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WHO: You + writers from all over the world
WHAT: Daily prompts + community + visiting poet talks
WHERE: The world wild web (via email, message board + conference calls)
WHEN: January 2024
WHY: To break out of the ordinary by creating, risking, sharing + growing together

January 2024 ISL is now open for applications! 
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Can't make the January session?
Email Shira today to apply as an "Early Bird" 

for the April 2024 session!


Shira Erlichman is an author, musician, visual artist and educator living in Brooklyn. A MacDowell Fellow, her work can be found in The Huffington Post, PBS NewsHour's Poetry Series, The Seattle Times and The New York Times, among others. Her debut poetry collection Odes to Lithium was released in September 2019 & won the Publishing Triangle's 2020 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. She is the author and illustrator of the children's book Be/Hold: A Friendship Book. She is a returning guest host on the poetry podcast The Slowdown.
January is the 27th session of ISL.

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Each session features dynamic prompts,
incredible visiting artists, 
+ a package that includes
a 1-on-1 editing session with Shira


January 2024 Visiting Artists


Claire Schwartz


Kaveh Akbar


Mahogany L. Browne

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Shira Erlichman

past visiting artists


Tommy Pico


Tara Hardy


Ashley C. Ford


Jay Deshpande


Marlee Grace

 Camonghne Felix

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Hanif Abdurraqib

Eve L. Ewing


Paige Lewis

Safia Elhillo

Danez Smith

Kevin Coval

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Morgan Parker

Saeed Jones

Maggie Smith

Nicole Sealey

Jamila Woods


Patrick Rosal


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Marie-Helene Bertino


H. Melt

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Patricia Smith

Raymond Antrobus

Kemi Alabi

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Ghislaine Fremaux


Monica Sok


Mira Jacob

Renia White


Krista Franklin

Edgar Kunz


Carrie Fountain

Chen Chen

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Taylor Johnson

J. Wortham

session schedule

31 juicy daily prompts: one a day for all of January; to engage with independently at your speed & rigor. They appear, day by day, on a website.


Core Group: you'll be in a group of 4 writers; a poem from each of you is due in your shared GoogleDoc every Friday of January, with comments due back the following Wednesday. Depending on your "level" (1 lowest engagement - 5 highest engagement) a certain number of comments are due. You also have Burst Buddy dates with your Core Group: 15-20 minute meetings with each buddy, as well as the whole group, spread out over the course of the session to discuss poetry, process, & anything that's coming up for you as a human & writer! These are very casual & mostly an opportunity to get to know folks in the group in a more "live" way. They're for you to set up with your group.


6 calls (4 Visiting Poet calls & 2 Opening call/Closing Open Mic calls): each of these is optional (though highly encouraged) & always recorded for those that can't make the live call. All calls are 7:00-8:30 PM EST on weeknights peppered throughout January. This session, our 4 Visiting Artist Calls are on Wednesday evenings. The Opening Call, January 1st, falls on a Monday. The Closing Call, January 31, falls on a Wednesday.


• Slack: While you have the GoogleDoc & Bursts to connect with your Core Group, we use Slack as a platform to connect with the WHOLE group. This is always available for chatting, dropping poems into the space, photos of our pets & food we're cooking, etc. It's a general space to just be together.

If you have questions about the structure of the program, feel free to email

How much

does it cost?

ISL is about community, 
so there are many ways
to join.


There are 48 spots in the January 2024 session:

Flat fee + 1-on-1 session with Shira (15 spots): sliding scale $475-$550

• Flat fee (22 spots): sliding scale $350-450

• Nominate a Surreal Scholar* (11 spots): FREE

*A Surreal Scholar is a BIPOC artist (poet, writer, journalist, dancer, collagist, activist, parent, etc.) 
who you feel would enrich & be enriched by ISL.
You believe in them & their power & you want to add fuel to their rocket ship. We look over all scholar nominations to award 11 brilliant scholars a tuition-free spot, with the generous help of donations. Queer + Trans BIPOC writers will be prioritized. Yes, you can nominate yourself!

Break Off Group: All Surreal Scholars, as well as all BIPOC poets in attendance, will be a part of a Break Off Group - a space to connect separately from the greater group. Alongside support & connection within the group, the group will have an exclusive Visiting Artist talk with a BIPOC Visiting Artist.

Surreal Scholar positions are made possible by you, the community. To make a donation to the Surreal Scholar Fund, establishing 11 permanent, tuition-free ISL spots for BIPOC writers, click here:

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"Imagine being surrounded by a new group of best friends and you’re up all night creating your best and most outrageous work together.And at the same time, you’re trying to save the world through solidarity and poetry through an activist lens.That’s what October ISL was like!” - Jen Haines, 12X Surrealist

"Wow. I felt as if I grew leaps and bounds with that session. It put to words so much that I hadn't known how to articulate before, and made me feel like I was a real poet...It was so special – Shira's generosity was so appreciated, and I felt as though I was uncovering so much about my work in that hour." - Emma Younger, August 2020 Surrealist

"I was so inspired by the visiting artist calls. Let's face it, October 2023 was a tough time to be human and those calls made me feel connected and inspired even when everything felt a bit futile." - e bond, October 2023 Surrealist



“Shira is one of the most incisive, thoughtful and generous teachers I have ever met. She met me at the edge of my learning and with a few questions was able to help me go further - she gave me a bunch of tools I didn't know were available to me. Her love of teaching and her respect for learners, their humanity and their work was so evident. It felt like a great gift to be exposed to her way of thinking, her rigor (which also felt like committed play) and consideration. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and hope to be able to take this class and do a one on one with her again, in the future.” - Mahira Kakkar, August 2020 Surrealist



“GODDAMN MAGNIFICENT. i cried. i laughed! i cried some more. how did we generate 6 drafts in under an hour? how did i learn the life-changing magic of giving a poem a name?! shira lovingly pushed me to consider not just my practice but my perspective; she offered beautiful insight, clear strategies and, most critically, she modeled for me what a playful, curious approach to poetry can look and feel like, and it's exactly where i'd like to build my castle. i do believe i am changed through this experience. all my love forever.” - Kristin Lueke, August 2020 Surrealist

“I think you’d struggle to find a better writing class for the money. First of all, I was blown away by the brilliance and creativity of the writing prompts themselves—always thoughtful, thought provoking and inspiring. In addition, the conversations with the visiting poets fascinated everyone. How often do you get to hear directly from a writer about their own process and practice?? Last but not least, definitely book a 1-on-1 session with Shira!!! Aside from helping me expertly edit and revise two pieces I’d worked on from the class, Shira left me feeling encouraged and capable. What a gift!!!” - Brett Burns, August 2018 Surrealist

"In Surreal Life remains one of the more generous, opening events in my quarter century experience. I was agape and dancing giddy for weeks. You deserve to experience the opening. I hope you will invest in your worthiness." - Misian Taylor, August 2016 Surrealist

"Thank you for making this such a safe space to share. This workshop helped me become fluent in poetry again. When I'm writing consistently, everything goes from mundane daily details to possible material for a poem, so thank you, thank you." - Molly Raynor, 4X Surrealist

“A new prompt in your inbox! Everyday! There's no better way to kill a case of writer's block. While the pace is intensive, ISL is the warmest and most encouraging workshop experience I have had. Shira does an amazing job at setting the tone and it is contagious. It's a wonderful environment to experiment and make new work.” - Laurel Shimasaki, January 2020 Surrealist

“ISL has been the most powerful reminder of the kind of magic you're able to generate just through paying attention. Shira's spectacular prompts & the greater ISL community have created the most tender space, in which I was able to fall in love with so much of life, because so much of life was suddenly deemed worthy of attention.” - Paulina Ukrainets, January 2020 Surrealist


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