Poetry Workshops, Panels and Events

To register for the full conference and enroll in a three-day workshop or three-day critical seminar, click on the button below. All keynote talks, panels, one-day workshops, readings and special events are included in general registration, as is attendance at the Poetry Symposium each afternoon. All three-day workshops and three-day critical seminars require an additional fee of $250.


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Poetry Panel #1: "Merciful Visions: Four Voices on Poetry’s Illuminations"

Thursday, July 23, 8:30 - 10:00 am. Location TBA.
Ned Balbo, Moderator; Sigman Byrd, Maryann Corbett, Randall Potts, Wendy Videlock.

In remarks on the achievements of John Ashbery and Elizabeth Bishop, published in Humanities: the magazine of the NEH, in 2004, Helen Vendler noted, “No scrutiny can exist without an angle of vision.” In poetry circles, the word “vision” is so commonly invoked that both poets and critics take its meaning as self-evident. But what exactly is poetic vision? Speaking broadly, vision is many things—what we envision and what we see in front of us; what we confront in dreams, revelations, or other transcendent experience; and what appears to those who are able to see far and perceive unexpected connections where others notice only chaos. In his appreciation of Randall Jarrell’s life and work, Robert Lowell praised the “merciful vision, his vision [that is, Jarrell’s], partial like all others, but an illumination of life.” This “merciful vision” and “illumination of life” are the focus here.

Every poet on this panel has faced the challenge of crafting a personal vision through language. Some write in form, some in free verse or with elements of both, but all are poets whose work is generally life-affirming and who face even the shadows with hope, intelligence, and compassion. In her Library of Congress lecture “The Instant of Knowing,” Josephine Jacobson noted, “In the process of naming things, the poet is caught at once in the problem of naming his own time.” Each of the poets on this panel has crafted a response to the contemporary moment, naming his or her own time with a language memorable and likely to be lasting. Yet each has also hit upon ways to look forward toward a time when the natural world and human life are equally respected, or inward, in the search to craft our lives toward a kinder purpose.

Each panelist will read a selection of poems and discuss his or her own “merciful vision.”

To see full biographies of the panelists, click each speaker's name below:

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Poetry Panel #2: "'Custodians of Memory': Poetry & Memoir"

Friday, July 24, 8:30 - 10:00 am. Location TBA.
Angela O'Donnell, Moderator; Michael D. Riley, Jane Satterfield, Marilyn Taylor.

“Writers are the custodians of memory, and that’s what you must become if you want to leave some kind of record of your life.”
–William Zinsser

“I had my existence.  I was there. / Me in place and the place in me.”
–Seamus Heaney

The drive to leave behind some record of one’s existence and the exclusively human impulse to make art inevitably combine and coalesce in fascinating ways. This urgent call to create manifests itself in a variety of forms and genres; this panel will devote itself to the consideration of two of those forms, poetry and memoir, and will explore the relationship between the two, both from a reader’s and from a practitioner’s perspective.

Some of the questions the panelists will engage: In what ways does poetry—especially poetry rooted in the life experience of the poet—function as a species of memoir? How does the process of writing a book of autobiographical poems differ from that of writing a prose memoir? What can poetry accomplish that a prose memoir cannot, and vice versa? What role does memory play in composing autobiographical poems and memoir, what is the writer’s responsibility to the specifics of what he/she remembers, and how can the writer ascertain the reliability of his/her memory? If, as William Zinnser argues, “writers are the custodians of memory,” what are our obligations to others who figure in our lives (and, therefore, in our poems and memoirs), as we find ourselves writing their histories as well as our own? What does reading and writing poetry & memoir have to teach us about the events of our lives, the mind’s (and heart’s) ability to recall and record those events, and the power (and limits) of language to re-imagine our history and dis-cover aspects of our mystery?

In addition to offering responses to some of these questions, the panelists will read selections from their own work.

To see full biographies of the panelists, click each speaker's name below:

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Poetry Panel #3: "Enplaced Poetics"

Saturday, July 25, 8:30 - 10:00 am. Location TBA.
Anna Lena Phillips, Moderator; Corinna McClanahan Schroeder, Lesley Wheeler.

Arguments that meter and form embody aspects of our lived experience, once dismissed as over-literalization, are being vindicated increasingly by scientific study. Music and poetry are processed by the same areas of the brain, and some prayers and poems seem to live in our memory even when access to other kinds of memory, even to regular speech, are gone. To consider the ways in which poetry is embodied in us leads very quickly to the places we inhabit. If poetry lives in the body, poetry lives where we live--in place, in landscape, in locales that we shape and that shape us. In a time when many of our beloved places are endangered, this relation becomes especially important to acknowledge and explore. Lesley Wheeler, in a forthcoming essay for Ecotone's "Poem in a Landscape" department, writes of iambic lines in Paula Meehan's "Death of a Field": "To know the field, to remember it, requires participating in its measures, sensing them bodily, perhaps through the soul as well as the sole." The poets on this panel will discuss the lifework of participating in the measures of the places they inhabit, noting both how they experience the relation between form and place in their own writing, and how they see such relations manifest in the work of other writers.

To see full biographies of the panelists, click each speaker's name below:

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All three-day intensive workshops meet Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7/23 - 7/25, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $250 in addition to registration. All locations TBA.

Poetry Intensive Workshop #1: "Dramatic Voice." Instructor: David Mason.

Robert Frost declared that "Writing is un-boring to the extent that it is dramatic." I would add that dramatic voice is precisely what sets the best poems apart from the crowd. In this workshop we will not only examine dramatic genres in poetry, but also that elusive quality, voice, in which the whole weight of a life, the whole weight of a history, can pulse in every phrase and every line. We will talk about technique at its deepest levels, when it becomes much more than technique. Students will be asked not only to study poems, but to write and perform them as well. Limited to 10 participants.

Dave Mason
David Mason’s books of poems include The Buried Houses (winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize), The Country I Remember (winner of the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award), and Arrivals. His verse novel, Ludlow, was published in 2007, and named best poetry book of the year by the Contemporary Poetry Review and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. It was also featured on the PBS News Hour. Author of a collection of essays, The Poetry of Life and the Life of Poetry, his memoir, News from the Village, appeared in 2010. A collection of essays, Two Minds of a Western Poet, followed in 2011. Mason has also co-edited several textbooks and anthologies, including Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry, Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism, Twentieth Century American Poetry, and Twentieth Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry. His poetry, prose and translations have appeared in such periodicals as The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry, Agenda, Modern Poetry in Translation, The New Criterion, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, The American Scholar, The Irish Times, and The Southern Review. Anthologies include Best American Poetry and others. He has also written the libretti for composer Lori Laitman’s opera of The Scarlet Letter and her oratorio, Vedem. He recently won the Thatcher Hoffman Smith Creativity in Motion Prize for the development of a new libretto based upon Ludlow. His one-act opera with composer Tom Cipullo, After Life, premiered in Seattle and San Francisco in 2015. In 2014-15 Mason published two new poetry collections: Sea Salt: Poems of a Decade and Davey McGravy: Tales in Verse to Be Read Aloud to Children and Adult Children. A former Fulbright Fellow to Greece, he served as Poet Laureate of Colorado from 2010 to 2014, and teaches at Colorado College. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Poetry Concentration in Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing.

NB: As of July 20, Dave Mason cannot attend the conference. He will be completing all manuscript review duties by Skype, and his paper in the Poetry Symposium will be read by Marilyn Taylor. Jan Schreiber and Debra Bruce will be leading his 3-day workshop, which will proceed as planned. If you have any questions, please contact David J. Rothman, Conference Director.

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Poetry Intensive Workshop #2: "Breaking the Pentameter: Alternatives to Traditional Meters in the Formal Verse Tradition." Instructor: Jan Schreiber.

[Postponed until 2016.]

As poets soon began to discover after the revolutionary fervor that seized the arts in the early twentieth century, free verse was not the only alternative to iambic rhythms, pentameter or otherwise. Syllabic meter, as demonstrated by Marianne Moore in the United States and Elizabeth Daryush in Britain, provided an intriguing (though not quite audible) form of versification, as did meters based on a definite number of stresses per line that nevertheless did not fall into any fixed foot-like pattern. This workshop is designed for poets looking to explore ways of supplementing the traditional repertoire of iambic meters while not abandoning meter altogether. We will look at the practice of poets like Elizabeth Bishop and Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as more recent poets like Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney, to see how their work deviates, at times, from traditional accentual-syllabic rhythms.

Class participants will work to train their ears on unorthodox verse lines and will have an opportunity to compose verse in non-traditional meters. There will also be an option to compare looser forms of iambic verse with stricter ones and to examine the effect of iambic lines that crop up in otherwise unmetered poems. Limited to 10 participants.

Jan Schreiber

Jan Schreiber is a poet and critic whose work has gained a wide audience with the publication of his recent book Sparring with the Sun, a collection of essays on twentieth-century poets and theories of poetry. A founder of Canto: Review of the Arts and a co-founder of the annual Symposium on Poetry Criticism at Western State Colorado University, he is also a visiting scholar at Brandeis University and a study group leader at the university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, with a special interest in Renaissance and modern verse. Previous books of poetry include Digressions, Wily Apparitions, Bell Buoys, and two books of translations: A Stroke upon the Sea and Sketch of a Serpent. His poems appear in both print and on-line anthologies. His newest collection is Peccadilloes.

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Poetry Intensive Workshop #3: From Muse to Muse: Poetry Inspired by Visual Art. Instructor: Meredith Bergmann.

This workshop will be an exploration of the ways works of art might inspire work in another medium, especially verse. We will study the history and tradition of ekphrastic writing, including a brief introduction to some of the best writing about art that is not poetry. We’ll consider different kinds of ekphrasis, including poems describing nonexistent works of art and poems employing forms that parallel the formal structures of an artwork. We’ll try taking advantage of the opportunities given us by contemporary art, with its focus on concept and process, to see how we poets try to discover or imagine an artist’s process of thought, play or even mischief. The workshop will include both in-class exercises and careful consideration (prosodic and conceptual) of at least one poem brought in by each member of the class. Limited to 10 participants.

Meredith Begmann

Meredith Bergmann is an award-winning sculptor whose works include a major public monument in Boston that portrays three writers. She is a published poet, poetry editor of the American Arts Quarterly, and has published art criticism and gallery reviews. Her poetry and essays about poetry have appeared in print or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Contemporary Poetry Review, Hudson Review, The New Criterion, The Raintown Review, The Same, The Tri Quarterly Review and the anthology Hot Sonnets; and in many journals online. Her sonnet “The Bird in the Bathroom” won an honorable mention from the Frost Farm Poetry Prize in 2013. Her chapbook “A Special Education” has just been published by EXOT Books. Meredith lives in New York City with her husband, a writer and director, and their son.

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Poetry Intensive Workshop #4: "What's Your Meter?" Instructor: Debra Bruce.

[Postponed until 2016.]

A well-published poet I know, who often and skillfully uses rhyme, recently confided in me that she thinks she’s “just not iambic.” Like many poets, she counts her syllables but isn’t “feeling the beat” as deeply as she wants to or thinks she should.  Nor has she ventured into other meters—anapests, dactyls, or trochees—those that poet and critic Annie Finch argues have been undervalued and marginalized. Can a poet “have” (or not have) a meter in the same way that we speak a poet “having a voice”? What is the relationship between tone and meter, diction and meter, and how can my poet friend write iambically and still sound the way she wants to? Must she use the word “perhaps,” or can she go with “maybe” in her iambic line? If we listen to the many poems she’s written, will we hear trochaic tendencies or anapestic ones? And what if we tease out these meters and exercise them into fully metrical poems? This is a workshop for the poet who wants to feel more at home in traditional meters. We will listen to a sampling of poems—past and present-- in various meters, do some metrical exercises, and listen to poems by poets in the class, tuning our ears to whatever meter, however hidden, might be drawn out and developed.

Debra Bruce
Debra Bruce’s latest book of poetry, Survivors’ Picnic, was published in 2012 by Word Press (Word Tech Editions).  She is the author of three previous collections, Pure Daughter and Sudden Hunger, both from the University of Arkansas Press, and What Wind Will Do, from Miami University Press. Her work has been published widely in journals, including The Atlantic, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, and others. Sudden Hunger received the Carl Sandburg Award from the Chicago Public Library, and her work has also received grants and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, the Poetry Society of America, and Poetry magazine.  Originally from Albany, New York, Debra lives in Chicago where she is a professor emeritus at Northeastern Illinois University.

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All Critical Seminars meet Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7/23 - 7/25, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $250 in addition to registration. All locations TBA.

Poetry Critical Seminar #1: "Poetry, Time and Space." Leader: Emily Grosholz.

In this seminar, we will investigate the relation of time and space to poetry in various ways. We will look back over the treatment of cosmologies (Platonic, Biblical, Atomist, Copernican, Newtonian) in the English tradition, in the work of Gower, Chaucer, Marlowe, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Pope, Dryden, Milton and the Romantics. Some of these poems involve dream visions, where the authorial voice travels up into the heavens (or climbs a mountain) and commands a synoptic view of earth and its surroundings, a strategy that in the 19th and 20th centuries is translated into a formal authorial stance where the earth is viewed from on high and time is contemplated outside of history. In the twentieth century, the speculations of scientific cosmology that grow out of general relativity and quantum mechanics (and the attempts of cosmologists to bring those two theories into some kind of rational relation) find their way into poems by the Modernists and later into poems by Donald Davie, Philip Larkin, Elizabeth Bishop, A. R. Ammons, Anne Stevenson, Charles Simic, Ruth Fainlight, Albert Goldbarth, Christian Bök, Diane Ackermann, Christopher Buckley and James Applewhite. The shape of a poem is also spatio-temporal, a fact that will lead us to think about periodicity as well as forms that are aperiodic. Though poems are recited or chanted and therefore thoroughly temporal, the formal devices that make them memorable also fold them back onto themselves, in a kind of layered periodicity, which (printed on the page) exhibits them as two dimensional shapes. And any memorable periodicity (phonic, metrical, grammatical, semantic)—because a poet must also avoid boredom—is always embodied as variations on a theme, or differences imposed upon sameness, so that aperiodicity also always surfaces in the midst of poetic patterns. This thought raises the further issue of how spatio-temporal poetic forms interact with meditations by the poet on the nature of space and time themselves, of beginnings and endings, of the great surround of stars and distances that frame our human life. Note: this seminar includes a field trip to the Gunnison Observatory on Thursday night, to view the first quarter moon, Saturn, the Globular Cluster in Hercules (between Vega and Arcturus), Ursa Major, Scorpio, Cygnus, Lyra, and Sagittarius. There will be a modest additional fee for this trip. Limited to 10 participants.

Emily Groshoz

Emily Grosholz is a poet and philosopher. She teaches philosophy of science and British and Irish poetry at the Pennsylvania State University, where she is also a member of the Center for Fundamental Theory / Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos; and she has been an advisory editor of The Hudson Review for thirty years. She is the author of seven books of poetry (including a recent volume of poems that play with mathematical ideas and vocabulary) and three books on philosophical topics. She has also edited or co-edited seven collections of essays, including most recently a special issue of Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics on “Time and Modern Cosmology,” with essays by Abhay Ashtekar, Jeremy Butterfield, Lee Smolin, John Norton, Julian Barbour and Gordon Fleming. She previously edited a special issue of Studia Leibnitiana on “Leibniz, Time and History,” and authored the article “Space and Time” in the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Early Modern Europe (2011). Recent critical essays on poems by Eleanor Wilner, W. S. Di Piero, Deborah Greger, Dylan Thomas, John Keats, Anne Stevenson, Weldon Kees, Yves Bonnefoy, and Olga Sedakova examine space and time both as structural features and as topics for meditation in their poetry.

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Poetry Critical Seminar #2: "Robinson Jeffers: Writing the Northern Coast of California." Leader: Peter Quigley.

[Postponed until 2016.]

Because Robinson Jeffers lived on the California coast and wrote so powerfully about it, the connections among his poetry, his sense of place, and his biography are more transparent and accessible than with most writers. He not only presents but also embodies an archetypal story of commitment to place, of personal and intellectual courage, and of bold dedication to craft and creativity.

In an early poem after having moved with his family to Carmel in 1915, Jeffers openly asks “How do we dare to live / In so great and tameless a land?” The mountains, the ocean, the long empty dunes, the open empty sky all profoundly affected Jeffers and “thought shrank before it,” and Jeffers was at first diminished by what he found around him. Even now the coastline of northern California can seem lonely, forbidding, intimidatingly large and beautiful. How does one even begin a writing project in such a sublime place? What foundations in language, or ideas, or sensibilities must one have to begin it? How did Jeffers find a way into the region, a way to write the region? And how can we do this in our own lives and homes? How might Jeffers’ vision affect our own creative and professional situations?

This seminar encourages participants not only to read Jeffers, but to consider his work and life as a point of departure to address questions in our own work as readers, writers, community members, and professors. Reading Jeffers gets one thinking about foundations, earnestness, and purpose in relation to our work and daily lives. Participants will be encouraged to consider not only Jeffers’ poetry, but also how his vision affects the foundations they have built or that they draw upon to write, to read, to teach, and to engage with their environment and world.

The seminar will also consider  a concept Jeffers considered essential to poetry: beauty. Jeffers’ position was quite clear: “beauty is the sole business of poetry.” Today, this assertion  become controversial. As Elaine Scarry recently suggested in On Beauty and Being Just, “The banishing of beauty from the humanities in the last two decades has been carried out by a set of political complaints against it.” The seminar will conclude by asking a) how has beauty become marginalized? b) how did Jeffers’ unique sense of beauty help create and sustain his unique writing project? How do you understand beauty as a context for writing, teaching, and living?

Each participant will have at least 30 minutes to make a presentation with feedback and discussion. For further information or to indicate your interest in joining the seminar, please email Peter Quigley at quigeyp@hawaii.edu. Limited to 10 participants.

Peter Quigley

Peter Quigley is Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs for the University of Hawaii System. Previously, he served as Interim Vice Chancellor at University of Hawaii, Manoa, Dean at Minnesota State University and Provost at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He also has held professorships in the US and Europe, and he was awarded two consecutive Fulbrights to the University of Bergen, Norway. Currently, in addition to his administrative position, he holds the position of Professor of English at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has written on environmental issues in American literature and in theory. He most recent book is called Housing the Environmental Imagination: Politics, Beauty and Refuge in American Nature Writing. He is currently editing a collection of articles dealing with beauty and aesthetics in ecocriticism.  Quigley has a BA and MA from California State University, Fullerton and a PhD from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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Poetry Critical Seminar #3: "From Syllable to Line." Leader: Natalie Gerber.

“It would do no harm…if both rime and meter, and, in the quantity words, both sense and sound, were less in the forefront of the mind than the syllable”  -- Charles Olson, “Projective Verse”

This seminar on verse prosody asks us to carefully reconsider that small particle of verse, the syllable, in conjunction with the larger unit of the verse line. As Charles Olson wrote in “Projective Verse,” the syllable is “the king and pin of versification, what rules and holds together the lines, the larger forms of a poem.” Yet many conversations about prosody often neglect to consider fully the contributions of the syllable to the sound, tempo, rhythm, melody—even the visual nature—of the line.

This conversation is an opportunity to reconsider all these roles and opportunities, both in our own poems and in others’. Papers might discuss the nature of the syllable and line in many ways: in terms of syllabics, rhymed and unrhymed; in terms of the counterpoint between syllable weight and stress; in terms of the changing nature of the English language (and its impact on vowel quality and syllables); in terms of visual length or form and the nature of the poem or line as a visual object; in terms of the internal structure of syllables and their roles in various sonic devices, like alliteration, assonance, and so forth; in terms of pacing and the full or reduced realization of syllables and vowels in different contexts; the history of debates on all these matters, in English and in other languages;  and more.

Participants will be invited to submit short papers (7-15 pages), ideally by July 1 but no later than July 15. Each of us is expected to read these materials (and, optionally, additional materials I will make available about the nature of syllables in English) prior to arrival so we can spend our time in person in a vigorous and respectful conversation.

Poets and critics at all levels are welcomed: the only two requirements are a solid background in prosody (traditional or linguistic) and a commitment to having a collegial conversation.

For further information or to indicate your interest in joining the seminar, please email Natalie Gerber at gerber@fredonia.edu. Limited to 10 participants.

Natalie Gerber

Natalie Gerber is Associate Professor of English at SUNY Fredonia. Her essays on modernist poetry and poetics have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Thinking Verse, Style, and Paideuma. She has organized poetics seminars and workshops at the West Chester Poetry Conferences, the Modernist Studies Association, and the Conference on College Composition and Communication. She is currently at work on A Poet’s Field Guide to the English Language.

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Poetry Critical Seminar #4: "Teaching Poetry." Leader: Dave Reynolds.

Billy Collins has written that poetry dies in the classroom. But why? What can we do to inspire students? How can we inspire fellow teachers? How do strong teachers enliven classrooms and schools with poetry? From the haiku to the epic, how do we read, share, and talk about the art? In this seminar for K12 teachers, each participant will have the opportunity to share ideas and strategies about how to encourage and teach students to read, study, memorize, perform, and write poetry. Each participant will have an opportunity of at least 30 minutes to lead a discussion and respond to these questions while sharing pedagogy, insights and tricks of the trade. Limited to 10 participants.

Dave Reynolds

Dave Reynolds chairs the English Department at Fountain Valley School, one of Colorado's preeminent independent boarding schools, in Colorado Springs. Born in Indiana, raised in Connecticut, colleged in Maine, mastered in Seattle, he has taught high school for more than 25 years.  He writes poetry and creative non-fiction, loves hiking and nordic skiing, and is a noted bon vivant.

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