Poetry as Integrative Medicine at Interlochen In October

I wanted to let you know about a new workshop that I’ll be teaching in northern Michigan next month: Poetry as Integrative Medicine

The right words, in the right order, can be medicine.

For millennia, humans have sung, chanted and told stories in verse to heal, make meaning, grow stronger and prevail.

Next month I will welcome readers and writers, as well as healers, caregivers, teachers, spiritual leaders and anyone else wanting to integrate poetry into their personal or professional practice, for this three day intensive beside Green Lake.

Together, we’ll read and discuss a selection of poems that illuminate the healing powers and properties of poetry. We will look at how poetry can help to “order the chaos,” enact transformation and show us the way toward a more integrated existence.

We’ll also use a range of improvisational writing exercises to generate some of our own language, which may lead you toward a poem, letter, prayer, elegy, sermon, essay or spell. In a much more basic sense, it will feel good. It will connect you to yourself and remind you of the role of the imagination, in personal and collective healing. No previous experience is required.

Poetry as Integrative Medicine
October 9-11, 2018
Interlochen College of Creative Arts

Register Now

This is the last live workshop I’ll offer in Michigan this year. As you may know, I love most of all to gather in real life, especially beside a lake in the Michigan woods during peak color season. I hope you’ll consider joining me. Maybe you even have a friend or colleague who would want to accompany you?


*K-12 Educators: Earn 14 State of Michigan SCECH clock hours by attending this workshop. More details here.
*Professors: Many institutions offer professional development funds. Use yours to take a writing workshop with me.


“I don’t believe that poetry can save the world. I do believe that the forces in us wish to share something of our experience by turning into something and giving it to somebody: that is poetry. That is some kind of saving thing, and as far as my life is concerned, poetry has saved me time and again.” Muriel Rukeyser

An outtake from filming an online course, The Practice of Poetry, at Interlochen last October.

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Busyness, careerism, capitalism, and materialism: What do they have to do with poetry? (Notes to self)

Busyness, careerism, capitalism, and materialism: What do these things have to do with poetry?

Short answer: Nothing. These things are at cross purposes with poetry.

The other true answer is that poets have to eventually deal with all of these things in the course of doing life. This is a battle most of us will wage on a daily basis (whether we are poets or not), especially when poetry is a synonym for what really matters in a life.

I’ve navigated all of these encroachments, and when I sat down to write some notes in response to this conundrum, soon realized that what I have to say won’t fit into a newsletter format. However, for now I wanted to share a few thoughts related to how we keep our imaginations intact amidst these challenges.

For one thing, as I’ve often told my students, we are not just talking about how to write poems over here. We are exploring something far more urgent and necessary which has to do with the wholeness of who we are; where we live; how this particular moment in history feels to us; and how to glean from, and interpret life and experience through our art, maybe even do something transformative in the process. Right?

(I loved teaching Morning Manifestos at the 2018 Beargrass Writers Retreat.)

In my teaching, I invite us to not forsake our wider world; slow down enough to notice whatever wants to be heard, seen, felt and voiced. Encourage us to be more attentive to our actual lives, and interpret the messages about what serves our greater purpose as poets in the world.

We read and write and observe and reflect and work with language as we become more human; train our sensitivity and tune-in to what’s really happening inside and all around us; we listen to the questions. We let them change us. We change.

We root out faulty ideas (like the myth of the solitary genious) and undermining habits (like screen addiction), as well as public masks (like a CV focused on outward accomplishments), status symbols, dishonest speech, other *things* that get in the way of who we most want to be the world. What we most want to make.

We write as a way of discovering new truths and actual facts. As a way of finding a better place to dwell. We make spaces outside of the mainstream and well away from the values that global capitalism would have us hitch our body/minds to. We trust our authority and become more free as we embody this in art and life.

For me, at least, the practice of poetry also offers an ongoing engagement with matters of ethics and morality, and what it means, in practice, to be a citizen, a person of conscience, a decent human in a time when this seems most urgent of all. Poetry is where I work out all of the things that finally matter to me, and it’s where and how I find folks to do that with. Folks like you?

Lately I’m excited about exploring what feeds the imagination—what books, practices, habits, experiences, attitudes, and so on—as well as what threatens the imagination.

Becoming too busy; concerning oneself primarily with reputation and recognition; losing track of life itself while pursuing a career; consuming out of the impulse to fulfill wants and desires that actually require a more sensitive response; and participating in our economy without having a cogent critique, all put the human imagination and its creations at risk, because each of these familiar and ubiquitous forces tend to menace that secret, inner, magical, amazing part of each of us, where imagination dwells. This fact threatens not only those who make art, and not just our literature and our culture, but it risks our future.

What do you do to resist the ways that everyday forces put you (and all of us) at risk? [You might make a list of the ways you are living your values in a daily way. When I stay in touch with the embodiment of my convictions, it seems to protect me from despair. Usually.)

This month I’ve been reading Walt Whitman, Alice Oswald and Elena Ferrante, and between those three, I’ve had some really good company for some of these conversations, but as the summer wanes, I’m looking forward to teaching and talking with you again, too.

During that workshop a couple of weeks back, one of the participants asked about how to foster imagination. I had been talking about imagination as an essential and endangered birthright. How else to explain some of the challenges we face, collectively? I got to talking about what not to do if you want to take care of your imagination, which might be a subject for another time, although I’ll be picking up this theme in the upcoming session of the 21 Day Poetry Challenge. What do you not do, because you want to preserve the quality of your mind?


Jim Harrison. One of my earliest Tutelary Spirits. This poem is from ‘Dead Man’s Float’


Anyway, last year at this time I gave a talk entitled “Resisting the War Against the Imagination,” inspired by a poem by Diane di Prima called “Rant”, in which I argued that as a society and as a human culture, we are currently in a battle of imaginations:

The Benevolent Imagination v. The Malevolent Imagination.

Who will win this battle?
Will the solar arrays and healers and garlic farmers win?
Will the gun lobby and fracking and plastic bags win?
Will education win? Will consumerism win?
Will overwork and speed and distraction and swiping-left win?
What about the water, datura blossoms, potlucks and holding hands and stories about the land and how it’s all connected? What about stories and tenderness and the seasons?

Di Prima writes:

I have just realized that the stakes are myself

I have no other

ransom money, nothing to break or barter but my life


We need all strong, thoughtful, humane, capacious, justice-seeking, resilient and creative minds on deck if the better imaginations are going to prevail, and if the right use of imagination will succeed against the cynical, profiteering, self-serving imaginations. Our survival depends on it.

I’ve chosen the path of the teacher as my means to contribute what I can to a better possible world. I’ve chosen many things, but my teaching is the most public way I exist in the world. Within this context, I’m wondering to myself, and talking to other writers about poetry as a practice in both self and collective liberation. We can do this alone, and we do it together, and I’m creating space for both, which is a way of summoning and multiplying power at a very local scale. Does this matter? I believe it does. The poet knows that everything matters. What we consume, where we spend our time, who we associate with, and what we give our attention to.

In my workshops and online classes we make room to talk about what feeds the imagination—what books, practices, habits, experiences, attitudes, and so on—and we talk about what undermines the imagination, as well. Of course we also do the other things you might expect in a class called Poetry Immersion or 21 Day Poetry Challenge, including reading great poems, writing a lot, experimenting, and exploring our craft.

Becoming too busy; concerning oneself primarily with reputation and recognition; losing track of life itself while pursuing a career; consuming out of the impulse to fulfill wants and desires that actually need a deeper response; and participating in our economy without having a cogent critique, all put the human imagination and its creations at risk, because each of these familiar and ubiquitous forces undermine that secret, inner, magical, amazing part of us, where imagination lives, and therefore undermines the poets among us, as well as our poetry. I will even say that all of this undermines our future. I believe that too. Do you?

Let’s think about this together, and let’s do something clear and meaningful to resist the ways that everyday forces and threats put all of us at risk.

Through my work with Poetry Forge, I am making more space to pursue poetry as an art form that can also bring about profound internal change that will reverberate into the other parts of our lives, and beyond. What do you think? Do any of these thoughts connect with your present concerns or personal goals? It’s a work in progress, and always will be. I appreciate that you have stuck with me and read this far.

Thanks for being out there, wherever you are.

Click the image to join the Challenge in September.


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Sabbaticals, Lessons, and New Sessions

I’ve recently completed my mini-sabbatical experiment and I wanted to share a bit of what I learned in the process.

Before I took the time and made the space, before I told anyone, my wish to write all last month was a thought experiment. I lived with this idea secretly before I committed. I noticed how it made me feel to imagine time set aside to work on the two manuscripts I have in progress. And I noticed how I was hesitating to take on clients and teach anything online, despite plans to do so. I listened to those messages and then I made it official.

In July I claimed 20 straight days for myself (and a few more while teaching The Practice of Poetry on Star Island last week), and while I didn’t accomplish everything I’d hoped to, I was happy every single day. I wrestled with high expectations, and the usual challenge of simply writing well, but I had the space to wrestle. The space to see what happened if I stuck with it. The space to recuperate when I felt especially worn out from the work. And I had the space to think and problem solve, which I needed to be able to do in a sustained way.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the knowledge I gathered from my time away:

It feels not only good, but necessary to disappear.

Email auto-reply is my ally.

Find a boundary between creative work and life. I chose sitting in a river at the end of each day.

Do something with your hands instead of your brain for a bit. Blueberry picking!

Help friends and family give you space by sharing intentions with them. (I’m blessed with a partner who is also a writer, so we both went deep last month. It’s a monkish life and we love it as only two people whose favorite things are to read and write, do.)

Whenever possible, try to use real world tools instead of electronics: the tactile, the analog, the groundedness of things I can touch instead of the virtual.

To finish a new poem is the best feeling, no matter what happens to it next. I don’t submit my work very often, but the new “Discovery” tool on Submishmash is a convenient way to find out about publication opportunities. I also recommend subscribing to their newsletter for timely reminders.

I’m putting the finishing touches on my 2018-2018 teaching calendar and will release that later this month, along with new prices for all Poetry Forge offerings. If you like to plan ahead, and save money, I encourage you to register now for the 21 Day Poetry Challenge, Poetry Immersion, A Secret Life, and even my once per year, manuscript incubator: A Body of Work. As always you can find out about all of these things on my website, or by reaching out to me directly with your questions and interest.


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Bringing Forth What Is Within You

There is a passage from the Gnostic Gospels that has been on my mind all summer:

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (Gospel of Thomas)

The 21 Day Poetry Challenge is designed connect you with what is within you, and help you BRING IT FORTH. After the summer heat and shifty schedules, I invite you to commit to a writing practice that will restore rhythm and prompt more poems.

Our theme for this session is RETURN.

Infuse your morning routine with more creative energy by challenging yourself to write a little bit every day until autumn arrives. Notice how some thoughtful structure and gentle guidance can coax your poems, enrich your days, and improve your mood and outlook.

Challenge: Commit to 21 days of practice.
Process: Each morning receive a writing provocation, brief reading, and guidance for 30 minutes or so of free-writing and embodied poetics.
New this session: More videos, poetry resources, and a guided meditation.
Feedback: Submit up to three new poems for private, hand-written feedback at the end.
Write together: Gather twice during the session to write together and talk about the process in a live webinar with me.

September 1-21, 2018

All Levels.

Join the Challenge.


“Holly is as masterful a teacher as she is a poet. I have found so much richness in the rhythm, content, and support she provides in her course, 21. I have done this powerful 21-day poetry challenge three times and plan to continue taking it as part of nourishing my creative practice and reverent living. Holly’s selection of poems and related provocations are brilliant and facilitate sweet and generative intimacy with the model poets and their subject matter. If you are looking to deepen your poetry practice or simply wish to enjoy support around a daily mindfulness and writing ritual, I highly recommend 21.”—Lillie W., Summer 2018

In case you’re wondering what we’ll read this session: Arecelis Girmay, Gwendolyn Brooks, Louise Gluck, Joy Harjo, Danez Smith, Tarfia Faizullah, Ellen Bass and many others!

This writing challenge is delivered via email and includes two webinars via Zoom and taught by award winning poet and acclaimed teaching artist, Holly Wren Spaulding.


This is my archive of writing provocations. Since 2014, I have written new ones for each challenge, based on all new reading selections. I am in the process of making them into a book!



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The Hand That Stretches the Bow

I have a long habit of thinking that just because I can dream it, I can do it, because sometimes that is true, and the rest of the time I want it to be true. It’s a form of magical thinking. And I like magic, but I’m trying to be less of a boss and allow for a different ethos to shape my movements through the day. One based on what feels healthy and doable, and which allows me a greater sense of ease.

But then how do I accomplish all of the great things I imagine? How do I finish these manuscripts that have been on my desk, calling to me, seducing me, asking for undivided attention? Part of the answer is that I don’t do everything. I just can’t, and that’s okay. I say No. I let ideas sit, sometimes, until they are ready, or until I realize I’m not actually interested in that book/project/collaboration/class/etc. after all.

My friend Eric shared a passage from Zen and the Art of Archery, by the German philosopher Eugen Herrige, which comes to mind right now:

“The hand that stretches the bow must open like a child’s hand opens. What sometimes hinders the precision of the shot is the archer’s over-active will. He thinks: “What I fail to do will not be done”, and that’s not quite how things work. Man should always act, but he must also let other forces of the universe act in their own due time.”

As long as I’ve studied, and as mindfully as I have practiced, I am guilty of just such a will, which is part of the haunting that many artists suffer: we imagine something we want to create, and despite every kind of obstacle, we push forth into the wilderness, as we attempt to achieve it. Weariness, doubt, despair . . .

“The right art,” cried the Master, “is purposeless, aimless! The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede. What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.”

Thoughts and ideas are fine, but I believe in practice. In practicing what I preach (or what others preach, that resonates with me.). This month I’ve given myself what I’m calling a mini-sabbatical, meaning that for most of July, I made no appointments, took no editing jobs, and have done my best to abstain from handling email.

I’m returning to Star Island to teach a three part “Practice of Poetry” workshop later this month. I took this photo there in 2017.

I did this once before, when I was gifted a month-long artist residency in 2007. The experience taught me how well my mind works, and how amazing I feel in every other sense of myself, when I unplug and think and daydream and write without, interruption.

Most writers have a fantasy of doing this at some point, and while residencies can be hard to come by, creating the space at home was possible for me this time, a decade after that defining experience. Can it really have been that long since I took time like this, to simply do my own work?

Sometimes writing is dreaming. Or napping. Or just listening to the rest of the world.

My daily routine still involves cooking, cleaning, childcare and so forth, but I have saved and planned and can forgo earning for a while, with the hope that the arrow will fly in the direction of the two manuscripts I am ready to finish this summer. In accordance with the master’s advice, I am trying to loaf and roam and make space for purposelessness, too. I end the day by soaking in the river at the bottom of my street. I start my day watching and listening to the birds from my porch. I am reading Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, and buzzed whispers.... loveroot, silkthread, crotch and vine,
My	respiration and inspiration.... the beating of my heart.... the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and darkcolored sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice.... words loosed to the eddies of the wind,

A few light kisses.... a few embraces.... reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health.... the full-noon trill.... the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop	this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun.... there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand.... nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.

Read more of the poem over at Poets.org

Summer studio. I write here between 7 and 10 am.

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Summer Workshops With Me: Michigan, Massachusetts, Montana

My online classes are on hiatus for the summer but there are a few places you can still catch me in person for a poetry workshop. I’d love to see you in a workshop before this season ends.

Books, flowers, fresh air. Some people don’t write in the summertime but I do.

Half-Day Poetry Workshop, at Interlochen College of Creative Arts in northern Michigan

If you love it when someone else prompts you through a creative process you would never think of on your own, join me for this generative writing workshop. We will be guided by a commitment to experimentation. We will read inspiring poems and learn from them. We will explore the genius of Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies” as adapted for poets. And we will plant seeds so that the rest of your summer results in even more poems. Leave the session with at least 2-3 new drafts of poems to work on independently.

August 9


*Please register asap as we nee to reach our workshop minimum before the end of July.

Bring your notebook. I will provide the rest. Leave with new work in progress.

The Visual Language of Poetry, in the Berkshires of Massachusetts,

Poetry evokes visual imagery, both for the listener and the reader. In this generative workshop we will write poems using creative visual prompts, from printed images to strolls outdoors in the natural environment. We will make space to share the writing we create, paying close attention to how word placement on a page, choice of materials, and even the voice of the reader affects our interpretation of the content. This session is ideal for anyone interested in translating some of what they see to the written word, and getting some supportive, concentrated feedback from a community of fellow poets.

Saturday, August 18



The 21 Day Poetry Challenge is an email-based, generative writing course, with a live video element. The price for this quarterly offering will go up in August so register now to save, and look forward to having my support as you write new poems, during the weeks leading up to the Autumn Equinox.

September 1-21, 2018


Reading from my book, If August, at Beargrass Writers Retreat 2017

Beargrass Writers Retreat, Greenough, Montana

Mountains. Writers. Readings. Panels. An historic ranch on the Blackfoot River. Food. Drink. (Skeet shooting?) What else could you want or need? I’ll be back again this year, leading a morning writing workshop, and supporting my amazing colleagues who host this down-to-earth, inspiring and exceptionally warm gathering.

August 25-28


The E Bar L Ranch’s Great Room during Beargrass Writers Retreat, north of Missoula, Montana.

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Where did you come from, Poet?

What is your origin story?


I’ve been asking different versions of this question recently, because I think that when we understand where we come from—what formed us and made us who we are—it affirms a foundation, and even inoculates us against some of those feelings of insufficiency, maybe especially in terms of education or credentials, that so many writers and artists suffer from. And this awareness can also serve to remind us, that we don’t have to wait to become better, or more knowledgable, or more laureled. We can begin now, begin here, with what we have. Art emerges from the process itself, rather than through the accumulation of expertise, or accolades, or external validations.


Recently, I jotted down some of the events and influences that are part of my origin story. Feel free to use this format to reflect on your own:


  1. Birth-Present.: Not having a tv TV in the home. Especially as a child, and especially as an adult. (Too much mass media can really dull the imagination.)


  1. All along.: Libraries! The pleasure of collecting a big stack of books, and taking them home for a few weeks is one I learned young. (Free, open to anyone. True sanctuaries for all.)


  1. Preteens. Realizing the pleasures of an inner life as a result of spending regular time alone, often outdoors. (This is a lot about falling in love with one’s own company, which strikes me now, as especially important for writers and artists.)


  1. Ninth grade. Meeting a poet-in-the-schools who became a mentor. (It changed everything for me. Like finding water in the desert.)


  1. Late high school and beyond. Independent-study. Finding my teachers through my reading and the pursuit of my interests. (If I’m honest, I consider this more significant than my graduate school experience.)


  1. Mid-twenties. Living in a country that poetry and those who write it. (Ireland showed me what a truly literate and literary society looks like.)


  1. Post-grad. Making a few friends who are also committed, working writers, and having regular conversations about our work and process. (A strong writing group can be priceless if you are writing a lot, and crave feedback.)


  1. Always. The pleasure of unscheduled time, and really trusting that I can’t fill my calendar and expect to also write poems. I need white space. I need a sense of spaciousness.


  1. Early-thirties. My first artist residency. Receiving the gift of time and space in which to focus on a project, surrounded by other artists, really showed me what a life in art can look like. And I fell in love with the northern California coast. (Check out the Alliance of Artists Communities if you are looking for this kind of opportunity.)


  1. Gradually, over many years, and many experiments, creating a steady writing practice that is attuned to natural rhythms—my own and nature’s cycles. (I now think and plan in terms of the wheel of the year, and the moon, and I never ignore the fact that mornings are the best time for me to think and write.)


I share this list with you as a way of inviting you to think about what has formed you as a poet or writer or artist. What events and experiences would you put on your timeline? If you want to share them with me, feel free to reach out. I’m always curious to know how others relate to their formative influences.)

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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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poetry matters. join the conversation.

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poetry matters. join the conversation.

join my community