NEW!!!  We’ve added this wonderful workshop in the Friday afternoon slot.

Building a Wilderness: Writing as an Organic Process (Poetry), Joe Ahearn

The experience of wilderness draws us out of ourselves toward an encounter with what the Romantics called the Sublime. Although modernist and post-modernist ideas have changed our vocabulary, the experience of wilderness is still a primary modality for deep encounters with both the self and the world, and provides important ideas and models for our writing practice. More importantly, the experience of wilderness enables us to find new sources of material and forms of expression that can help us write better poems. This workshop will focus on alternative methods for conceiving, composing, and revising our poems with added wildness and depth. We’ll each write and revise new material during the course of this workshop.

Joe Ahearn is the author of Five Fictions and synthetic. His poetry, fiction, translations, criticism and essays have been widely published, both in this country and abroad. He earned his M.F.A. at the University of Texas, where he was a  Fellow at the Michener Center for Writers and served on the editorial board for Bat City Review. He teaches writing courses in the M.F.A. program at Western Connecticut State University and in the Early College Start Program at Austin Community College.

Please note:  As of February 5, 2016, there are limited seats available in some of the workshops that are showing “sold-out” online.  You can register for those workshops by calling Vickie Hillman at Festival Hill, 979-249-3129.

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

Optional manuscript (10-pages) consultations will be offered by Sasha West and William Wenthe.

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.

Crossing Genres, William Wenthe

Poems on similar subjects, or similar forms, come to be identified as genres, or “kinds” of poems—love poem, elegy; sonnet, sestina and so forth. A new poem in an established genre will depend largely on two things: how it follows the genre, and how it pushes against the genre.   In this workshop, we’re going to explore writing poems that use genres outside the realm of poetry. We’ll look at poems that imitate forms we encounter outside of poetic genres—recipes, jokes, indexes, dictionary entries, a rewinding film, and so on—but in ways that aren’t just gimmicky.   (And along the way, we’ll consider how so many of the poems we write are, without realizing it, imitations of some other form). Bring your own poems—and think about genres you’re familiar with outside the realm of poetry.   For example, in my own case, I immediately think of field guides to birds.

 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 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, and 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.)

The Poetry of Place: Capturing the Culture of Landscape, Carmen Tafolla

There are places that just capture the soul and won’t let go.

There are places where the magic seeps up from the dirt and fills our nostrils, flows through every vein, and conquers the heart.

How do you express that in poetry? How do you capture the spiritual culture of place and the oral culture that speaks from the trees, the clouds, the stones, the community? How do you learn to listen to the landscape?

Utilizing a sampling of poems and photographs from different landscapes and sites, we will try to identify those places that for each of us, speak a special spirit and claim a clear part of our own souls. Then, utilizing SEVEN senses (yup!) we will begin the creation of poems of place, and share those lines that best reach an accurate expression of the voices that emanate from the places that haunt our hearts most.