Residential Writing Week: Poetry Work-in-Progress

Residential Writing Week: Poetry Work-in-Progress

Towards the big poem
  • Michael Schmidt
    Michael Schmidt
  • Sasha Dugdale
Guest Tutor
  • Stav Poleg
Date Monday October 30th - Saturday November 4th 2023
Location Totleigh Barton

Are you keen to move to a larger canvas for your work, but unsure how? Do you want to extend the lyric form or tackle new sources and resources for your poetry?

Join Michael Schmidt, poet and poetry editor at Carcanet and PN Review, and award-winning poet Sasha Dugdale to consider ways of developing your craft in terms of form and diction.

Over the course of a week, you’ll explore the exciting possibilities of the big poem: the book-length poem, the sustained sequence and collections of interconnected poems.  You will try on voices, discover textual and formal strategies, and examine the resources that poets draw upon for their longer pieces of writing.

In a supportive and inspiring environment, you will discover and re-discover contemporary and classical work from around the world.  You’ll have an opportunity to question, in discussions and workshops, notions of originality and allusion.  You will leave with a new toolbox of techniques for writing your own book-length poems, sustained sequences and collections of interconnected poems.

The midweek guest will be poet Stav Poleg.

Single room: £885

Concessions: £619.50

As part of our effort to increase participation in the arts, we offer limited concessionary places at a 30% reduction. You can select this option at checkout if available.

Physical Access at Totleigh Barton:

We do not currently recommend this house if you are a wheelchair user. Totleigh Barton is a sixteenth-Century manor house and has many steps and tight corners. In the future we hope to redevelop the property to provide level access. For additional detailed information on physical access in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, dining, shared spaces and the grounds please visit our dedicated access page.

General Access Information for Residential Writing Weeks:

Available on all courses for those who are Deaf, Partially Deaf or who have significant hearing loss

We provide BSL interpreters on some courses. If you require this please check whether the course you are interested in offers this facility. Or get in touch on our dedicated access email:

Available on all courses for those who are blind, partially sighted or who have significant sight loss

Available on all courses for those who have Dyslexia

There’s no need to worry about spelling, grammar or handwriting on our courses, the focus is on creativity.

Available on all courses to those who identify as Neuro Divergent

Arvon is committed to providing a supportive and welcoming environment to all.

If you need to take some time out to rest, or be alone, you’re welcome to do so. Participation in any activity is entirely at your discretion.

Our grants scheme may be able to cover a portion of your course fees. Disability costs and additional living/support costs are taken into account when considering your grant application. You may also be entitled to concession pricing on selected courses.

For additional detailed information on how we can support people with learning difficulties, mental health issues, and those with special diets and allergies, please see our dedicated access page.

If you have any questions or concerns and want to chat to a member of staff prior to booking please contact us on

Totleigh Barton, the first ever Arvon centre, is a 16th-century manor house in one of the most peaceful and idyllic parts of Devon.

Totleigh Barton is a thatched manor house with single occupancy rooms and shared bathrooms. The house offers many comfortable lounge and spaces to relax and write throughout the house and a renovated barn offers a comfortable space for evening readings. Mobile and Wi-Fi signal is limited. We invite you to think of a retreat to this beautiful old house as a full ‘digital detox’ – a chance to make real progress with your writing with no distractions.

All your meals are provided, locally and sustainably sourced wherever possible. Help yourself to breakfast, our team will prepare lunch, and dinner is prepared in groups each evening using the delicious recipes and ingredients provided.

Totleigh Barton lies two miles from the village of Sheepwash, with walks along the River Torridge nearby. There is a beautiful and productive garden and quiet spaces on-site for writing.

See here for more information on Totleigh Barton.

“I arrived at the beginning of the week wondering whether I might be a writer or even if I could write. But when I left, not only did I feel I could write, I knew that’s what I was going to do next.”
— Piers Torday
“It is invaluable to writers at an early stage to have this feedback on their work. Many people on my course said that they wished that they had received this type of input earlier in their career – that it might have borne fruit and improved their success. It also provides time to think – in an over complicated world it is hard to carve time for yourself against the requirements of work, family, and daily chores. Arvon was a breath of fresh creative air.”
— Penny Clark
“Both courses I attended have had a massive impact on my writing, and been part of the motivation and encouragement I needed to begin working professionally as a writer.”
— Participant, Residential Writing Week

Writing course tutor delivering a workshop at Lumb Bank


Arrive in the afternoon, settle in, enjoy dinner and the tutors’ introduction to the week in the evening.

one-to-one tutorial at Lumb Bank


From Tuesday to Friday the focus will be on individual work and one to one time with the tutors. We guarantee an hour with both tutors spread over the four days. On Tuesday evening the tutors will give readings from, or talks about their work followed by Q&A.

Course participants writing at the workshop table at The Hurst


From Tuesday to Friday the focus will be on individual work and one to one time with the tutors. On Wednesday evening the guest speaker will join you for a reading and Q&A.

Course participant writing on a sofa in the barn at Lumb Bank


From Tuesday to Friday in the mornings and afternoons, the focus will be on individual work and one to one time with the tutors. Tutors often lead an optional Masterclass during the week.

A woman smiling and listening to a writing tutor speak at Lumb Bank


From Tuesday to Friday the focus will be on individual work and one to one time with the tutors. On Friday there will be the customary sharing of work produced – or honed – during the rest of the week.

Course participants eating at The Hurst


The week comes to a close after breakfast. Depart by 10am. Have a tissue handy to say your farewells to the group.

Course Timetable

Times are subject to change


3.30—4.30pm: Arrival of participants. We’ll welcome you, show you to your room and offer light refreshments. 

4.30pm: Cream tea in the dining room – a chance to meet other course attendees and staff. 

5.30 – 6.00pm: The group meets in the dining room for an introductory talk from a member of our hosting team.  Please make sure you arrive in time for this session as it will include vital information about the week, a tour of the house, and the opportunity to introduce yourself to other participants. 

7.00pm: Dinner. Our hosting team will serve the evening meal.

8.30 – 9.30pm: The first group session of the week. The tutors will introduce themselves and share their plans for the week in detail. You will have the chance to outline what you’d like to achieve and discuss your projects as a group. 


10.00am—1.00pm: Everyone meets in the workshop room for the first group session of the week. There will be a break mid-morning for refreshments.

1.00pm: Lunch. Our hosting team will prepare and serve lunch – everyone must wash up and put away their own things after meals.

2.30 – 4.30pm: 1-1 tutorials

4.30pm: Three or four members of the group, today’s cooks, begin to prepare the evening meal and wash up for everyone afterwards.

7.00pm:  Dinner.

8.30-9.30pm: Both tutors read from their work and take questions about their writing practice.


The timing is just like yesterday… 

10.00—11.30am: Everyone meets in the workshop room for the second Masterclass.  

11.45—12.45pm: 1-1 tutorials 

1.00pm: Lunch. 

3.00 – 4.30pm: 1-1 tutorials 

4.30pm: Today’s cooks start preparing the evening meal. 

7.00pm:  Dinner (today’s cooks washing up afterwards). 

8.30-9.30pm: The guest speaker for the week joins us, reads from their work, and takes questions. 


10.00am—1.00pm: Morning workshop.

1.00pm: Lunch

2.30 – 4.30pm: 1-1 tutorials

4.30pm: Today’s cooks start preparing the evening meal.

7.00pm:  Dinner (today’s cooks washing up afterwards).

Activities for Thursday evening are left flexible and will be agreed between the group and tutors during the week. It may be a ‘night off’ or even include a visit to the local pub for those who would like to.


10.00am—1.00pm: Morning workshop.

1.00pm: Lunch

3.00 – 4.30pm: 1-1 tutorials

4.30pm: Today’s cooks start preparing the evening meal.

7.00pm:  Dinner (today’s cooks washing up afterwards).

8.30-9.30pm: The culmination of the week is a celebratory reading by course participants. Everyone will have the opportunity to share work they have produced during the week.


Breakfast, goodbyes, and departure. We ask everyone to have stripped their beds, washed up and put away breakfast things ready to vacate the building by 10.30am, but you can leave as early as you wish. 



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