Workshops & Classes

How to Read a Poem (Class begins March 6, 2018)

T. S. Eliot likened the meaning of a poem to the bit of meat a burglar brings along to throw to the family dog.” Learn to read poetry as Keats advised, “without any irritable reaching after fact and reason,” open to the pleasures of sound, image, and rhythm. It’ll be serious fun.

Newburyport Adult & Community Education
Two, 90-minute sessions: Tuesdays, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Begins March 6, 2018. Newburyport Public Library.
Cost: $20.


How to Cook a Poem (Class begins April 23, 2018)

There aren’t any recipes for writing poetry, but there are a baker’s dozen or more tools and techniques that can help you stir up a little inspiration. I offer this introductory poetry class for lifelong secret scribblers and for those tempted to give it a try. There’ll be plenty of food for thought — and no one’s fingers will get burned!

Newburyport Adult & Community Education
Five, 2-hour sessions: Mondays, 7:00–9:00 p.m.
Begins April 23, 2018. Newburyport High School.
Class limit 10.


Getting Started As a Writer (Fall, 2019)

This is a class designed for those who always wanted to write but got a bit side-tracked along the way. If you feel nervous or inadequate about taking a writing class, remember that this one is called Getting Started as a Writer. Everybody’s in the same boat. I think you will be surprised and delighted—as I always am—when you see where the voyage takes us.

Newburyport Adult & Community Education
Eight, 2-hour sessions.
Newburyport High School.
Class limit: 8.


Keeping Going as a Writer

What makes good fiction seem so real in comparison with factual news stories and even the daily events of our own lives? I will lead students on a tour of the essential elements of short fiction, using examples ranging from the stories of Flannery O’Connor and William Trevor to passages from Melville and Arthurian legend. Designed for students who have previously taken “Getting Started as a Writer,” this class will give aspiring writers the means and opportunity to write fiction that is true to life.

Newburyport Adult & Community Education
Six 2-hour sessions.
Newburyport High School.
Class limit: 8.


Writing Workshops at The Emma Andrews Library

Writing is both expression and communication. The first you can do on your own—it’s like singing in the shower. But you never quite know if you’re doing the second until you show your work to a reader. A workshop provides a group of first readers who can be both honest and sympathetic to what you’re trying to do, as they’re trying to do something like it themselves. We’ve got an extraordinary group of writers enrolled; it has been an inspiring and enjoyable experience.

There are currently two active workshops, one for poets and one for writers of fiction, each of which meets every other week. We meet at the Emma Andrews Library, 77 Purchase Street, Newburyport, on Thursdays at 7:00 PM. (The library is closed at that time; we have the place to ourselves.)

The fee is $11/session, payable at the start of each session. The workshop runs about two hours. Participants should bring 9 copies of either a poem or short prose piece (1150 words max.), which may be an excerpt from a longer work.

Please contact me directly if you are interested in a workshop, 

Recent publications and news from workshop members



We’ll meet one-on-one for an hour once a week or as often as you would like to discuss the writing you’ve done. I’ll follow up via email to help keep you following your own lead. ($50.00/session).

Please contact me directly if you are interested in a tutorial, 


About Your Instructor

Alfred Nicol was awarded the 1976 Academy of American Poets Prize at Dartmouth, where he studied with Sydney Lea and Richard Eberhart, and participated in the fabled “Thursday Poets” Workshop. A member of the Powow River Poets since 1999, Nicol edited The Powow River Anthology, published in 2006.

His teaching experience includes seven years at The Sparhawk School in Amesbury, MA, teaching creative writing to students in grades K through freshman; and two years working with Project Partner, a federally funded project designed to integrate the arts into the curricula of schools in Massachusetts.

He has taught classes as “Visiting Poet” at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Jacksonville, Florida; at Pelham High School in NH; and as an annual guest of Poetry Soup, the creative writing program at Newburyport High School in MA. He has been a featured presenter at The West Chester Poetry Conference, The Seacoast Writers Conference, and the Writers Conference at Ocean Park.


What People Are Saying

“Loved the class. You are a great teacher. Each topic was really interesting and well presented and the use of readings to demonstrate what you were trying to teach was perfect. Your critiques were gentle but clear and on point. The exercises were were really challenging. It was also a plus that the other students brought so much to the class. Very fun and challenging. You have made me thirsty to go back to school.”

“I got so much out of the poetry class at the high school and your evident wealth of knowledge and ability to impart it. Thank you.”

“I just wanted to say thank you.  I have taken many adult education classes over the years, in various parts of the country, and this was by far my favorite.  I appreciate all the hard work you put into the lectures and assignments.”  

“Your classes are not just about writing or poetry, they are well-guided tours of the soul!” 

“You are an exceptional teacher and I am sure you would have a line of people waiting for ‘Part II’ of this class if you offered it.”

“I enjoyed your class so much.  You are a very inspirational teacher.”     

“I just wanted to thank you for getting me started writing again! It was a pleasure to come to class each week and learn more about the craft of writing and how to critique one’s own and others work. You are a terrific teacher and I hope you continue to inspire others.”