Jay Deshpande

Poet & Writer. San Francisco.

Jay’s instinct/knowledge of what each student was attempting, possibilities for why and possible suggestions to fix or improve the work was exceptional. I felt personally respected and not only encouraged but inspired to own my choices and edits.  - Brooklyn Poets student


Jay also offers individual instruction and feedback on poems and manuscripts. You can find him on The Poets Bridge or contact him directly.

I’ve never taken any kind of online class before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was extremely impressed. Jay’s assignments really made great use of the five weeks we had available- each week really built on the previous one. I was very impressed by how much obvious time and care Jay put into his feedback. He is a really insightful and encouraging teacher with very specific critical feedback. – Brooklyn Poets student


“The Mooring of Starting Out”: First Books of Poems
(Lecture, Columbia University School of the Arts)

As per Ashbery’s phrase, the first book of poems is both a station and a passage: it’s something to achieve and something to get through. This lecture will consider the varieties of planning, architecture, and process that go into debut collections. Each class will feature a visiting poet, joining us to talk about their path to publication, how their book coalesced, what it felt like, and how they got past it. We’ll also explore some of the great first books of the past (John Ashbery’s Some Trees, James Tate’s The Lost Pilot, Sylvia Plath’s The Colossus) to think about how the poetry debut as an organism has changed over time. Throughout, we’ll focus on certain sustaining topics: styles of first book, ways of ordering, the project vs. the pastiche, audiences, the distance between an MFA thesis and a book, finding a publisher, design/production, promotion/critical reception, forebears/legacy. Students will be expected to study each guest’s first book in depth and come prepared with questions; students will also give in-class presentations throughout the term. Guests include: Marie Howe, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Josh Bell, Solmaz Sharif, Harmony Holiday, Morgan Parker, Robyn Schiff, and Phillip B. Williams.


An Equal Music: Writing Poems from a Musical Influence
(Workshop, Poets House)

Poets are frequently influenced by a favorite musician or song. Sometimes it’s Bob Dylan’s lyrics, the aesthetics of the blues, or the emotional sweep of Mahler that we want to carry to the page. But how do we make use of the music we love if we don’t write about it and we don’t try to mimic it? In effect, the music-inspired poem is the most challenging form of ekphrasis, because the author must be extra vigilant to form her own language rather than to mimic that of the song.

This class will provide participants with prompts and guidance for exploring their musical influences in poetry. Rather than trying to create direct analogues or renditions of songs on the page, the class will consider how one might abstract and translate the spirit of a piece of music into the language(s) of the poem. Participants will use a range of procedures, from persona poems to collage, to mine the essences of their favorite songs and make them their own. By the end of this class, participants will have written and revised four poems motivated by their personal musical influences. Readings will include Stéphane Mallarmé, Kevin Young, Frank Stanford, Morgan Parker, Terrance Hayes, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Langston Hughes, David Berman, Timothy Donnelly, and Tyehimba Jess.


Turning, Leaping, Digressing: Towards A Poet’s Taxonomy of Moves
(Seminar, Columbia University School of the Arts)

In workshop and in conversation, we often describe a poem by its form and formal conventions—the sonnet, the tercet, the rhythm and rhyme—but things get murkier when it comes to a poem’s rhetorical involutions. This is because we lack a shared language for that set of choices that fall between the orbs of form and content. In this space of poetic structure, we encounter moves like the turn, the leap, the digression, and a host of other such tactics poems have at their disposal. This seminar will develop a set of working definitions for those tactics. Students might be familiar with some of them already, but by locating and naming them together, we will steer towards a common language that can benefit each of us as writers, readers, and workshoppers. Each meeting (or so) will focus on a different move. We will study poems ranging across the lyric tradition, including work by Rae Armantrout, Robert Bly, Andrew Durbin, Tarfia Faizullah, Jorie Graham, Jack Gilbert, Louise Glück, Stanley Kunitz, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Robyn Schiff. Students will submit weekly exercises and a final sheaf of poems in which they implement the full range of techniques. 

Jay takes the time to get to know those he is teaching, to find out their goals and where they are heading, what they want and what they need. Even in a class of a dozen, he will give your work dedicated time and attention.

As he teaches he is able to draw upon a vast experience with different styles of poetry and natures of poets. He somehow always picks just the right material as reference and example, relying upon both modern and classic poetry. His themes for classes are focused and not esoteric.

As for his individual mentorship, he was wizardly in figuring out my strengths and weaknesses as well as dispelling my misconceptions. He did this without a heavy hand and provided me with stronger foundations upon which to create, and freeing me to explore my voice.
– Hugh Tipping, Brooklyn Poets student


Jay is available for class visits, both in person and via Skype. Contact him at deshpande10011 at gmail dot com.  

C.V. is available upon request.