How to Make a Poem with

Joy Sullivan & Laurie Wagner

Photo Credit Oiselle Ryan Warner

Writers and creatives, please join us in welcoming Portland poet, Joy Sullivan, author of Instructions for Traveling West, as we navigate the terrain of what goes into making a poem.

Joy is not just a wonderful writer, someone whose work is fresh, honest and accessible, but she’s also a fantastic teacher who knows how to lead writers into the heart of a poem so that it vibrates with beauty and meaning. I love bringing writers in to show us how the sausage is made. It’s part art, part dream, part sitting down and discovering what matters on the page.

In our time together, Joy will examine a poem from her new book, and then break it down to its origins; how it began with a thought, a musing, and an idea that found a line, and which gathered more lines. Joy likes to keep it loose, isn’t attached to what she’s writing or what she thinks the poem is about until she gets closer and starts to see what the poem wants to be.

We’ll talk about the importance of drafts, we’ll see where the poem started and how it changed, what Joy had to let go of, and how opened up to new lines that weren’t in those early drafts.

We’ll talk about how Joy collects ideas and images until they find their way into a poem, and also about writer’s block, which is always fun to talk about.

You do not need to be a poet to get a lot out of Joy’s teachings. Poets teach us about the economy of language, which matters to everything we write.

Joy is a delight, please don’t miss this one.

Please join 27 Powers in welcoming poet, Joy Sullivan, for an exceptionally beautiful class on How to Make a Poem.

Joy Sullivan is a poet, community builder, and author of the book Instructions for Traveling West.

She received a Masters in poetry from Miami University and has served as the poet-in-residence for the Wexner Center for the Arts.

In addition to leading international writing retreats, she has guest-lectured in classrooms from Stanford University to Florida International University and is the founder of Sustenance, a community designed to help writers revitalize and nourish their craft.

Read her thoughts on the creative life in her Substack newsletter, Necessary Salt.

Joy Sullivan & Laurie Wagner

This is the video replay of the live May 2024 class.

Lemons by Joy Sullivan

It was rainy season and everything in the grove was electric green.

I was hunting lemons. My job was to find the ripe among the fallen. I remember the sweet stink of exhausted citrus. Spoiled gold in the heat, how the fruit sweated in my palm. My sister was running past. She was four years older, full of goodness and gullibility whereas I was young and rotten and one for stories.

I used to tell her I’d seen fairies the size of tadpoles in the river.

That I knew a spell to repair lost time. Gullibility is a kind of bigheartedness, I think, and when she finally learned the joke, it always broke her heart.

Snakes were common in the grove, but I remember how horribly beautiful this one was. How it lifted itself, an iridescent arrow.

Mambas are fast and deadly and when I screamed snake, my sister stood among the fallen lemons, swaying slightly, weighing whether or not to believe. I can still feel her eyes searching me, the seconds slipping, the dying sun making her hair roar red. It wasn’t until I wept that she stepped out of the grove and for the first time, I realized what words meant. I saw them clearly-full of either venom or veracity. The dumb plum of my heart split open.

That night, I told my sister I loved her. I told her the truth.

I’m excited to be partnering with Chapter 510, a nonprofit group in Oakland serving black, brown, and queer kids, ages 7- 18. Chapter 510 is a writing, bookmaking & publishing center that wants every young person in Oakland to write with confidence and joy. Chapter 510 believes that writing is an act of liberation, and that young people transform themselves and their communities when they write and get published, succeeding in work, school, and life. A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to supporting their free creative writing programs for black, brown, and queer youth.