Poetry Workshops, Panels and Events

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 $200.


Panel #1:

"The Long Poem Now."

David J. Rothman, moderator, with Jane Satterfield and Fred Turner.

Thursday, July 19, 8:30 - 10:00 am, Taylor Hall 229

When Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate appeared in 1986 it was rightly hailed as the end of a long drought in the publication of book-length narrative poems. Since then, many substantial works have appeared, including Walcott's Omeros, Merwin's The Folding Cliffs, Fred Feirstein's Manhattan Carnival, Jennifer Reeser's The Lalaurie Horror, Dave Mason's Ludlow, Mark Jarman's Iris, Kate Daniels' Four Testimonies, Fred turner's three epics, and many more. Join a spirited discussion, including several of the authors named above, on the status of the long poem today, and the prospects for its future.

Panel #2:

"THINK Journal and the State of Small Literary Magazines."

Susan Spear, moderator, with Jodie Hollander and David J. Rothman.

Saturday, July 21, 8:30 - 10:00 am, Taylor Hall 229

THINK Journal is Western's international journal of poetry, criticism and reviews. Christine Yurick founded the journal in 2008, and it quickly achieved a national reputation for strong poetry and essays. The journal favors thoughtful attention to form and critical clarity. In Fall 2013, the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Western Colorado University acquired the journal. In keeping with its original mission, THINK publishes poems that emphasize craft as well as clear and compelling content. It also publishes book reviews and essays from the Critical Symposium on Poetry Criticism, which is held each July at Western as part of Writing the Rockies. The journal has published hundreds of leading American poets and critics. Join Managing Editor Susan Spear along with others who have appeared in the journal and have worked for other periodicals to discuss the mission of THINK and small press literary journals in America today.

Panel #3:

"Translating Homer Today."

Tyson Hausdoerffer, moderator, with Aarpon Poochigian and Fred Turner.

Sunday, July 22, 8:30 - 10:00 am, Taylor Hall 229

The history of English poetry is in part a history of translation, and in every generation poets and translators return again and again to Homer, with good reason. Tyson Hausdoerffer is working on a translation of The Iliad, and Aaron Poochigian has published translations of classical Greek widely. Along with Fred Turner, they will discuss the motivations, purposes, and challenges of this work with others who have also worked on Homer's masterpiece.


Workshop #1:

"The Poet and the Hawk."

Instructor: Alan J. Malnar.

Thursday, July 19, 10:15 am - 12:15 pm, Taylor Hall 229

In this workshop/presentation, Alan Malnar will discuss how Robinson Jeffers and other poets and writers have responded to raptors in their work. Emanating from the continent's end of the American West, Jeffers' poetic eagles hawks, falcons, vultures and other birds of prey symbolize the compelling presence and voice of nature, a pantheistic universe of beauty and splendor, death and destruction. It is the perilous bird of prey which calls forth the very essence and life-force of Jeffers himself, winging its way through his expansive body of narrative and lyrical verse, a poetry fundamentally anti-social in its vision and primitive in its basic instinctual surge.

Workshop #2:

"The Contemporary Ghazal."

Instructor: Julie Kane.

Saturday, July 21, 10:15 am - 12:15 pm, Taylor Hall 229

The ancient Persian poetic form called the ghazal has seemingly gone viral in recent years, attracting contemporary poets as varied as Jenna Le, Patricia Smith, and Paul Muldoon. Combining the freedom of the free verse line, the challenge of rhyme and refrain, and the fun of “signing” the final couplet, the form can jolt you out of your writing ruts and take your work in surprising new directions. In this workshop, we will learn the history, cultural context, and rules of the ghazal; read some examples by traditional and contemporary masters; and try our own hands at writing (and signing) one.

Workshop #3:

"The Art of the Book Review."

Instructor: Emily Grosholz.

Sunday, July 22, 10:15 am - 12:15 pm, Taylor Hall 229

Book reviews require specific skills. The process is the same, yet different, if one is reviewing a book of poems, an anthology of poems, a work of philosophy, a work of feminist history, a travel book, a novel, a collection of critical essays -- and, assuming the review is positive, the question is how a reviewer might persuade a reader that the book should be purchased and read. Join us as we consider this question, along with the delicate balance involved in crafting a thoughtful review that is mixed or negative as well.


All three-day intensive workshops meet Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, 7/19, 7/21 and 7/22, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $200 in addition to registration.


"Metrical Lines and Formal Wholes."

Instructor: James Matthew Wilson

Location: Taylor Hall 200

The early advocates of free verse contrasted the mechanical order of meter with the organic complexity of speech rhythm.  Such a contrast does not stand up to scrutiny precisely because verse has always treated meter as one element within the formal whole of a poem's rhythm.  In this workshop, we will scrutinize classic poems from the tradition and participants' poems to understand the infinite modulation of rhythm possible within a single line but also--above all--to master the ways in which sentence rhythm, length, and schemes (figures of speech) cooperate to give variety and excitement to verse, making the formal rhythmic whole of a poem much more than the sum of its metrical parts.


All three-day Critical Seminars meet Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, 7/19, 7/21 and 7/22, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $200 in addition to registration. 


“The Poetic Encounter: Experiencing the Forms, Learning the Craft. A Seminar for Teachers.”

Leaders: Dr. Robert Jackson and Dr. Robert Maranto

Location: Taylor Hall 113

The art of poetry has fallen on hard times in America. How did this happen over the past century, and how might we as classroom teachers counter it? Having misplaced the poetic way of knowing—the exploration of reality through metaphor and memory—we find ourselves dependent on streams of digitized information, without a vision of the greater whole. While (at least at the better schools) the high school English class may still provide the requisite introduction to rhyme, meter, and some standard forms (sonnet, villanelle, rondeau), poetic life pulses beneath the surface of inspired lines: recreating experience, emotion, and those encounters with beauty which are “a joy forever.”

This workshop will begin with a historical overview of the problem: why schools today cover far less poetry than in the past.  Then, we will consider how to recover poetic knowledge in your classroom, by exploring a handful of modern American poets (Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wilbur), whose work has influenced the popular imagination. We will also entertain a few poet-critics (Owen Barfield, John Hollander, Robert Pinsky, Dana Gioia) who provide interpretations of the beneficial effects and necessary paradoxes of poetry. With these trustworthy guides at hand, we will explore how an oral presentation of poetry, accompanied by analysis, memorization, and original composition, can reinvigorate the form, while at the same time emphasizing the structural features that distinguish poetry.

The three two-hour workshops will include:


Day 1 will provide an overview of the decline of poetry in schools, with an exploration of why and how this language art lost its place in the curriculum. “Before” and “after” snapshots of curriculum, poetry anthologies, and mainstream publications will help participants recognize the loss of poetry in modern American schools and society. Homework will include reading four poems and four essay-selections from the above authors.


Day 2 will include guided group recitations of four poems, followed by an exposition of the structural features, lexical variety, metaphoric imagery, and poetic devices that produce the overall effect. Taking inventory of the four poets’ distinctive approaches and common devices, participants will identify those features of greatest personal effect (what struck them as individuals) in preparation for their own analysis of select poems from the same four poets. Homework will include selecting and memorizing a poem, preparing a recitation and exposition, and anticipating the effects of the poem for the fellow-participants, thus serving as a guide and witness.


Working together in small groups (3-4), participants will recite and exposit a poem, roughly following the structure and guidelines established in Day 2. Group discussions will highlight the relative level of difficulty in teaching the poetic form in full—i.e., we will explore how to convey both the parts and the whole to students, with an emphasis on achieving the elusive Aha! moment for the class. Furthermore, participants will judge the relative merits of the structural, lexical, metaphoric, and poetic elements in their selections, in preparation for teaching secondary students with this approach. A concluding discussion will recapitulate the pedagogical features of classroom performance, analysis, synthesis, and imitation.