Poetry Summer Intensives

This year's Summer Intensive Residency takes place July 12-July 25, 2015. The Residency begins with a welcome reception on Sunday, July 12, at 5:00 pm, in the University Center.

All summer intensives are required of matriculated students, and are also open to the public at the discretion of the instructor (click here for more information on options for non-matriculated students, and scroll down to "Application for Non-Matriculated Enrollment in Summer Intensives"). Courses meet 1:00-4:00 pm for eight days in the second half of July (2015: M-F, July 13-17 and M-W, July 20-22).

All the students and faculty not only read and write for many hours each day, but we have a wonderful time with readings, socializing, and recreation in one of the most beautiful valleys in the Rockies. During the final long weekend of the intensive, all matriculated students in the entire program participate in our national writing conference, Writing the Rockies, which is also open to the public.

Cost to non-matriculated students of attending an Intensive course without earning graduate credit is $400. For an additional fee, qualified students may also earn graduate credit. Non-matriculated students who participate in the Summer Intensive may also register for Writing the Rockies, for an additional fee.


  • Meter in English: "An introduction to all the major meters of English poetry." Taught by David J. Rothman.
  • Public Performance for Poets: "Learn the techniques of the spoken word from a gifted poet and equity actor." [Not offered in Summer 2015.]
  • Poetry and Music: "The art of the libretto." Taught by Ernest Hilbert.

Summer Intensive 2015 CRWR 510: Meter in English

David Rothman
Professor David J. Rothman

George Saintsbury once wrote that “The main business of the poet…is to get poetical music out of the language which he uses.” This course is for anyone who wants to better understand how this music works. We read and analyze brief passages of verse in every major metrical form that has developed over the history of English poetry, ending with a study of free verse. Students also write exercises in all the major metrical forms and practice scansion of their own poems.

You'll notice that we do not use the term "formal poetry," because all poetry, including free verse (which we teach...), has form. Indeed, the only real alternative to "formal poetry" would be "formless poetry," and presumably no one wants to study or write that. This is why, instead of using the term "formal poetry," we emphasize "versecraft" to invoke the elusive techniques of how to make poetic art with words.

We emphasize this quality of verbal art because, in our view, poems do not differ from prose because of what they say — in prose we can tackle any subject, employ any diction, tell any story, use any figure of speech, even establish any rhythm — what we cannot do in prose, however, by definition is … write verse. And verse is not only a way of saying something; it also is a way doing something. Poems not only say things, they also do things that prose cannot do. That is why, in our program, what we study is the greatest possible range of how to do these things, from meters to stanzas, sonnet to ghazal, aubade to serenade, verse drama to verse satire. We assume that our students come to us with something to say — our curriculum helps poets master how to say it, and this summer intensive is the beginning of that curriculum.

Upon completion of this course, students will have a basic understanding of how meter and rhythm work in the English poetic line, along with an outline of how this aspect of craft came to be as it is. They will have a working vocabulary of the tools that poets writing in English have developed to practice their craft, with some sense of how those tools developed over time, and how to begin to use them to craft original poems. Some of the questions we will discuss are: What are prosody, versification, and scansion, and why are poets so obsessed with them? How did the traditions of writing in verse come to be what they are? And how can poets draw on the traditions of the past to create new work? Join us to see what make poems tick at the most basic level – the level of the line.

David J. Rothman is Director of the Western's Graduate program in Creative Writing, and of the Poetry Concentration. He has published five books of poems, most recently Part of the Darkness (Entasis Press, 2013)  and The Book of Catapults (White Violet Press, 2013). He also teaches at Lighthouse Writers Workshop of Denver. A former Finalist for the Colorado Book Award, he is Poet in Residence at Colorado Public Radio. His poetry and essays have appeared in hundreds of journals.

Summer Intensive 2015 / CRWR 510: Poetry and Music

Ernie Hilbert
Professor Ernest Hilbert

We are drawn to the great operas again and again, enticed by exquisite singing, enlivened by grand spectacles, and entranced by the wonderful stories and legendary characters that bring those stories to life.

Without stories, operas could not exist. The librettist, or keeper of the “little book,” helps the composer to realize a vision by supplying colorful settings, moving characters, and a persuasive story, be it comedic, tragic, or somewhere in between. The librettist exercises both a poet’s verse-craft, in songs and arias, and a playwright’s plot-work to draw us along with rising tensions, surprising turns, and devastating revelations.

The librettist conjures a whole world and transports an audience to an opulent seraglio, blood-stained battlefield, magnificent palace, pirate’s brigantine, assassin’s aerie, or pauper’s hovel. The librettist invents heroes and rogues, clowns and killers, captains and kings, maidens and warriors, fleshes their bones and sets them in motion. Today, librettists continue to work with contemporary composers to refresh and reshape the opera tradition in the 21st century.

Learn the practical art of the opera libretto this summer with renowned poet and librettist Ernest Hilbert, whose latest evening-length epic opera with composer Stella Sung, The Red Silk Thread, set in the court of Kublai Khan, was recently performed at the Michigan Opera Studio and will receive its grand premiere in 2014 at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Florida. Students will benefit from short readings on the theory and practice of writing words for music and classroom colloquia. They will also meet with a composer via Skype and take part in an ongoing workshop to develop a one-act opera scenario and libretto of their own.

Summer Intensive Registration Information for Non-Matriculated Students

Click here to learn about enrolling as a non-matriculated student in a Summer Intensive. For more information, contact Extended Studies, Taylor 303, at 970-943-2885, or online at www.western.edu/extendedstudies. You may also contact Graduate Program Director and Poetry Concentration Director David J. Rothman, at drothman@western.edu.

Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Application Information