More Optional Workshops for 2016 will be posted soon.

Please note: You must be registered for the festival to register for an optional workshop.

Optional Workshops 2016

Finding Our Poems, Robert Hass

Participants are invited to bring a poem they have recently finished or are working on in the hope that we can read poems and talk about the work of finding our way to the poems we are after and the poems that are after us.

 The Stately Language of Poetry, Dorianne Laux

How can one write a poem without much “decoration,” fanfare or frill? No extra words, and every word counts. It’s difficult to write a simple poem, a poem of precision, accuracy, depth and breadth. One where each image is necessary to the whole, where the language both sings and means, makes and unmakes. We will look at the construction of a number of deceptively simple poems to uncover and discover how they work, how dependent they are on diction and word choice, and the gravitas they achieve through what I call “stately” language.  Come prepared to write, using model poems by Robert Hayden, Ruth Stone, Jack Gilbert, Walt Whitman, Lucille Clifton, Louise Gluck, Jane Hirshfield, Joseph Millar and James Wright.

Poetry, The Self, Society, and the Poem.  Benjamin Alire Sáenz

A poet does not exist in isolation but writes out of a necessity to hold a dialogue with the culture around him. No poet writes in a political/cultural vacuum. We righty speak of community and the responsibility a poet has to the communities he belongs to, communities that have a moral claim on the poet’s voice. As Denise Levertov would have it, we are all poets in the world and, if we hope to earn any kind of audience, we must speak to that world. This workshop will examine and explore the strategies at the poet’s disposal in order to broaden his/her aesthetic so that the practice of writing poetry goes way beyond the self. Poetry must not only look inward, it must look outward if it is to be a vibrant and essential literary genre.

Poetry in Three Dimensions, Maurice Manning

In this workshop we’ll learn how figurative language transforms a poem’s basic materials into a larger expression.  We’ll look at common figures, such as imagery and simile, but we’ll also encounter more sophisticated figures such as metaphor.  In great poems, of course, many figures are put to work, yet magically, they work together.  Whereas a poem is two-dimensional–words printed on a flat page–its impact can be three-dimensional.  In this workshop we’ll discover that figures of speech are the practical tools we have for writing beyond the page, into the world blooming above it.

Using Allegorical Figures & Celebrities, Sasha West

This workshop will look at two character-driven approaches for opening a shared space with a reader. Whether poets bring in celebrities as a gesture toward the real world and all of its glances, projections, and desires, or whether they take an idea and give it body in their work through an allegorical figure, characters change the field of a poem. What does each of these approaches yield? By looking at a handful of contemporary writers like Anne Carson, Kiki Petrosino, and Victoria Chang, we will explore how using known figures as characters can be a shortcut to world-building in a poem—and how they can open up new venues for discovery and surprise in our writing. Come ready to work on a draft of your own.

Windows that Open Inward, Dunya Mikhail

In her book On Photography, Susan Sontag says “Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality…One can’t possess reality, one can possess images–one can’t possess the present but one can possess the past.” Images, weather cell phone images or studio pictures or images from the memory, may prompt a response through writing poetry. Pablo Neruda had collaborated with photographer Milton Rogovin in “Windows that Open Inward.” Participants will read and examine one or two of the poems inspired by photographs or by paintings. Participants are invited to bring poems they have recently worked on, poems inspired by images they saw or stored in their memory, snapshot or painted or happened in their lives or the lives of others.

The Shape of Mrs Hill, Terrance Hayes

This workshop will explore “the shape of narrative” and “the shape of lyric” in poetry. In particular, we will discuss and then use B.H. Fairchild’s poem “Mrs. Hill” as a model for writing a poem that combines narrative and lyric shapes.

Deliberate Mistranslation, Rosemary Catacalos

Play is essential to the creative process, but sometimes we need to shake up our usual ways of thinking, feeling, writing and word choice. Formal constraints, from the villanelle to oulipo, can open the door to play and surprise, triggering ideas and directions that might not come otherwise. So this workshop will be a playdate! We will choose from a stack of previously sight unseen poems in a variety of languages other than English. (All in Roman characters.) After discussing some primary notions about translation, we will intuitively “translate” — and largely “mistranslate” — our chosen poem. The process is guaranteed to challenge and delight. The only requirement is that you not choose a poem in a language you know. Come play, and invent! (A shout-out to poet Phyllis Koestenbaum for the concept of poetic mistranslation.)