At the Loft: Fall 2019

Master Class.  The Beautiful Exchange: Advanced Poetry Workshop

9/18/19 – 12/11/19, Wednesdays, 6 p.m.—9 p.m.

“The reader,” claimed Whitman, “will always have his or her part to do, just as much as I have mine.” But what is the part, or role, of the poet as reader? As writers, what can we learn from reading poems and discovering what Edward Hirsch calls “the soul in action.” How can we take what we find there and use it to inform and deepen our own writing?  In looking closely at a poem we begin to see how its technical accomplishments help create our responses to it: to learn about the nature of poetry, then, we must go to the poem.

This advanced workshop is designed for those with a writing practice and a knowledge of poetic craft. Through weekly workshops, discussions (using The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration by Edward Hirsch), and an in-depth look at one poem a week by a master poet, we will explore the relationships between creativity, technique, and the genesis our own poems, exploring how the larger issues/concerns of our creative lives emerge/manifest through craft as well as subject. Take-home prompts/assignments will ensure you are engaging with new material.

Aspects of Poetic Craft: Generating New Work

10/5/19 and 10/12/19, Saturdays  10 a.m.–4 p.m.

On-the-spot writing prompts, especially those using other poems as springboards, often enable us to break through blocks and open up new paths of imaginative thought. This double-session class provides the prompts, the structure of a predetermined time and place to write, and a community of writers with whom you can share work and discuss your insights into poetic process.

Each day will involve embarking on two writing journeys to generate new material: one using poems by master poets (which we will discuss in detail in class) and one using a more open-ended approach. The idea is not to necessarily finish a poem, but to generate material without the crushing pressure of “completion,” following lines of thought, tangents and side paths, and entering the playful, surprising and exciting generative phase of poetic creation.

Each day, using poems by master poets, we will also explore one aspect of craft: the music of the line, the figurative image, voice and point of view, effective transitions, and how to “hear” what is really at the heart of the writing and so begin to revise and consciously direct your work towards a completed poem. No experience necessary.

At the Loft: Fall 2017


Singing about The Dark Times: Poetry as Protest and Resistance

9/19/17 – 12/12/17 | Tuesdays, 6:00—9:00 pm
(no class Thanksgiving week)

“In the dark times will there also be singing?” asks Bertolt Brecht in “Motto.” “Yes,” he answers, “there will be singing.  About the dark times.”  Speaking truth to power remains a crucial role for poets who, vigilant to the ways that political and media rhetoric silences, manipulates and discredits, write poems that talk back to the systems that harm and threaten.  The world of “resistance” poetry is vast, and during this class we will read and discuss a selection of poems and essays from South and North America, Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe; poems and essays that sing about/against political, social and cultural oppression; against war, atrocity, and the legacies of colonialism; against greed that puts profit before people or land; about the dangers of Empire and the terrifying possibility of planetary destruction. All these poets rail against complacency, using various techniques and devices to control and heighten their message. Using “model” poems as springboards, you will write and workshop your own poems of resistance employing formal devices that best carry your songs against The Dark Times. Class capped at twelve. Reading packet provided. Please buy Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now (Knopf: May 2017).

Iowa Summer Writing Festival July 2016

Join me in Iowa City at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival where I’ll be teaching:

Walking in the Field of Words: Using the Natural Landscape in Poems
Saturday, July 16 through Sunday, July 17, 2016

Barry Lopez claims that landscape is a “shaping force” and that our physical experience of the landscape is integral to the meaning of the landscape itself. Landscape, then, is internal as well as external, and there is an intimate relationship between the physical and emotional terrains. In this workshop, we will look at how modern European and American poets have used nature and the landscape, looking at a variety of poems by poets such as James Wright, Caitlin Cowan, Paul Celan, Pattiann Rogers, Elizabeth Bishop, Ken Smith, Wilfred Owen, Andrew Hudgins, Ted Hughes, Andrew Feld, Henry Reed, Lewis Hyde, Leslie Norris and Gillian Clarke. Most of these poets are not what one would call traditional “nature poets,” and they have been chosen specifically because of this fact: they illustrate how many (if not all) poets use the natural world as a way to reveal and complicate larger human, ethical and spiritual concerns. Through focused, in-class writing prompts, you will generate your own lyric and/or narrative poems that use nature and the natural world to carry and embody the poem’s concern/s. We will workshop these new poems as well as “nature” poems you bring from home. Poets at all levels and work at all stages welcome!

Iowa Summer Writing Festival 2016

Join me in Iowa City at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival for a week-long workshop:

Chasing the Poem: A No-Fear Boot Camp for Poets
Sunday July 17-Friday July 22

Are you suffering from writer’s block and needing a push to jump start your writing? Do you need the structure of a predetermined time and place in order to write? Do you work best in a small community of supportive, focused writers; or do you simply want the opportunity to generate new material, workshop new work and discuss the mysteries of the poetic process itself?

In this workshop, you will generate material for new poems through a series of writing prompts, and the idea is to hold your inner critic in check and keep the ideas flowing; to resist staying too wedded to the initial idea and to follow the tangents and side paths down which, as Robert Frost rightly claimed, the true poem often lies. Writing prompts will use poems by master poets as their starting points, and discussing these poems will enable us to explore various aspects of poetic craft and technique. As “homework,” you will be encouraged to work and revise your poems and bring drafts in for workshopping.

This workshop is designed  for beginning poets who are familiar with basic poetic terms and techniques.

Iowa Summer Writing Festival, July 2015

Join me at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival Sunday, July 12 through Friday, July 17, 2015, where I’ll be teaching:

Wrestling the Angel: Writing your Obsessions

The word “obsession” comes directly from the Latin verb obsidere meaning “to besiege or blockade,” and every poet knows what it is to be besieged by a recurring idea, image or object. Obsession is a passion, and a poet with a true obsession, claims Tony Hoagland, is never “mildly obsessed.” But where do our obsessions come from, and what larger aesthetic and philosophical functions might they serve? During this workshop will look at a selection of “obsessive” poems by master poets and, as “homework,” you will be encouraged to observe, eliminate, empty, seduce, argue with, banish, re-cast, and abandon your poetic obsessions through a variety of assignments, because paradoxically, it is often through contention, or through contemplating the absence of something, that we arrive at a fuller understanding of its necessity. Workshop time will be devoted to critiquing/discussing both appropriate work you bring from home and new work generated by the assignments; you will be encouraged to work and revise your poems as much as possible outside of the workshop and bring drafts in for critique. Poets of all levels are welcome but a working knowledge of basic poetic craft and technique would be helpful.