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Poetry Sessions 2019

CHRIS SALERNO  –  Writing the Contemporary Lyric Poem  

Currently, the “lyric” poem dominates mainstream American poetry. With its variety of forms and voices, the free verse lyric poem offers an enormous range of possibilities and stylistic choices. In this workshop we will look at several poems of our contemporary moment, consider their forebears, their styles, modes, and approaches. We’ll see what about our own contemporary experiences and tendencies offer us the promise of poetry, and then, through generative exercises, we’ll attend to style and method in drafts of our own work.

Christopher Salerno is the author of four books of poems and the editor of Saturnalia Books. His most recent collection is Sun & Urn, selected by Thomas Lux for the Georgia Poetry Prize and published by University of Georgia Press in early 2017. Previous books include ATM, (Georgetown Review Poetry Prize 2014), Minimum Heroic (Mississippi Review Poetry Prize 2010), and Whirligig (2006). He is a recipient of the Laurel Review Midwest Chapbook Prize, the Prairie Schooner Glenna Luschei Award, and a New Jersey State Council on the Arts fellowship. His poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, New England Review, The Academy of American Poets series, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Fence, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere. He is an Associate Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey where he teaches in the undergraduate and MFA writing programs. 

KIM ROBERTS – The Insectanuum: Small Life Forms in Poetry 

In this workshop, we will narrow our focus by taking a long look at some very small life forms. By writing about insects and spiders, we will practice the skills of close observation, describing with precision, and using specialized vocabulary in our poems. The workshop will begin with a reading of model poems by such master poets as Elizabeth Alexander, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Yusef Komunyakaa, Stanley Kunitz, Natasha Trethewey, and Walt Whitman. After a group discussion, we will have time in class to write first drafts of poems of our own, picking a single insect or spider on which to concentrate, and revealing something about that bug’s appearance or habits.

Kim Roberts is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). She co-edits the journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the web exhibit DC Writers’ Homes. Roberts has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, HumanitiesDC, and the DC Commission on the Arts, and has been a writer-in-residence at 18 artist colonies. Poems of hers have been featured in the Wick Poetry Center’s Traveling Stanzas Project, on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Project, and on podcasts sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts.

GERRY LAFEMINA  – The Chapbook  

In this session poet an editor Gerry LaFemina discusses a few strategies in putting a chapbook manuscript together. Sample chapbooks will be shared, pros and cons regarding chapbook lengths will be discussed, and the limitations, possibilities, and flexibility of the chapbook form will be highlighted. 

Gerry LaFemina’s latest book is the poetry collection The Story of Ash (Anhinga, 2018). He is also the author of a novel, a collection of short stories, and numerous award-winning collections of poetry, including The Parakeets of Brooklyn, Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist (prose poems), Vanishing Horizon, and Little Heretic. His collection of essays on poets and prosody, Palpable Magic, came out in 2015 from Stephen F Austin University Press and his textbook, Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically was released last year from Kendall Hunt. The former director of the Frostburg Center for Literary Arts, he teaches at Frostburg State University and serves as a Mentor in the MFA Program at Carlow University. 


NANCY MITCHELL – Make it Sound True: A Guide to Hijacking your Readers' Hearts 

Long before the proof of scientific evidence was in, musicians, poets and filmmakers have long intuited that of all our senses, sound is the expressway loop to the emotional center of the brain. Because early humans communicated via sound before the evolution of language, the resultant, logical part of the brain, the cortex, will immediately defer to the sound of words before engaging in the lengthy task of processing meaning—which was, and still is quite handy during emergencies, when there was/is no time to parse meaning. Because of this primal hard-wiring in the primitive, limbic part of our brains, the poetic device of sound is one of the most potent as it has instant access to the emotional center of the brain. Yet, it's often the most under-utilized and the least understood of all the tools at a writer's disposal. During this presentation we will examine three very different, widely anthologized poems to understand how these poets revealed the complexities of the human heart with near miraculous economy and simplicity through the poetic device of sound.

Nancy Mitchell is a 2012 Pushcart Prize winner and the author of three volumes of poetry, The Near Surround (Four Way Books, 2002) Grief Hut (Cervena Barva Press, 2009) and The Out-of-Body Shop (Plume Editions, 2018). She is co-editor of Plume Interviews 1 (MadHat Press, 2016). She leads "Writing for Wellness" workshops for those grieving the loss of loved ones, particularly to the opioid crisis. Mitchell teaches at Salisbury University in Maryland and serves as Associate Editor of Special Features for Plume Poetry.

CHRISTOPHER T.   GEORGE– Resilience, Trauma & Autobiographical Poetry 

There is the old adage "Write about what you know." Having written poetry for 50 years, Chris has come to the realization that many of the poems he has written are about life's experiences—various traumas that he has undergone that have made him a more resilient and better person. In 1976, he wrote, illustrated, and self-published, "Toxteth: An Autobiographical Poem", about his experiences of being born in Liverpool, England, his emigration to the United States with his parents at the age of 7, his return to the UK to live with his grandparents, and his eventual arrival in the United States to attend university in 1968. Two subsequent prizewinning poems, "Blizzard" and "The Day the Egrets Came Calling," concerned the death of his father. Works that he has written have been influenced by poets he's admired throughout his life: Dylan Thomas, T. S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath. This session will encourage those in attendance to use their own experiences in their writing, to study the works of the best modern poets and write in the modern idiom and not in outdated poetic styles.

Christopher T. George was born in Liverpool in 1948 and attended some of the same schools as the Beatles. He emigrated to the US in 1955 but returned to the UK in the Swinging Sixties. After return to US in 1968, he studied poetry composition with the late Sister Maura Eichner and Elliott Coleman. He is the former editor of Desert Moon Review and Loch Raven Review.

BHODI TIMS  – Mining the World of Science for Ideas & Language to Expand Your Poetry  

Much like ekphrasis, which uses visual art as a jump off point, science articles offer both unique phenomena and highly specific vocabulary to plumb to build the scaffolding of poetry. And the substructure of ideas provides space for more esoteric, even spiritual explorations that link questions about grand design with the granularity of a narrator’s voice. During the 60 minutes, the speaker will deconstruct two poems, highlight the challenges faced, and the opportunities found in this process. A hands-on exercise will immerse the audience during the final 20 minutes, working first with a partner, and having audience members share their results.

Dr. Michael Tims is Academic Director of Herbal Programs at Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has worked with herbal medicine as clinical herbalist, teacher and researcher; collaborated with the FDA to provide herbal toxicity assessments; and completed an NIH/NIST postdoctoral fellowship. Dr. Tims’ research interest explores the chemical ecology of medicinal plants and how humans adapt those chemicals to maintain resilience. His poetry manuscript, The Acoustic Property of Ancient People, was recently published by Finishing Line Press. The manuscript was a finalist in both the 12th Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize and the Brick House Books, New Poets Series.




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