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MJ Writing Course

A Space to Write: Poetry

With Mary-Jane Holmes

2 – 9 November 2019

If you have always wanted to write poetry and never had the time, or have toyed with the form but want to get serious, this week-long intensive course will be just the thing.


Each day we will explore different aspects of the form including how to generate the raw material to create a poem. We will cover all the basics such as how to handle metaphor and image, form and architecture. In the mornings there will be an in-depth study of technique through close reading, discussion and in-class writing exercises. In the afternoons there will be dedicated writing tasks associated with the day’s theme, and the opportunity for peer-critiquing and individual tuition, all in the inspiring surroundings of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Day One: What defines a poem?

We will get to grips with the essential tools needed to build a poem and explore the main sonic and spatial functions of the form as well as investigate how to generate material to create poetry of our own.

Day Two: ‘No Ideas but in Things’ William Carlos Williams.

Poetry operates through the senses. Here, we will discuss how to create a world of weight and emotion using effective details, image and metaphor as well as explore how scale connects what we choose to observe with thematic significance and emotional response.

Day Three: Shape and Structure. Sound and Line.

"What a poem is, is essentially what it does" I.A.Richards. Here we will focus on the architecture of a poem and how the deliberate use of space serves the intention of the poem. We will investigate how to build poetic energy through such devices as alliteration, repetition, line length and rhyme.

Day Four: Aspects of Voice and Viewpoint.

We will look at how to develop voice and consider the question of address. Who is doing the talking and to whom? We will investigate the poem both as personal statement and as something with a wider sense of identity, character and personality.

Day Five: An Exploration of Form. The Sonnet.

Today the sonnet is probably the most widely read, taught, practised and written-about of lyric forms. We will explore how the constraints of form may elicit fresh and original poems that otherwise may never have occurred.

Day Six: Telling stories. Revision and Editing.

On this the final day, we will delve into narrative verse. As poet Christopher Reid says of the narrative poem: ‘Why must novels and movies have the best tricks? Why must they have all the stories?’ Here we will discuss how the pull of the narrative line against the pull of the poetic line can create something akin to the short story. We will also look at how we can effectively self-edit our work.

Mary-Jane Holmes

Director, Casa Ana Creative Writing Programme


Mary-Jane is the winner of the 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize judged by Lemn Sissay. She is also the recipient of the Martin Starkie Poetry Prize (2017), the Bedford International Poetry Prize (2016) and the Dromineer Fiction Prize (2014). She has previously been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize both for poetry and flash fiction, the Doolin Prize for poetry, the Penfro Poetry Prize and was recently commended by Kim Walsh in the Settle Poetry Competition.

Her first collection of poetry was published in 2018 by Glasgow based Pindrop Press. Her work has also been widely published and anthologised in such places The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Prole, JMWW, The Tishman Review, Firewords, The Lonely Crowd, the Incubator and The Best Small Fictions anthology 2016 and 2018.


Since 2009 she has been chief editor of Fish Publishing Ireland, an organisation committed to supporting emerging writers. She is the director and coordinator of the company’s creative writing and mentoring programs including the longest running online Flash fiction course in Europe dedicated solely to the genre. She is also an editorial consultant at The Well Review, an international poetry journal based in Cork, Ireland.


Mary-Jane is an alumna of Kellogg College, Oxford where she received distinction for a Master in Studies in creative writing.

Prices 2018 and 2019

Prices are for single occupancy of:

Single room with private bathroom €945

Standard double or twin room with private bathroom €1045

Large double room with private bathroom €1145

Special offer: Discounts available for shared rooms


For further information and bookings please email Anne at Casa Ana or call:

Mobile: 0034 678 298 497

More Reviews


"Mary-Jane’s support and advice was invaluable in moving my writing on to a new and better level."

Candy, June 2016


"The art of writing is mentored by Mary-Jane Holmes who is both incisive in her critique as well as sensitive to writers at all levels - quite simply excellent. I am really looking forward to my next visit."

John, June 2016


"After three sessions with Mary-Jane I left with a new opening, ideas about plot and voice; and a clear plan to go forward. Her concise, constructive feedback was invaluable."

Sarah, June 2016


"Joining the group sessions felt scary, but I was so glad I did. MJ enabled relaxed discussion, and it was hugely rewarding to share in fellow writers’ struggles and successes."

Jo, June 2016


"Mary-Jane's mentoring and facilitating were a huge help to me. I only had a few sessions with her whilst I was at a Casa Ana writing retreat but with her focused and attentive approach we were able to get to the heart of my difficulties immediately. I felt she grasped the way that I worked in general. This helped not only with the pieces we discussed but has also continued to give me ideas on character development and story arc in my ongoing writing. I feel Mary-Jane would be a great mentor and editor for a longer-term project and I hope to have the opportunity to work with her again."

Lorna, February 2016

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