, transformative relationship with poetry with your own work, and with your creative vision.
Most poetry classes focus on critique without really giving you the tools to go deeper into your creative process or the revision process. This course gives you those tools. It guides you to develop an intimate relationship with your own poetic practice instead of being in the constant cycle of writing for others and waiting for critique and feedback. In this course, you come to give yourself your own best feedback. In my more than 15 years of teaching, I have found that writers often feel dependent on other readers instead of learning to trust their own voice and process and revision practices and that it is when they break that dependency on other readers and come into that trust they have the greatest growth in their creative work. They are able to do larger, more interesting, more unique projects in more sustained ways, enjoy the process more, and write their best work.
That said, there is also a strong community component to this class. You can post work in the private Facebook group where you can connect with a community of like-minded and supportive writers, and there will be time on each of the live sessions to share work in small groups in breakout rooms and get feedback and connect with other writers there. And because the material is housed online, and because you have lifetime access, you can come back again and again and continue to learn, practice, write, and deepen your experiences.
I’m a prose writer, not a poet. Will this course help me?
Absolutely. The close attention that poetry teaches is invaluable for writers of all genres. You will learn to pay greater attention both to the language you use and to the world around and within you. You can choose to write either poetry or prose in response to the prompts. Prose writers are often amazed at not only the new skills they get as writers when they engage in poetry, but the way the form opens up new parts of their story, their creative imagination, and their freedom as a writer. The course will lead you to a new relationship with your writing process and a new way to approach the role of writing in your life.
I have no experience as a poet/ am a beginner. Will this class meet me where I am?
This course will meet you exactly where you are. You don’t need to know anything more than you know right now. It will give you all the tools you need to dive in, enjoy poetry, and start writing your own work in your own voice.
I’m a professional/ experienced poet/ working on a book of poems. Is this course for me?
Yes, yes! As experienced and professional poets, we can always go deeper, gain new skills, practices, and insights. And sometimes, especially as experienced poets, we need a reboot, new energy, and a deeper connection with ourselves and our art form. Many of my students have been writing for years, but find new ways to reconnect and recommit to their writing in my classes. This class will meet you where you are and ask you to go to the next level. You can use this class to revitalize or finish a book project, work on a new project, or just fall back in love with poetry.
You mention trauma survivors. How will this class benefit trauma survivors?
Poetry helps us get out of the left brain into greater insights and wisdom. Poetry can gently guide us into the places of silence with reverence, give that silence, where it is helpful, language, and lead us into greater healing, connection, and peace.
If I can’t make the sessions live, will I miss out?
Don’t worry. Each session will be recorded so that you can watch on your own schedule, and you can email questions in advance.
What if I don’t have time to engage fully with the material?
Once you enroll, you have lifetime access to all the material that is housed online. No need to do it all this fall. Come back to the teachings, practices, prompts, and readings whenever you want! Sign up now while the course is open for enrollment and the price is low, and come through on your own schedule.
I’m not really a writer, I wonder about investing in a course like this.
Investing in this course is investing in yourself. You will gain a new pleasure and appreciation for poetry and new forms of attention and engagement in every area of your life. The quality of our attention affects every aspect of our well being. Having greater awareness and attention is itself priceless.
Is there a money-back guarantee?
Yes! I believe in this course 100%. If you sign up for the course and are unhappy with it, I offer a 100% money back guarantee within the first 30 days of the course’s start date. I only ask that you try the material; since the course comes with lifetime access not having the time to work with the material is not a reason for me to offer a refund. If you try the material, I feel confident that you will enjoy it, but if not, just let me know, show me you’ve done some of the work, and I’ll return your money with no hard feelings.
I signed up for Nadia Colburn’s poetry seminar with great trepidation. I was afraid that the act of facing a blank white page would be scary; it had been so very long since I had put my longings, my failures and my observations on the page for other readers. But, I had this yearning to come out of hiding. A yearning to be known in the way that one is known in poems.
So, I did sign up for Nadia’s poetry class. I found Nadia’s reserve and deep knowledge about the history of verse and poets to be calming. Nadia shared with us poems that used metaphor to both reveal and to hide those deep (scary) emotions. Her close attention and respect for us as human beings and for the writing process allowed me to both reveal and to keep hidden those terrifying feelings.
Nadia created an atmosphere of respect in her class, and I loved both reading and commenting on the poems our classmates had written. This is SACRED work when it is done in the right space; Nadia created that space.
I credit Nadia for giving me the courage to write about and through my pain and fear. It was through this work that I came to a new career—making documentary movies.
Good writing teachers encourage true expression; that expression acknowledges pain and also leads to real self empowerment. Nadia Colburn is truly one of those very great teachers.
Pamela Tanner Boll
Director of “Who Does She Think She Is” and “A Small Good Thing”
In my own life, poetry has been a path, a window, a doorway into greater insight, connection and presence. I hope it can be the same for you.
Poetry of Attention
For a limited time, this course is on sale for only $347, or three payments of $127. Because this is the first year I am offering the course, I am keeping the price low.
In future years, the price will most likely increase.
Sign up early and get even more savings with the early bird special: pay only $297 or three payments of $107.
ENROLLMENT IS LIMITED AND THE CLASS WILL SELL OUT. Sign up now.
Thank you for your interest in the course! It's now full for 2021.
I'll offer it again next year.
30-DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE
Signing up for this course is a commitment to your voice and to the artist in you. I want to encourage you to honor that commitment. So I ask that you at least try the material. That said, I stand 100% behind the quality of the course. If you’re not satisfied, I offer a 100% money-back guarantee. I only ask that you show that you have engaged with the work.