Lessons from a Book Release + If August Turns 1 Year Old

Tomorrow is the 1st birthday of my book of poetry, IF AUGUST, which was released on May 19 last year. It has been a pleasure to share this work with others, and frankly, to have a book with such a handsome cover, thanks to the painter Richard Kooyman, whose work I have admired for many years. (His latest body of work is primarily figurative, inspired by time spent in Italy looking at ancient art. I love his project to revisit scenes from history, and “remove the patriarchal elements”. See some of that work here.)

Probably the sweetest thing about having this book in the world is reading the private notes I’ve received, usually from friends and acquaintances, who often want to know more about how I had the idea to write a book with so much silence between the lines. The author Elinor Nauen wrote to say the following, after I gave her a copy during an artist residency last spring:

“It’s like a 300 page novel in 100 words and I keep thinking about how inviting this book is — that the reader is invited in as a partner but without being expected to do all the work. A work of such generosity. I guess I continue to puzzle over the fact that there is so much in so little. I haven’t admired any new book as much in years, or to that effect. It’s true! It’s riveting! I cannot say more about the book than Holly does in the book!” — Elinor Nauen, author of My Marriage A-Z: A Big City Romance

I worked on If August in almost total isolation, so it feels really amazing when someone else receives the message that was sent. She got it.

I’ve learned a lot about what it means to put one’s work out into the world through the experience of launching this book. First of all, it’s vulnerable. I didn’t have particular expectations for how it should be received, but I do feel clumsy when it comes to connecting it with readers (what others might call promotion). I am so appreciative of the librarians and public libraries that have added it to their collection, which makes it easier for folks to find it, and for it to find the readers it was meant to find. I’ve learned the value of a short, handwritten card, in which someone has taken the time to share their impressions of what they’ve read. I cherish these, and have definitely written more such notes of my own this year, because I want the poets whose work has mattered to me, to know when that happens.

I’ve learned that, while I feared reading this work in public, because it is quiet and slow, and I wasn’t sure how it would land, people actually enjoy that quality—maybe it’s an antidote to all the noise in the rest of the world—and they tend to close their eyes, and seem to immerse easily into its atmosphere. I’ve learned how sweet it is to have an editor who believes in a book, and wants to give it a beautiful form, in every sense of what that means. Jill Peek at Alice Green & Co. took such care selecting the appropriate fonts, thinking about the layout (I have her to thank for the sensitive arrangement of the pages), thinking about the cover art and design, and working closely with the printer to make sure that the colors on the cover were as close to those on the original oil painting as possible.

I learned hard things, too, like the fact that if you are under the weather and not feeling very fascinating or extroverted when your book arrives, it’s going to more or less languish until you pull yourself together and start doing what indy authors have to do these days, which is to give it to reviewers, and set up events. I did neither, but I have another collection in progress, and that means I get another chance! As I tell my students, nothing is wasted. We do these things, often for the first time, and then we get to learn from our experience, whatever it was.

I learned that when I really believe in a piece of work, it feels really good to put it out there, without self-recrimination or hesitation. I’ve not always felt this way when my work was published, fearing, I suppose, that it could have been better, or should have been different. This time I finally got to feel what it means to have made the thing, and set it free, and know that it is done. It can exist in the world without me, as it is, and that is wonderful.

I learned that what I imagine will sometimes find its rightful form, and even when someone reads it alone, in the privacy of their home, they can enter that space, and receive what was meant to be shared.

Thanks for reading this post. I send you best wishes for your own books and writing projects.

I have a few books left in my private stash and you can get a signed copy while they last. (I’ll cover shipping costs if you use the promo code BOOKIVERSARY when you check out)

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How to Write Seven Poems By the End of May

Hello Friends!

I wanted to invite you to What We Do, an online, two-week experience designed to help you generate new drafts before your gardens and summer schedules get the best of your attention.

WHAT WE DO is the outcome of numerous conversations about the challenge of writing in the midst of “real life”, quiet gestation, and my observation that many of you find it catalyzing to have some external structure around your writing life, maybe especially if you work full time, have kids, or feel stuck in your current practice.


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Vernal Energy + Spring Offerings + Reasons to Look at the Sky

Hello and Happy Spring!

We just had another Nor’easter and yet I’ve felt a perceptible surge of vernal energy this last week or so, especially in the mornings, when I’ll wake with a slightly manic combination of intense focus and gathering power. After a period of mental and physical weariness related wholly to the gray and cold, it feels good to remember that a lighter, springy-ier version of myself is coming back (although, in all honestly, part of me wants to linger in the slowness and simplicity of my winter rhythm a while longer).

In an effort to balance these conflicting urges and messages, I’m trying to take little breaks throughout the day to step outside and look at the sky; to breathe in the first, faint notes of sap, and notice any signs of snowdrops or daffodil nodes. Yesterday I even saw a giant snowy owl fly out of a maple across the street. Yes, I’m ready to spend more time outdoors. And I want to wear less clothing (and maybe even go to bed without a hot water bottle to thaw the sheets).

This winter I continued to build dedicated “off-line” time into my schedule, an outgrowth of one of my winter courses, A Secret Life, where I aim to cultivate that part of myself—and others—that benefits when given more space and more quiet to think and study and create, which is more possible when we spend less time in public and online. It felt like the right way to start off a new year, and has made everything feel more spacious, and freer still, of external pressures (and distractions).

Of course, in a very practical sense, I just don’t think as well, and my writing suffers, and I can’t be the friend/parent/partner/teacher I aspire to be, when I’m over-saturated with too much information and imagery. This is not unrelated to poet/publisher Ken Mikolowski’s injunction: You are what you art.

Are you just as sensitive to sensory overload as I am? Do you watch your media diet or wonder what these screens are doing to our brains, eyes, imaginations, and love stories? What are your tools of resistance?

The thing is, the demands of modern life lead steadily toward  different forms of disconnection and disembodiment. Unless we resist, even in small ways, there’s no way we aren’t going to pay a price, whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or otherwise, and will continue to do so into the future.

Writing or even reading poetry carves space for a different quality of mind and way of being in the world.

With all of this in mind, I’m experimenting with new ways to bring more embodiment, and more spaciousness, to my writing classes this year, and I’m taking it on faith that other readers and writers will want to explore this, too. I’d be so curious to know if you share any of the same concerns.

Hanging out at my local botanical garden, especially in the Aromatics Room, has provided consistent pleasure during a season of thinking/writing/sitting in which I’ve continued to write new poems for my Lost Lexicon and polish the contents of a non-fiction project. It’s everything I need, all at once: soft air, the color green, amazing scents, the spring bulb show, crazy orchids and orange blossoms, oh, the orange blossoms. My body softens softens softens as soon as I walk through the doors. Seriously: This is one of my most reliable winter survival strategies.

I have a number of workshops and online classes coming up in April. The spring session of Poetry Immersion (online) begins in two weeks. I really love teaching this course because it allows for a depth of engagement that’s not possible in shorter offerings, and I’ve finally found an online teaching platform that I love.Writers have used this time to bring structure and accountability to their independent writing practice, while others enroll in anticipation of joining one of my manuscript incubators, later in the year. You can expect to read life-changing texts (Audre Lorde essays, for instance) and write at least new 8 poems during the course.

Weekly Topics include 

A Poet in the World

Radical Presence


In the Way of Art

More Human

Natural Idiom

Poetry as Transformation

Not Letting Go of the Thread

In addition to the coursework, which asks you to commit 2-3 hours per week to your writing and reading, I offer private tutorials, live video workshops, and feedback on a final portfolio. Lots more info on my website or just click to enroll via this link. Join us as consider what it might mean to be more human in relation to our poetry.
April 2018 

These In-person workshops and appearances are coming up soon. Please help me plan by pre-registering.

Poetry Writing Intensive: Birthing a Bigger Poem
April 9-10, 2018
Interlochen College of Creative Arts, Michigan

Revision Workshop for Poets
April 11, 2018
Interlochen College of Creative Arts, Michigan

*K-12 Educators: Earn State of Michigan SCECH clock hours by attending either or both of these workshops.


Words on Fire: Hot Lead and Letterpress for Writers
April 15, 2018
at Big Wheel Press, Easthampton, Massachusetts.


Do you live in Seattle? I’ll be teaching a workshop, Working in a Series, at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art on April 24. The info isn’t on their website yet, but this will be a rich, full day poetry intensive inspired, in part, by their book arts collection, and by my determination to help poets start thinking about how a single idea can be multiplied to great effect.

I’m also reading with a fantastic line-up of other Broken Broadside poets at the CORE Gallery on April 25th as part of an exhibit called ON EDGE, featuring the work of artist, printer and publisher, Myrna Keliher, of Expedition Press.

I’d love to see you at any of these live events.

I’ll send this letterpress print of my poem, “And Once,” from my chapbook, Pilgrim, to anyone who enrolls in an online class or purchases one of my books by the end of March. I cast the type in hot lead and printed it by hand on 100% post-consumer Gmund paper from Germany. (You can also join me in Easthampton, MA to print your own poem or text! See above.)Thanks for reading this far, staying in touch, and supporting my work, in all the ways that you do.

I send you my best wishes for your writing and everything else you’re cultivating this spring.

With Heart,


It is a function of poetry to locate
those zones inside us that would
be free and declare them so.

—C.D. Wright

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I’m Coming to Seattle + Broken Broadsides + Dear Reader, A query . . .

Poetry reading featuring Leanne Dunic, Elaina Ellis, Amber Flame, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, Shin Yu Pai, and Holly Wren Spaulding. Gather round, mill about, and listen to these poets amidst an installation of Expedition Press’ Broken Broadside series and abstract paintings influenced by the authors and other texts.

This event will double as a closing party for the two April exhibitions at Core: Myrna Keliher’s “On Edge” and Sara Everett’s “Mending Place.” You can catch the opening reception for these exhibits on April 5, 6-9pm, during the Pioneer Square First Thursday Artwalk.

Free and open to the public. Expect snacks, drinks, and standing room only with strong words in print, paint, and voice. Come, see, listen!

Dear Reader, Do you live in Seattle? I’d love to teach a short, generative poetry workshop while I am in town. It’s one of my favorite things to do and I’ll feel best about making this long trip if I can be of service while I’m in town for this reading.

I’m looking for suitable venues or enthusiastic hosts, and promise a rich experience for aspiring and committed writers, in return for any ideas or help you might be able to offer. Get in touch through my contact page if you have ideas, or even if you just want get on a list of interested participants. The date would be April 24th.


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Moon Poem + 21 Poems in March

Last year I started making postcards to send to the writers, readers and students on my mailing list. I’ve always loved receiving picture postcards and letters, and am fortunate enough to have many friends who share my passion for sending personal correspondence through the actual mail. Some even use vintage stamps. My latest card was sent a week or so ago, and inspired by the fact that we’ll enjoy two full moons during the month of March. Here it is in case you didn’t receive one.


March is also when I host the 21 Day Poetry Challenge. This all-level generative course is designed to support a daily, doable writing practice and will guide you through 21+ different ways to do that, while encouraging you to enjoy yourself in the process.

We learn about the craft of poetry as we look at some of my favorite contemporary poems, often borrowing writing strategies from our reading. Each session I create brand new content. For you! Some participants have done this course at least a dozen times already. Books have been written.

Lessons are delivered to your inbox each morning at 6 AM EST. I encourage you to write along in real time with everyone else, but I know plenty of writers who do the readings and use the prompts at their own pace, too. They never expire.

We begin March 1 and finish on the Vernal Equinox. There’s more info and testimonials among my offerings, and you can enroll here.


March 21 Day Poetry Challenge

March 1-21, 2018.


*Includes a live workshop via video on March 20 and feedback on work in progress.


Here’s a postcard from early winter. I only a made a few of these, so many folks didn’t receive one.

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2018 Offerings w/Holly Wren Spaulding & Poetry Forge

w/Holly Wren Spaulding
& Poetry Forge

*I am still finalizing dates and details for the second half of the year.


The Practice of Poetry
Practice takes practice. Let’s explore what that means.
February 5-March 4, 2018
*Offered online through Interlochen College of Creative Arts. Enroll here.

What We Do
At-home writing regimen for poets who want to write more
February 9-28, 2018
$125. Enroll here.

21 day poetry challenge
March 1-21, 2018
*Also offered in June, September and December, with all new content each time.
$145. Enroll here.

Poetry Immersion: Deeper Practice
Online apprenticeship for committed poets
April 6-May 27, 2018
$395. Enroll here.

Also in the works: An online summer camp for poets, July 2-30, 2018. Details to follow.


Poetry Writing Intensive: Birthing a Bigger Poem
Explore the process of turning a small idea or text into something more ambitious
April 9-10, 2018
Interlochen, MI.
$195. Enroll here.

Re-vision Workshop for Poets
What to do with all these drafts? You’ll learn my favorite strategies for finding the poem inside the poem.
April 11, 2018
Interlochen, MI
$85. Enroll here.

Small Pages Retreat
half-day guided writing & collage w/ artist Carol C. Spaulding
June and August: Dates TBD
Glen Lake, Michigan
$175. Details to follow.

Poetry as Integrative Medicine
Because the right words, in the right order, are medicine. Because for millennia our peoples have sung, chanted and told stories in verse to make meaning, mend, grow stronger, prevail.
International Affairs Conference
July 21-28, 2018
Star Island, New Hampshire. More info.


Also in the works: Poetry Manuscript incubator in Montana in October. Details to follow.


Broken Broadsides 
Core Gallery, Seattle
hosted by Expedition Press
April 25, 7:00 pm








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New Online Course: The Practice of Poetry

I’m happy to announce that I will teach a brand new online course for Interlochen Center for the Arts called The Practice of Poetry. A year in the making, this four-week generative session will focus on the fundamentals of creative practice as it relates to the art and craft of poetry.

We will cover the following topics during our time together:

How to Begin

How to Keep Going

How to Navigate Difficulty

How to Revise Your Work in Progress.

The course includes videos, readings, inspiring writing prompts, and thoughtful feedback on a final portfolio (optional). We’ll also meet for a live workshop via Zoom.

Join us and write with me in February!  Enrollment is open until we reach capacity.

We begin February 5, 2018.


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Thresholds and Provocations: How to End the Year

I know teachers who teach the same poems, and use the same assignments, year after year. I’ve learned from these teachers, and occasionally envied their enduring commitment to a few, carefully chosen texts, in which they are deeply fluent.

And yet I also resist this way of working myself, mainly because I am happiest and most energized when I teach to my own interests, which continue to evolve as I uncover and pursue new areas of inquiry in my personal creative work.

Furthermore, in order to balance the years of reading so many more male writers, than female, much less poets of color—the outcome of having mainly white male teachers during my formative years—I am actively trying to give myself a broader education, and this translates into what I want to teach, which continues to place me in the position of writing new curricula.


For the last ten years I’ve shared what I’ve found during these reading excursions through my workshops, but especially my online 21 Day Poetry Challenge, which provides four opportunities each year for me to share my current enthusiasms, edges and questions. If I’m learning and writing alongside my students, I believe they will perceive my presence in a helpful way, as together we birth new work within a concentrated period of time.

Time again, writers tell that they feel so much more focused and engaged than when they write on their own, because the frisson of our collective effort empowers all of us, no matter how far apart we may live geographically. (more…)

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Poetry as Integrative Medicine

Because we have scattered and poetry helps us gather pieces into wholes. Because the right words, in the right order, heal. Because a word after a word after a word is power. (Margaret Atwood)

Because for millennia our peoples have sung, chanted and told stories to make meaning, mend, grow stronger, prevail.


This ongoing workshop series is for writers and aspiring writers, as well as healers, caregivers, teachers, spiritual leaders and anyone else wanting to integrate poetry into their personal or professional practice.


Each session includes the presentation of a poem (s) by a featured poet, followed by an appreciation and discussion of the text, and opportunity to generate your own language using a writing provocation. We’ll converse about the process, but offer no formal critique. Our intention is to illuminate the healing properties of poetry, and help you make your own poetic medicine.



Location: Thrive! Integrative Wellness

44 Maple Street, Florence

(Next to Cycle Pottery. Look for the red doors.)


Fall 2017 Schedule:

We’ll meet on Mondays, from 5-6pm.

October 30: The Poetic Medicine of Nayyirah Waheed

November 6: The Poetic Medicine of Warsan Shire

 November 13: The Poetic Medicine of Ocean Vuong 

November 20: The Poetic Medicine of Javier Zamora


Tea and handouts of all readings will be provided. Please bring a notebook and writing utensil. No previous experience required. All are welcome.

$120* for all four classes

$30* per class


Registration is not required, but much appreciated as it allows us to plan well. If you would like to sign up for this series, please enroll via this link.


We also offer a sliding scale for those of limited means*: $10-30 per class. No one turned away.

*What does “Limited Means” mean?

We offer a sliding scale payment option for those of low or fixed income. If you are able to pay the full fee, it goes as a long way to helping support the space, my teaching, and the other staff who make this workshop series possible. It is also a way of making sure this sort of gathering can continue to exist in this community. Running this series in this way is an experiment; if it proves sustainable, we will continue to offer this option in the future. Your integrity is appreciated.


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Some Short Poems That I Have Loved

I want to share some of the short poems that have inspired me, and helped me think about what can be accomplished in just a few lines of well-chosen text. For example, here’s an untitled modern haiku by Michael Ketchek:

I whisper to my sleeping son
watching the news—
I’m sorry

And here’s one from my college poetry professor, Ken Mikolowski:

Why I Am Not A New York Poet


I also really love this one, from Yoko Ono’s book Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings.

I’ve read and loved these little gems for years and continue to learn about how small things can open into such big spaces. This personal study has certainly influenced the direction of my writing in fairly radical ways, and if you’re trying to figure out how to say more with less, or if you’re pondering the role of silence in poem; if you’re interested in suggestion as much as what’s made explicit, I encourage you to spend more time with short poems. Here’s one by Jim Moore that has been on my mind this year:

These examples are just a fraction of what we’ll read and talk about during my upcoming Poetry Intensive on Short Poems at Interlochen College of Creative Arts, October 16-17. You can participate in this generative workshop for adults as a commuter, or make it into a retreat and stay on campus, where you can focus on your writing during one of the most beautiful times of year in northern Michigan.

Here’s a two line poem from a recent limited edition chapbook by Jeffrey Schwaner, printed and bound by St. Brigit’s Press:

If this is something that interests you, I’d encourage you to register as soon as possible—it really helps me to plan my travel confidently.

Last year this course filled up and the evaluations focused on how inspiring it was to learn how to write with such brevity. Many also remarked on how the diverse readings opened them to possibilities in their own work not previously considered.

For my part, I really loved sharing my personal anthology of poems of fourteen lines or less, and as a collective, exploring strategies for writing in this mode. We also talked about finding “the poem inside the poem”, which is a great way to rescue a sprawling or failed poem, and making it into something small and beautiful.

Poetry Writing Intensive: Short Poems
October 16-17, 2017
Interlochen, Michigan

In addition to craft lectures, generative exercises, structured writing time, and supportive feedback, you’ll have access to evening concerts, art galleries, an exceptional library, and the conviviality of other writers. Please join us!

My Best,


I found this last poem in a hand-set letterpress chapbook by Anne Waldman entitled Countries, in the collection of the Bonisteel Library on the Interlochen campus.

P.S. Did you know that K-12 Educators can earn 7 State of Michigan SCECH clock hours by attending this workshop? Tell your friends!

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poetry matters. join the conversation.

join my community


poetry matters. join the conversation.

join my community