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This content is taken from the University of Reading's online course, A-level Study Boost: Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsPoetry is everywhere, and it's for everyone. It's in song lyrics and social media posts, on our bookshelves, and in our heads. It comes to life through performance and sharing. But it can also be private, even secret, a way for us to express the deepest aspects of who we are and how we feel. It helps us to reach back through time, to explore cultures different from our own, and to imagine the future. I'm Rebecca Bullard, and I'm an Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Reading. I'd like to welcome you to this online course, Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsWe've created this short course to help you get more out of poetry as a reader and as a writer. Reading and writing poetry go hand-in-hand with one another. This course will inspire you to read, write, and enjoy poetry in new ways. The course is split into two weeks. In week one, we're going to focus on reading poetry. We'll be exploring some techniques for approaching a poem with some of our students here at the University of Reading as they encounter it for the first time, using a wonderful poem called "Patagonia" by Kate Clanchy as a case study. In week two, we're going to meet Kate Clanchy herself.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 secondsKate will help us to think about ways of writing poetry, including getting started, shaping your poem, and sharing it with others. Through giving and receiving feedback with other learners on the course, you'll become a better writer and a better reader of poetry. We can't wait to share our love of poetry with you and to read and hear your thoughts, ideas, and poems.

Welcome to the course

Hello and a big welcome to ‘A-level Study Boost: Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process’, a two week online course produced by the Department of English Literature and the Online Courses Team at the University of Reading.

The course

On this course you’ll explore poetry as a reader and as a writer. Week 1 focuses on unseen poetry and in Week 2 you’ll explore the creative process.

In Week 1 you’ll discover some new techniques for analysing unseen poetry. You’ll apply them to a wonderful poem called ‘Patagonia’, by the award-winning writer, teacher and poet, Kate Clanchy. You’ll see how others interpret the same poem and you’ll share your ideas, learning with and from one another.

In Week 2, you’ll immerse yourself in the creative process. You’ll explore the intrinsic connections between analysing and writing poetry are and you’ll find new ways to express your creativity. In this Week, Kate Clanchy will share strategies and techniques, through practical workshops, to show you how to start and shape a poem.

Towards the end of the course, you’ll apply what you’ve learned to create a poem, which one or more of your fellow Learners will review. Using the close reading techniques gained from Week 1, you’ll provide constructive feedback to other Learners on their poem, and receive feedback on your work to help improve your writing.

A quick reminder that this course is ideal for students interested in studying English Literature and educators looking for useful teaching resources. It’ll also be of interest to anyone looking to develop their critical thinking about poetry and improve their skills in analysis and writing.

Taking part

The recommended learning time for this course is 3 hours per week, with each Week split into Activities and then Steps. However, you may need to set a little extra for Week 2. We’ll provide further guidance on learning times for specific tasks, as some will take longer than others to complete.

We encourage you to take part in the discussions in the course to get the most out of your learning experience. If you find talking online a bit daunting, you can start small. If you see a comment you find interesting, you can let the other Learner know by clicking the ‘Like’ icon. This will help build your confidence and once you feel more comfortable, you can move on to leaving a comment or replying directly to another Learner.

We recommend taking breaks throughout the course. To help keep track of your progress, click on the ‘Mark as complete’ button when you have completed a Step and are ready to move on (you’ll find the icon at the end of each Step).

Your learning journal

The nature of this course will require you to take plenty of notes. We recommend to keep a digital or paper notebook to hand, or, you can download and save the course journal template attached at the bottom of this Step.

Add the bulk of your notes from the tasks into your journal, rather than the discussion areas. This will help you keep track of your notes which you’ll be referring back to throughout the course. You can also record additional links or resources you may find useful.

As well as the journal, we’ve provided a handy glossary to help some of you get to grips with the terminology used within the course.

Please note: Blind and visually impaired learners may need a helper on some of the Steps, as this course includes video content and other visual teaching methods.

Meet the team

Rebecca Bullard is your Lead Educator for this course. Find out more about Rebecca in the short biography below:

Hello, my name’s Rebecca Bullard and I’ll be leading this course, Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process. I grew up and went to school in Cardiff, South Wales, and then I studied English at Oxford University and Cambridge University. I’ve been teaching in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading since 2010.

I love teaching English Literature. It is a subject that has the power to change people’s lives. It encourages us to imagine our way into places we never thought we’d visit: the past, the future, other cultures, other worlds. Poetry is a really special form of literature. Its sounds, its rhythms, its strangeness, and its soulfulness help us to experience the world in new ways.

I’m really excited about leading this course. I can’t wait to share some of my favourite poetry with you, and to hear about what you love reading. I’m especially looking forward to the second week, when I’ll get to read some brand new poetry – written by you!

Rebecca will be joined by current University of Reading students and our course Mentors:

Yinka-Maria Olaniyan Student of English Language and Literature
Alannah Moody Student of English Literature

During the initial two weeks of the course (from the 20 April until 3 May), the course team will guide you through the content and be on hand to support the discussions. They will aim to help where they can but , they won’t be able to respond to every post. Don’t let that stop you from asking questions and sharing your experiences though, as you may find that together with other Learners, you may be able to help one another out.

To view comments made by Rebecca and her team, click on their name to visit their profile page and click the ‘Follow’ button. Any comment made will then appear in your activity feed which you can filter by ‘Following’.

The experts

You’ll also get the chance to hear from creative writing experts from the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading, who will be sharing their expertise:

Kate Clanchy Award-winning poet
Lecturer in Creative Writing
Professor Peter Robinson Award-winning poet and novelist
Professor of English Literature
Founder of the English Literature with Creative Writing pathway degree at the University


If missed the chance to say hello in the Welcome Area before the course started, why not introduce yourself now in the comments section below.

Tell us who you are, why you are taking the course and what you’re hoping to gain from it.

Course tip

If you’re new to the FutureLearn platform or have any questions with how the site works, you may find FutureLearn’s start guide and FAQ pages helpful.

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A-level Study Boost: Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process

University of Reading

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Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: