Online Poetry Course
Deconstructing the lyric ‘I’
with Mary Jean Chan

Join Forward Prize shortlisted poet Mary Jean Chan on a six-week online course exploring the use of the lyric ‘I’ in contemporary poetry, where you’ll write new poems that question and experiment with subjectivity.

What are the strengths and limitations of the lyric ‘I’? How have other poets attempted to challenge its dominance in poetry? You’ll read the work of poets such as Claudia Rankine, Nuar Alsadir and Solmaz Sharif, among others, to examine how the use of second-person speakers (‘you’) alongside the lyric ‘I’ can open up new vistas to approaching the themes and preoccupations of your poetic writing.

What will you do on the course?
Through assignments you will produce the beginnings of three new poems and generate a lot of new ideas, as well as questioning the possibilities and limitations of the ‘I’ in poetry through reading primary and secondary texts. The course includes tutor and peer feedback on your work.

Who is it for? 
This course is suitable for writers who have been getting ready to publish their poetry, or have already had a few poems published. Those who have recently started writing poems are welcome to take part. If you are prepared to embrace the challenge of rigorous reading and discussion of primary and secondary poetry texts, as well as creating exciting new work, this course is for you.


About Spread the Word’s discounted rates
London Writers Network members receive a 10% discount on Spread the Word’s paid programme of activities, and access to two free specially programmed London Writers Network events a year. You can find out more about the London Writers Network scheme here. If you are a London Writers Network member please login to receive your discount.

To see if you are eligible for a concessionary rate, please take a look at our concessions policy.

Course Timetable and Info 

Course tutor Mary Jean Chan will upload exercises and reading materials once a fortnight on the following dates;

Thursday 5 April
Thursday 19 April
Thursday 3 May

Assignments for each week will be due by the following Thursday, with feedback and discussion for the poems written each week to take place between;

Assignment 1: Thursday 12 April - Wednesday 18 April
Assignment 2: Thursday 26 April - Wednesday 2 May
Assignment 3: Thursday 10 May – Wednesday 16 May

We ask that participants commit to providing feedback for at least 3 other poems each feedback period. Mary Jean will provide feedback on two of the poems that you work on over the three sessions.

Although this is not concrete, to help with your planning we would suggest that completing each exercise will take a minimum of 3 hours, and feedback takes around 1 hour for three poems.

The course will take place online and will require you to have access to the internet in the times above. Because of this, we ask that you are confident with using simple online sharing platforms, or at least willing to explore with guidance from Spread the Word. Full instructions will be emailed to participants a week before the course starts. Although there will be no live chats, there will be opportunities to interact with other course participants via feedback and general discussion.

The course will run with a minimum of 10 participants and a maximum of 15.

If you have any additional queries or questions before signing up, please email

Mary Jean Chan

Poet & Course Tutor

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Mary Jean Chan is a poet and editor from Hong Kong. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, and is forthcoming from Carcanet New Poetries VII. Her work has appeared in The Poetry Review, PN Review, Ambit Magazine, The London Magazine, Callaloo Journal, The Scores and English: Journal of the English Association. Mary Jean is currently a Research Associate in Poetics and PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, and is an Editor at Oxford Poetry. She is the winner of the 2017 PSA/Journal of Postcolonial Writing Postgraduate Essay Prize. Mary Jean's debut collection is forthcoming from Faber & Faber (July 2019).