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

1,151 ratings
457 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 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.


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.

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26 - 50 of 453 Reviews for Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop

By Timothy V

Aug 24, 2017

This class WAY exceeded my expectations. The instructor is the BOMB! The only thing I would voice as a "complaint" is I wish we, as students, could be more interactive through the course in providing feedback. Nothing a poet hates worse than submitting a poem and no one really looking at it and/or providing no feedback. There must be a way to get the course more interactive for students to review and help edit one another's works. I know there are the peer assignments but so far I don't think my poems have fallen into that category from a student, though I may be wrong. But class wise, A++++

- Timothy Verret

By Dominique S

Mar 21, 2019

The teacher truly makes this course a 5 star learning experience. He's funny and entertaining while presenting course materials. I have a major difficulty with school-- I dropped out of high school and college. I love this class. He kept my interest and helped build my understanding on poetry. I highly recommend this for anyone looking to improve their poetry or learn about poetry! The assignments were fantastic. There's always two choices for the homework and you can pick one (or both if you want) but one is graded. So if you aren't into one of the assignments, there's always something for you here.

By christine a

Apr 13, 2020

Excellent lecturing skills by Doug, thank you - to the point that the manner and mood of delivery which Doug uses feels like he is talking to you, the Student, on an individual basis. Doug made me laugh, understand nuances, which I generally struggle with and gain new skills. I would like to know if Doug has anymore Online courses available please. Great, great, great. I wish my schoolteachers had been like Doug, making learning and acquiring knowledge, doing assignments etc., into a fun and stimulating experience, where the new information is so easily retained by the Student.

By Kris J

Sep 27, 2020

I loved the Sharpened Visions course. Professor Doug Kearney has a fun, playful presentation style in the videos teaching the background concepts, but most of your work is done offline, writing your own poems. The workshop happens via randomly-assigned peer review, which can be a little impersonal, and the helpfulness of peer comments varies. But there is also a course forum to present your work for feedback from a wider audience of students and class mentors.

I'd recommend this class to anyone who wants to gain more background and practice in different forms of poetry.

By Sean L

Apr 19, 2018

I am not yet finished this course, but so far it is sizing up to be great. Of the courses I have tested on this site, which are many, this is one of the better conceived ones, and you can tell the teacher is very committed to his work. He takes advantage of video lecturing as a medium, using various techniques to make his videos more engaging but without sacrificing didactic content. Otherwise it is what you would expect an online writing workshop to be: provided are writing prompts for practicing your skills, and near the end are sessions for sharing your work.


Aug 11, 2020

Doug a most engaging, informative and inspiring teacher. I would definitely take another course by him and I applaud him for managing to pack a lot of thought-provoking ideas into just six weeks. He’s introduced me to new poets and help me explore my poetry in a way I never would have otherwise. I’ve also become part of a poetry study group with other course participants and we have already had our first online meeting and shared some really useful insights into each other’s work. This will continue after the course.Thank you to Doug and Coursera!

By Maureen W

Feb 11, 2018

Doug is so funny. And he parses out the information is easy, manageable, usable chucks with excellent examples. I love his kinetic force. It seems to make everything so much more understandable and even though I a far from being a kid, the screen glossary intros, then sample poems, it has impact. For a 15 year old but easily for us latter day saints too. I love everything about poetry. I'm volunteering at Ottawa VersFest soon. All I need to do now is to try to write but there could not be a more approachable course than this one. Thank you!!

By Vatsala S

Aug 22, 2020

The instructor is so hilarious, thought-provoking, and mindful of how much we can assimilate and digest in a single sitting. I never took the course for granted and struggled for a day or two with some of the poems but still completed it way ahead of time and came out with a renewed sense of interest in poetry. I would say this course is perfect for both budding (though you'll need to put in a little homework on the side!) and seasoned poets. Thanks to the CalArts staff and my fellow peers who gave me so much motivation and inspiration.

By JoAnna S

Oct 23, 2015

In short presentations, Doug manages to give insightful tools to crafting a fine-tuned poem. He makes learning about rhyme, metaphor and scansion uncomplicated while he hones your focus, so your writing can surprise you. The class exercises and community feedback help create a classroom of learners. I was inspired. For the first time I understood iambic pentameter, trochees and scansion. The best tool was learning how to revise, how to look for the turn in the poem and expand that turn into something unforeseen.

By sanika c

Aug 18, 2020

I have learned new things in this course and have thoroughly enjoyed the process.I have also written some poems in the process and I am glad that I got to know where I was wrong and where I was right.I also had the opportunity to know how to improve my poems which is wonderful.

I would like to thank my instructor in this course for making learning exciting.I would also like all my classmates for patiently giving reviews and waiting for one at the same time.

Thank you CALARTS and thank you Coursera!!

By Valerie F

Aug 23, 2020

I loved this course. I've been wanting to learn about how to write poetry and I thought a college course would be too much and overwhelming to take on, but this professor made the subject very accessible and even after the first lesson I learned something that I could apply. I think my poetry writing has improved from this course. The professor is also very entertaining and highly engaging during his videos. It is obvious that he is passionate about the subject and prepares for the videos.

By Liz B

Apr 30, 2020

What an ENGAGING class. Doug (Dr. Kearney) was fun, and managed to not only get the basics of poetry well defined in short periods of time, but also brought in more complicated assignments that pushed me as a writer to another level. He also prioritized poets of color, which I appreciated. I know my poetry will grow and develop because of this class. I also looked up the writer's poetry - I'm fascinated by his form. Poetry experimentation to the next level. I'm going to dive further into this.

By Anne M

Sep 06, 2018

I see in some reviews that people find Mr Kearney's dramatics a bit annoying... I do concur with that in some ways, the pretend avoidance of words coming in, the vocal intonations, and playing around... but I also think that his way of teaching is engaging, rich and effective. I have learned things without effort because the examples were well chosen and well analysed and I have added a few new tools to my poetry toolbox. I’m happy with that return on my time on a free course.

By Geoffrey G

May 05, 2020

I am but four weeks into this course and I love it, What appears to be simple guidance turns out to be quite powerful, and the Professor is excellent in general, and very, very good with this medium. The prompts are fabulous and surprising - not just simple phrases, but based in building capabilities with poetic forms. Even metaphors and similes, for example, mean more in the context he creates for the learner. I will revisit this review when I am done.

By Patrick C

Jan 03, 2019

Great experience. The course was very well done from a technical and systems perspective. The online experience and tools worked really well, easy to understand and use. The instructions for using the tools were clear, especially the workshop and assignments portion. The instructor, Doug Kearney, was effective, funny and very on-point. Overall, five starts. I look forward to doing another one. Oh yeah, my poetry improved as a result!

By Matthew Y

May 28, 2020

As someone who is has no experience in creative writing classes, this course was an excellent introduction to writing poetry. While it was accessible to a beginner, I could see more advanced students of poetry being able to benefit from the course as well. This is because the prompts and assignments allow you to work at your own levels of experience and are very user friendly in that regard. I could not recommend this course highly enough!

By Ana P K C F

Dec 20, 2019

This has been one of my favorite courses so far. Douglas Kearney is such an amazing professor. He explains the subjects in a fun but yet deep way. It has been an honor to get to now more about poetry alongside his teachings, the works of the amazing American writers mentioned in this course and, of course, through my colleagues' works. I hope I can join future courses taught by Mr. Kearney, online or better yet in person at CalArts.

By Anna M

Mar 14, 2016

This is a great course with lots of information about the tools you need when crafting great poetry. I love the weekly writing prompts; they were very helpful in getting me back into the rhythm of writing. The discussion board was also a nice play to hang out and exchange thoughts about poetry and to give and receive critique from my peers. I recommend this course to anyone, at any level, who is interested in writing poetry.

By Sarah T

Jul 24, 2020

This instructor really brought his A game when it came to being engaging in the video segments. I usually get bored with the video modules in these course, but not here! The assignments were fun and inspiring. Sharpened Visions is an outstanding "get your feet wet" opportunity for those who consider themselves non-writers (like me) and I would imagine to be a useful exercise for actual writers of all stripes -- poets or not.

By Marissa C

Aug 17, 2017

This professor is very lively and makes the learning entertaining. I can understand vocabulary words much easier the way Mr. Kearney presents them. Thus far, his writing prompts have been quite unique and very fun to do. This is a challenge for me personally as I am not well-versed in writing or understanding poetry but I have a great feeling I will have a much better grasp of it by the time I fully complete the course.

By Diane V

Jul 21, 2016

I really loved this course! I have always loved reading poetry and have tried my hand at it periodically over many years. I learned a lot , wrote some poems that I like, and most of all enjoyed the teacher so very much. He made it so much fun, that I found myself laughing out loud several times. The workshop idea was also good, and I learned from reading the others' poems. Thank you for this course. !

By Rowan L

Jun 11, 2016

Fantastic course. I'm not very good at actually completing MOOCs (something about not having to answer to anyone, I suspect!) but the reviewing of classmates' work was done nicely, enough pressure to mean the assignments actually got done, without requiring an unreasonable amount of time. Douglas is a fantastic teacher and really inspiring; the course has revitalised my writing in just the way I needed!

By Shaima E

Oct 09, 2020

It has really been such a pleasure to learn from Douglas. I enjoyed the course thoroughly. The peer-reviewing process was also great. I always looked forward to reviewing my peers work, and have often been awed by the works they did. It has also been a great pleasure to receive constructive feedback and appreciations form the others. I hope there'll be more courses launched under Douglas and CALARTS.

By Kevin J

Jan 30, 2016

I really enjoyed the course. I always wanted to do a course in poetry, but this is my first opportunity to do so. The course was well put together, the information explanations and the lecturers method of delivery kept you awake and attentive. He was quite dramatic but it was essential and effective. Thanks for putting it together, I learned alot and feel more confident about my poetry writing.

By Alexandra L

Aug 09, 2016

This is one of the most enjoyable classes I've taken on Coursera, and it's all Douglas Kearney's fault. *grins* From day one, he has made this class fun, challenging and ever-interesting, and I feel like he has helped me get back into writing poetry. I would most certainly take more of his classes on here, and if I ever went to California for school, I would love to be in his classes.