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Charter Education Institute

Poetry for Inspiration and Well-Being

Start Date: April 1, 2024

Duration: 5 weeks

Cost: $40

Facilitator: John Smelcer

Registration Opens: March, 2024


Zoom Dates

There will be two one-hour zoom sessions as part of the course:

Saturday April 13 2024 - 9am-10am. PST, and
Saturday April 27 2024 - 9am-10am. PST

Use this date/time converter to check for other local times. 

Everyone who registers for this course will receive John Smelcer's poem "Infinity" in a downloadable and framable file version to print.



There’s truth to the saying, “There’s a poet in all of us.” Poetry has always had an important place in society. It still does today. Consider, for instance, Amanda Gorman, the young, African American poet who recited her poem from the United States Capitol during the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden. Shortly after that auspicious day, while the world watched, she read another poem during the Super Bowl, one of the most watched events in television history.

Clearly, poetry has a place in our society. But how do you bring out the poet inside you?

Taught by one of the longest-serving poetry editors of a major national literary journal in American history, this online course includes mini-lectures, videos, polls, Q&A, and written exercises and reflections, as well as peer review. You can learn at your own pace and within a comfortable time frame, typically 60 to 90 minutes a week for five weeks. William Carlos Williams once wrote that “it is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” And the Romantic Poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, husband to Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), once wrote that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

Here’s your chance to be part of a global community of like-minded thinkers who want to learn more about how poetry can change the world, save the planet, inspire compassion and social justice, and how it can also be therapeutic, improving emotional, spiritual, and even physical well-being. Some people pay thousands of dollars to attend a week-long writer’s workshop with an established author/editor.


Does this describe you?

Do you sometimes wish you were a writer but you don’t know where to start? Do you think you have to earn a degree to be a writer? All it really takes to be a writer is a desire to write, imagination, time, and persistence. A writer is someone who writes. A poet is someone who sees the world differently from everyone else and who can express their vision in words and in original ways.


We Invite You

You are invited to join a community of like-minded people in the Compassion Education Institute’s (CEI) online course Poetry for Inspiration and Well-Being. Learn how poetry can inspire us and others to become more compassionate, how it can inspire compassionate social and environmental change, and how writing poetry can improve well-being. Many people take this course a second and even third time because they found the online community to be so helpful and because the course encourages them to write new poems in response to different prompts.


Poetry for Inspiration and Well Being includes:

  • Interaction (online) with instructor and community of peers throughout the course.
  • Practical, easy-to-implement techniques you can begin using from the first day.
  • Access to content, activities, and downloadable exercises in five(5) weekly online lessons.


Course Outline

Week 1:  Participants will learn about the nature of poetry. What is a poem? What differentiates a poem from prose? Is poetry even relevant today? Why is poetry necessary? What is the role of the poet in society? We will discuss the elements of poetry and the usefulness of peer editing and of establishing a respectful (online) writing community. We will also discuss the format of this class and what we can all do to ensure its success and usefulness to everyone.

Week 2: Participants will continue to learn about the fundamentals of writing poetry. We will discuss the form and structure of poetry, the length of poems, diction (word choice), and the usefulness of a good title. Students will learn how poetry can be therapeutic, increasing emotional, spiritual, and even physical well-being. Students will try their hand at writing therapeutic poetry, i.e. poems that explore our feelings about the past, thereby beginning a process of healing and wholeness.

Week 3: Participants will learn about autobiographical poetry, the usefulness of reading your poems aloud, the power of poetry to illuminate truths, and how writing poetry is hard work. We will also explore how poetry can inspire hope and resilience in the darkest of times.

Week 4: Participants will learn how they can write poems that inspire others to help make the world a better place through acts of compassion, understanding, and tolerance. We will learn how poetry can incite social, political, cultural, and even environmental change (through ecological poetry). We will examine the value of establishing a writing routine and making a little time to write in your busy life.

Week 5:  Participants will learn more about where to find ideas for writing poems. We will learn more about the economy of language that is a hallmark of poetry. For anyone interested in seeing their poems published, the instructor will offer some useful suggestions for how and where to submit work and about the editorial process. We will also explore ideas for taking poetry public and about further resources for students interested in continuing their independent studies of writing.



*If you are enthusiastic about this course but cannot afford to pay the tuition due to a financial hardship, you can ask for a possible scholarship. Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Priority will be given to those residing in developing countries.


How Does This Course Work?

  • The weekly lessons of “Poetry for Inspiration and Well-Being” are completely online.
  • Lessons are online and can be returned to anytime.
  • Work through each lesson at your own pace during the week, posting comments and questions online, and crafting new poems.
  • This is a self-paced course, so if you get behind you can catch up at any time and review past lessons at your convenience. Content remains available even after the official end date of the course.
  • As your guide, I will read your comments and add my own or perhaps ask questions to provoke further thought.
  • Send questions to John Smelcer.


Course Facilitator


John Smelcer (Ph.D.) is the award-winning author of more than fifty books, including a dozen books of poetry. His poems have been published in over 500 journals worldwide. He studied literature and world religions at Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard. He has taught literature and creative writing at universities for three decades. For almost a quarter of a century, he was poetry editor at Rosebud Magazine, what the Boston Globe once called “the best literary magazine in America.” In 2015, Dr. Smelcer discovered the world possessions of Thomas Merton, one of the most influential religious and spiritual philosophers and writers and social rights/peace activists of the 20th century. The artifacts had been safeguarded for half a century by a former nun and her husband, who had been one of Merton’s brother monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky.



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