A Vancouver Island University poetry grad is passing on his knowledge to others.
Spenser Smith, an alumnus of VIU’s creative writing and journalism program who is now studying poetry at the University of British Columbia, has recently launched an online poetry school called Line Break.
“I love poetry and I’ve recently began to love teaching poetry as a teaching assistant at UBC,” Smith said. “Last term I marked and provided feedback on over 150 creative writing assignments and the experience was extremely fulfilling, especially witnessing the growth of students and their writing and knowing I might have played a role in that growth.”
Smith said that experience, along with what he calls the “exploding” popularity of poetry and rise of online courses due to COVID-19 prompted him to start Line Break. In his first course, Write Your Best Poetry, Smith teaches the fundamentals of poetry writing, assigns writing prompts and then provides feedback.
Smith credits his time at VIU for equipping him with the skills needed to teach poetry himself. He said his poetry instructors helped him develop to the point where he could have his work published and throughout the program he edited the poems of his peers both in class and as an editor of VIU’s literary magazine, Portal.
“That really gave me the skills necessary where I could look at a piece of writing and see what could potentially be improved, what’s working well, and that gave me the confidence to be able to teach a poetry course,” Smith said. “I know if I hadn’t taken all of these creative writing courses at VIU and learned from the incredible instructors I learned from I definitely wouldn’t have the confidence nor the skills to pull something like Line Break off.”
Smith said his interest in poetry dates back to his elementary school days, when he got a good reaction from his class for a poem he wrote about candy. Since then poetry has given him an outlet for his political expression and it helped him during his time in active drug addiction.
Smith said poetry my be perceived as being “very complicated and overburdened with theory,” but he said he’ll be focusing on the practical techniques that can be learned at any skill level.
“I know what it’s like to be a new poetry student just starting out so I’ve taken that experience and applied it to what I’m teaching,” he said.