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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop by California Institute of the Arts

1,712 ratings

About the Course

Why just write poems when you can write better ones? This course is built on the notion that the most exciting writing begins after the first draft. It is specifically for folks who believe that writing poems just to express oneself is like using the Internet just for email. After all, poetry can change the way you and your readers think of the world and its inhabitants; it can break new ground for language; turn a blank sheet of paper into a teeming concert of voices and music. Though any of us may have the potential to make that happen, having an understanding of how several tools of poetic composition can be used (and audaciously “mis-used”) gives you more ways to try (and if we do this right, we might surprise ourselves most of all). We'll cover key poetic terms and devices by studying poems by a handful of modern and contemporary poets and then get a chance to try our own hand at writing new poem drafts from a select number of prompts. Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to workshop your poem drafts and get feedback on your work, working towards a more polished poem....

Top reviews


May 4, 2022

The professor and tasks were very engaging. I truly looked forward to tuning in and working through the lessons and assignments. My interest in poetry is further stoked and I can't wait to learn more.


Jun 11, 2020

Loved the course. Douglas Kearney is amazing as an instructor. I love poetry and this workshop has made me happy during the times of COVID 19. I thank CalArts for the encouragement and appreciation.

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1 - 25 of 699 Reviews for Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop

By Bob M

Sep 1, 2016

While the lectures were good, one of the mentors wasn't profesional at all, she was nasty, though the other one was very fine.

But my chief complaint is the terrible method (in creative writing classes only ?) of using peer reviews to pass the class. I had a non-English-speaking person NOT pass me, a former English teacher, for no other reason than he misread the assignment. So I had to resubmit. I don't know who finally passed me, I think the peer review process is a shambles, and it lets Coursera personnel out of the process of doing grading and opens a can of worms with an incompetent peer reviewer having the power to not pass me. I don't think I will be taking creative writing classes again at Coursera, as going through that broken peer review process and having one mentor being off the wall just wasn't worth my time and anxiety.

By Pablo M B

Mar 4, 2016

The course material is very good. The most obvious issue with the course, is that peer revision takes a very long time, which means that you will get overdue assignments no matter what. For instance, after three weeks I'm still waiting for a revision that I wanted to use for the final workshop. I assume that instructor involvement in project revision is impossible in this kind of online course; but perhaps, if the issue is that people aren't getting their work reviewed, there could be an incentive for reviewers, for example, get an instructor/mentor review, if you submit at least, say, 10 thorough peer reviews.

By Ramona A

Oct 4, 2015

It gets 3 stars only because I learned new things in the class. But the teacher (Bless his heart for meaning well) ended up being rather annoying and distracting with his constant antics. It's okay to throw that in every now and then but this was really awful, makes you want to forward to the parts where he is normal. That's when you can pay attention to him and understand it all. Think you should ask him to tone it down big time... Everything in small doses is great.

I think there is an unfair marking system in the last week - I wrote about it too. I don't want to pay for a course and have my points cut for silly reasons. If that's how it works, I never want to pay for certificates. What's the point in paying for 'subjectivity' or 'having to adapt my answers to suit the course'.

By Justine

Jan 7, 2018

The theatricals of the presenter make the videos unbearable to watch, and so the course impossible to attend. But that's probably just me.

By David B

Apr 1, 2016

Designed more for a child learning about poetry for the first time. Some of the facts about poetry aren't accurate. The effort to make the class more engaging ironically only distracts from the course material. The time spent attempting humor could have been spent on teaching, but instead a lot of time is wasted by speaking down to the viewer like they are a toddler. I did not finish this class as I couldn't stand the videos.

By Ananya S

Aug 15, 2018

This course provides brilliant explanations delivered in an extremely entertaining manner and incredible prompts that make the process of writing poetry extremely amusing. I recommend it 100%.

By Michael M

Oct 2, 2015

Clearly the target audience is a younger and newer Poet. I learned some new terms and enjoyed some new Poetry. Overall it was just okay.

By Betty P

Jul 2, 2019

This course seemed so pithy I thought it might be short on content. It wasn't. It was loaded with learning - tips, cautions, terms, examples, short quizzes, and prompts. No wasted words or wasted time here. I especially like that you could listen and read the lesson at the same time. I liked the examples and the quick easy references to outside sources. This was my first online course and I found it difficult to get my work into the forums for feedback. That was a process foreign and unfamiliar to me.

By Diane T

Jan 5, 2019

What a great course!

At first, wanting to keep true to my own style, I started with much trepidation but, right from the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The whole process expanded my awareness and, rather than putting me in a straitjacket of style and substance, it expanded my horizons, sometimes with prompts that seemed totally impossible; particularly daunting were the lipogram, cinquain and Alexandrine, and yet the poems flowed. This was a big revelation for me, as well as very exciting.

I’m still surprised that I wrote many poems of which I’m so very proud, often working on both prompts. The course moved me out of my comfort zone: for instance, with ‘The Table-Top Pencil Sharpener’, which was supposed to be pure image, but wouldn’t behave, and wrote itself anyway. I would never have written a poem on this subject before, and yet it emerged. Writing something so different on a subject so seemingly mundane, really cemented in my mind the possibility of writing poetry about anything, whilst filtering it through perception and imagination.

Another aspect of the course that stands out for me are the peer reviews: both giving and receiving. I was very lucky to have reviewed some fantastic poems, and most of the reviews I received were thoughtful and productive. Going to try to use the comments box, now, to thank those who took the time to really consider the poems and their comments.

The moderators were excellent, helping out with both technical aspects of the course and comments on poems. There were some technical and navigational aspects of the website I struggled with: finding peer reviews, and lack of reviewers at certain times so having to reset deadlines, but the moderators stepped in very quickly.

Even though the course has finished, I will still tackle some of the prompts not completed within the timeframe, due to deadlines (or as someone on the forums endearingly termed them - ‘deathlines’!) The ‘conceit’, for one, and an already started new poem, using rhyme originally penned by a famous poet.

Thank you for a concise yet truly inspirational course. I will remember this time with great affection.

By Janine K

Mar 26, 2019

Doug is a dynamic creative writing teacher with imaginative assignments that will take your poetry to adventuresome places. I recommend adding a video which models how NOT to peer review and how to skillfully peer review. I also recommend deleting the point system for the peer review of poetry submissions, doing so will allow the writer to reflect on the insights shared and experiment with revision without worrying about a grade.(Would you give a grade to poem written by Keats?) Doug's insights on revision were my favorite and most helpful lecture.

By Edgar M

May 18, 2020

To come into this course with an empty mind and an open ear was the best approach. I pretended to not know anything about poetry, allowing me to grasp as much as I can as if an interested child would. I expected them to go through some basics as they did but it nearly immediately increased my grasp of poetry having to practice it as soon as it was taught it. The animated professor made me smirk and chuckle at his style of teaching. I truly felt like a child again which made it more appealing to go in and continue through the lessons each day. My writing has increased in rhythm and appeal to readers/listeners because of this course. I advanced as I could through the course which was a wise move due to the final assignment giving me a hard time to create something I'd be proud of. I took my time revisiting it slowly (day by day on one assignment), having so much time left over before the course's end date. Even if you don't write poetry this course makes you a better reader by understanding it's methods, tonality, rhythm, inflections, figures of speech, why we write. Very well organized-interactive course. I'm glad I took advantage of this opportunity.

By Lawrence D

Sep 6, 2020

The Cool Maker.

Sometimes you shovel some.

You real cool. You

Real school. You

Love bate. You

Toot straight. You

Sing some. You

Thin hair. You

Boogie too. See

You soon.

By Erin S

May 5, 2022

The professor and tasks were very engaging. I truly looked forward to tuning in and working through the lessons and assignments. My interest in poetry is further stoked and I can't wait to learn more.

By Vidushi S

Jun 23, 2020

This was a superb workshop. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and learned a lot that came in my way. Grasping poetry devices taught in such an fun way was really awesome. The mentors were very supportive.

By Shatarupa M

Jun 12, 2020

Loved the course. Douglas Kearney is amazing as an instructor. I love poetry and this workshop has made me happy during the times of COVID 19. I thank CalArts for the encouragement and appreciation.

By Ginger M

Jan 12, 2016

I loved it. I truly enjoyed my time through this course. Excellent teacher who knows his stuff. Thank-you for this writing and educational opportunity for me to jump-start my muse again.

By Keegan O

Jul 20, 2020

This course is a brief overview of poetry. For that it is fine. The lessons are extremely brief and it takes very little time to get through this course. The problem with taking a workshop online and in this setting is that you rarely get valuable feedback as a large percentage of your classmates will have very little to say about your poem. Many take an approach of I need to do these two peer workshops to get a grade and breeze right through it. Another negative I have with the course is it never allows you to workshop a poem that is not derived from a prompt in a lesson and many of these prompts are extremely forced. If you are someone who is already writing poems I doubt this is the course for you. My advice is to seek out people in the discussion forum who seem to know what they're talking about and start a correspondence with them. You will get better feedback and can workshop things outside of silly prompts. I apologize if this came off as pretentious. I spent at least 30 minutes with every poem I was asked to workshop. 2 out of 3 submissions my workshop feedback was one sentence long. I got one valuable piece of advice from 3 workshops.


Aug 12, 2020

With the first video, I didn't feel so interested because the professor appeared to act like a comedian. His exaggerated manner brought me distaste a little bit at first. But gradually, I became more familiar with his style and the overall vibe, and sometimes I did find his acting quite funny. I think it works fine, because although poetry is art, talking about the techniques, the jargon and all those revision strategies can be pretty dry. The professor made the lectures more lively in deed. However, his sense of humor may not work for everyone.

What I like best about the course is that the whole course is well structured and the content is well organized/ paced throughout the videos in each week. It was very easy for me to follow and synthesize what I had learned. The professor’s speech is rich but clear and to the point. I learned a lot but at the same time didn’t feel overwhelmed.

In general, the course takes learners through all the phases necessary to create a poem. From my experience, I would say if you decide to take it, make sure you are willing to spend time on

(1) contemplating during/after watching the videos. The knowledge from this course is not x+y=z; it needs time to analyze, synthesize and reflect.

(2) reading the extra materials. The materials are suggested in the course. You may need to read more in order to understand further or be able to respond to the writing prompts. But don’t worry; they are not lengthy articles or another 30-min video. For example, glossary, poem collections, wikipedia...

(3) doing the peer review in a diligent and fair manner. I had received reviews of 15-20 words including “I think you did a good job” or “this is not a lipogram” – very general and not helpful. Another time, I received the review which was supposed to be for another poem. It was a mistake or the reviewer just copied and pasted - I don’t know, but it was frustrating. Together, let’s create a helpful community with reciprocity: I give you quality constructive feedback and you do the same to me.


Jul 17, 2017

I looked for an online poetry class and found this one. I have no literature education past one year of college, and was looking for something to stretch my mind since I am retired now. I found the instructor, Dou.glas Kearney, to be very engaging and thorough in his explanations. The c ourse was well-structured for a beginner or for someone wanting to tune up their skills in poetry. Each lesson builds on the previous one and gives specific suggestions for each step as you go from idea to style to meter and rhyme to your final project. As I write more poems I refer back to what I learned to help me do better.

The mentors were also very helpful. I appreciated the hands-on suggestions they made throughout, leading me to write poetry more skilfully. The revision critiques I had to do also contributed to my success as I was exposed to different styles and skill levels, and many of the criticisms I received helped me revise my own work.

By Linda P

Aug 22, 2020

This was an amazing class! I have never had poetry concepts explained so simply before...they were extremely easy to understand, digest, and remember. I also appreciate very much being exposed to some wonderful poems that I would never have read if it hadn't been in this class. They broadened my world just a bit. I liked the instructor's sense of humor and sense that everyone can understand these concepts and get some enjoyment out of writing poetry. I plan to continue writing even after the class, and I feel I have some of the tools that I need to be able to put together some decent poetry. I am excited to learn even more. I can't thank the instructor enough for doing such a terrific job and for motivating me beyond what I learned in the class. Thank you, thank you!

By Priscilla B

Mar 14, 2022

Renewed my love of writing poetry which I haven't done for years. As the course description says, why write poems when you can write better poems. Through understanding of poem techniques and forms, I have seen improvement in my own poetry. The prompts are interesting and challenging. The instructor is knowlegeable and interesting. I highly recommend this course.

By Anjali R

Oct 7, 2020

Great starter course that explains key elements of poetry. Doug Kearney's presentations are entertaining and educational at the same time, and provide a variety of prompts to kick start you on the road to writing and inspire you to try writing different forms of poetry. I really enjoyed and got a lot out of the course.

By Melodi U

May 3, 2022

This was an excellent course! I learned about new poetry forms that I had never heard of before and I had poetry techniques that I was using--but didn't know the names of--defined for me. The instructor brought so much fun and enthusiasm into the learning process. I would love to take a similar course again.

By Linda H

Jun 29, 2020

Oh my gosh!!! This is a terrific class to take for writing poetry. Our online teacher, Douglas Kearney, was so informative, creative, and funny too. I came away form this class eager to keep writing poetry using my new tool box, thanks to this course. Beginner, or otherwise, this course is worth taking.

By Diego A

Jun 15, 2020

It's an amazing course! Through the modules here, I was able to hone my craft! As a high school senior, I was also able to connect with other like-minded teens. Also, there's even a thread for poetic dialogue! This course earned my 5 start rating!