Chevron Left
Back to Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop

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

1,142 ratings
453 reviews

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


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.


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.

Filter by:

1 - 25 of 450 Reviews for Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop

By Pablo M B

Mar 04, 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 04, 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 Michael M

Oct 02, 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 02, 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 Bob M

Sep 01, 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 David B

Apr 02, 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 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 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 Ginger M

Jan 13, 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 Justine

Jan 07, 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 Diane T

Jan 05, 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 Anjali R

Oct 07, 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 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 D S

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!

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 Andrea M R

Nov 02, 2015

I have learned so much and I love D's energy and the avid participation of the other students. Will definitely pass on what I've learned. Can't wait for more courses like this in the future! :)


Aug 13, 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.

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.


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 Douglas B

Jun 01, 2020

Professor Douglas Kearney and his Coursera course Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop are excellent and outstanding in every way. His lectures on the videos are totally informative and entertaining. Douglas Kearney is a professor who instructs and delights. The poems he uses for examples in his talks bring new knowledge and perspectives to the learner. The breadth of Professor Douglas Kearney's knowledge about poetry is amazing. His sensitivity to poetic values goes deep. Creativity and innovation were highlighted in the Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop course. Professor Douglas Kearney and his course definitely increased my poetic appreciation and practice. The lessons I learned through this course were invaluable. I give Professor Douglas Kearney and his Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop course my very highest recommendation!!

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 Chin-Chieh, W

Feb 16, 2017

I love this course, Sharpened Visions, so much. I am so surprised by the exuberance and humor of Mr. Douglas Kearney. His teaching style enlarge my eagerness to learn Poetry. In this course, there are lots of the poetic subjects, e.g. line, image, abstraction, rhyme, rhythm, and revision. Those technical term had seemed to be very academic and boring to me before I take this course, but Mr. Douglas Kearney uses another interesting and easier ways to teach and describe. I feel enlightened and learn lots of the basic but crucial poetic knowledge. If you ask me what benefits me the most in this course, I would say I fall in love with Poetry, and can't wait for getting engaged in it! Sharpened Visions is really highly recommended. It's worth your try!

By Dewa A D D S

Jun 20, 2020

I realised I never took a chance in learning poetry beyond just a hobby and I wanted something light as well as practical after an intense first year in university. This workshop was very enjoyable and so feasibly structured out for an online workshop, that I was hooked from the start of the course. Douglas made the course light with his jokes, eye-opening in his selection of poetry samples, and encouraging in writing beyond our comfort zone. As a workshop, we exchanged works with peers in the course and shared feedback to each other. The assignments gave me a chance to really experiment and how to continuously improve my writing. And as Douglas said, the richest writing comes after the first draft.

By K R

Sep 24, 2020

There really should be two opportunities to review, one for the content and one for the platform.

Regarding the content, the instructor is excellent and exceeded my expectations. Both beginners and experienced writers could benefit from this class. All of the reading material was relevant and interesting,. The only content suggestion I might have is that the Revision module might benefit from a before-and-after example.

Coursera, however, has some unaddressed issues which are causing frustration for the learners. These issues are not so bad that they prevent people from completing the class. On the other hand I wonder to what extend Coursera is being proactive to remove these obstacles.