Opportunities for Virtual Programs

Welcome to our catalogue of virtual offerings, including keynote readings and lectures, and all manner of writing workshops. Each speaker listed below has taken care to craft a session specifically for a virtual format. Many can be scheduled with relatively short notice. As you peruse this page, click the + to expand and view descriptions of each individual entry. Contact us at 845-677-8559 to discuss these offerings and more, and after speaking with us, submit a firm offer form for a virtual event here:


Diane Ackerman
Keynote Talk: Everyday Heroism, and The Zookeeper's Wife

The Zookeeper's Wife is a true story of people, animals, transcendence, and subversive acts of compassion. Jan and Antonini Zabinski were Christian zookeepers disgusted by Nazi racism, who decided to capitalize on the Nazi's obsession with prehistoric animals in order to save scores of doomed people. This talk will focus on how the power of human compassion can kindle our capacity for extraordinary acts of conscience and moral connection.

Craft Talk: Memoir Through Sickness and Health

Memoirs are more popular now than ever, especially ones about illness and other traumatic, life-changing events. What are the challenges in writing such a memoir? Ackerman will be speaking about love in a time of illness, something she lived with for many years, and wrote about in her book One Hundred Names for Love, which was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist. One day Ackerman's 74-year-old husband, a gifted author, suffered a savage stroke. When he regained awareness he was afflicted with total loss of language. Standard therapies didn't work. She soon found, however, that by harnessing their deep knowledge of each other, and her understanding of language and the brain, she could guide Paul back to the world of words. In the process she learned unexpected lessons about herself, their marriage, the underappreciated art of caregiving, and the brain’s ability to heal itself. By necessity, their lives changed dramatically. The challenge was to regain what could be found, re-imagine what couldn't, and by using unusual tools and methods, create a new love story.

Ellen Bass
Workshop: Conscious Imitation

"Imitation, conscious imitation, is one of the great methods, perhaps the method of learning to write,” said Theodore Roethke. In this workshop we’ll consider a variety of contemporary poems that demonstrate specific aspects of the craft. We'll look at poems by poets such as Lynn Emanuel, Denise Levertov, Anne Sexton, Toi Derricotte, Tony Hoagland, Pablo Neruda, Alan Shapiro, Patrick Rosal, Mark Doty, and others. Then we’ll make our own poems that build upon the past to create something fresh. We will study a particular element, such as metaphor, image, diction, syntax, discovery. We will write new poems and share our work. Expect to leave with work that’s more authentic, courageous, and consciously crafted than you’ve ever written before.

Workshop: The Writing Life

"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."—Martha Graham

This workshop will allow us to leave the rush of our busy lives and be still enough to hear the stories and poems that gestate within us. We will write, share our writing, and hear what our work touches in others. We will also read model poems and prose by contemporary writers and discuss specific aspects of the craft. But mainly this will be a writing retreat—time to explore and create in a supportive community. We will help each other to become clearer, go deeper, take new risks. With the inspiration of this gathering, you will have the opportunity to create writing that is more vivid, more true, more complex and powerful than you’ve been able to do before. Whether you are interested in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, memoir, or journal writing, this workshop will provide a rich opportunity to immerse yourself in the writing life. Both beginners and experienced writers are welcome.

Workshop: From Detail to Discovery

Tolstoy said, “Art is transferring feeling from one heart to another." And E.L. Doctorow said, "Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader--not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." That is our job description. But how do we go about this work of transferring feeling? How do we write poems and stories that make the reader feel wet? Fortunately, one of the main ways is very concrete. We create an emotional impact through vivid detail, precise description, metaphor and image. By observing, we see more. By describing what we see, we understand more, we feel more. We discover something we didn't know before. And that process of seeing, understanding, feeling and epiphany then takes place in the reader as well. In this workshop we'll look at successful examples in poetry and prose and learn (and try out) practical strategies for including these elements in our own writing.

Craft Talk: Controlled Chaos

A certain kind of poem, story, or essay reaches out a long arm and sweeps disparate, unexpected things into its net. It scoops in a great deal of material that is more or less obviously related. It doesn’t hug the shore. It doesn’t walk a narrow line. It retains a kind of wildness. It can seem untamed. And yet all the elements have enough magnetic or gravitational attraction, enough resonance, that the writing feels organically whole. To write this kind of long-armed poem, to allow the excitement, tension, and passion of chaos into our writing, we have to open the doors. We have to be willing to be surprised, even startled, even shocked. We have to be willing to experience the most essential state of creativity--the state of not knowing. Of being open, of being willing to be changed. We will look at examples of the long-armed poem and generate some practical suggestions for how you might experiment with bringing more controlled chaos into your own writing.

Richard Blanco
Keynote: An Evening with Richard Blanco

Content needed

Workshop: The Transcendent Poem: Unlock your subconscious mind to create work that connects with the universal truths of human experience

A poem is a conscious expression born out of the subconscious mind. This workshop is for people of all skill levels who wish to experiment with poetry as a form of artistic expression and connection. Celebrated Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco will lead students through the process of diving deeper into their own experiences and using the power of words to connect with readers. Students will learn how to "show, not tell" in their writing—the golden rule of poetry.

We’ll examine how this method truly works and why, in order to gain a strong and purposeful command of it. In this context, we’ll explore the dynamics between poet, poem, and reader that transform our personal stories into poems that transcend and connect with the universal truths of human experience. We will also explore the equally important subconscious territory of memory, inspiration, and imagination that bear in our poems. By practicing “fever writing” or “automatic writing,” we will tap into that subconscious to mine memories we will share in class as jumping-off points for generating new poems.

This intimate online format is designed to take place over the course of two days, but can be adapted. Students will engage in group discussions and projects, individual assignments, and critiques. Students will leave this workshop with two poem ideas to work on.

Workshop: The Photographic Poem

Whether candid snapshots, cell phone images, or formal portraits, photographs are replete with conscious and unconscious stories to mine. We will use photographs as ekphrastic prompts to write poems that explore our emotional responses to those rich stories. We will then take photographs of our own as an exercise to explore by analogy how our poetic eye, like the eye of a camera, focuses and frames our experiences to render stories; we will then “redevelop” these photos into poems. All poems will be shared in dynamic and interactive workshop sessions as we continue to investigate the relationships between imagery, imagination, and story. In addition, through interactive lectures, exercises, and readings of various illustrative poems, we will dive deeper into some of the core techniques of poetry, namely: sensory details, modulations of the poetic line, figurative language, and linguistic musicality.

Workshop: Family Matters – Using Your Family Photos to Inspire Your Poems

In this one-of-a-kind workshop, you’ll join Richard to write poems based on family photographs that you bring from home — resonant, evocative, perhaps treasured, perhaps troubling, but guaranteed to spark your creative responses. Family photographs are full of rich and powerful stories that often remain untapped. Using them as prompts to generate poetry that mines and explores those stories more deeply, you’ll share your work with others and investigate the relationship among image, imagination, memory, and narrative. You’ll discuss some core techniques of poetry, such as sensory details, the poetic line, figurative language, and musicality. Bring two or three family photos (print or digital) that hold some personal mystique, imaginative interest, and emotional complexity. Open to writers of all levels.

Mahogany L. Browne
Keynote Talk: Woke, and Other Ways to Engage with your Community

In Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Social Justice, Mahogany L. Browne summons readers of all ages to speak out, in the tradition of activist poetry by Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez and others. Tackling topics that include discrimination, immigration, empathy and ableism, Browne reflects on the joy and passion in the fight for social justice. “We are not yielding or bending because the conversation is uncomfortable,” she writes. “It is resisting to be comfortable/when we all have yet to feel safe and free.

Stephanie Burt
Workshop: Poetry and Talking Objects

Poems give voice to people-- including the poet-- but they can also let us speak through, or for, or to, or with, things and creatures that do not normally communicate in words. From an ancient vase to a lock and key to a giant toad to an upright piano, poets for millennia have found masks, personas, and ways to throw their voice. This workshop will help us find ways to speak for objects, and creatures that might not speak for themselves. We can listen to them, or let them show us ourselves. We might also (shhhh) explore anagrams and rhymes.

Other workshops and talks
Workshops Specific To Form
Queer Poetics & Transpoetics Workshop
Craft Talk On Science Fiction
How To Read Comics & How To Read Superhero Comics
Any of these can be adapted for younger audiences

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Workshop: Poetry of Abundance: Exploring the Contemporary Long Poem

Contemporary poets have implored us to trust our patience with length in an age of bite-sized headlines. In this workshop, we will explore how the nuances, forms, and structures of long poems as meditations and investigations by writers such as Larry Levis, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Robert Hayden, Anne Carson, John Murillo, and C.D. Wright, among others sustain our attention in an ebb and flow of information, storytelling, and lyric imagery. We will grapple with ideas of economy, memory, and narrative arcs as we comb through the major tenets of the contemporary poem of length and its necessity in our ever growing era of brevity. This is a flexible workshop in which students from multiple skill levels will generate new material as well as offer previously written material for critique.

Tina Chang
Workshop: Hybrid Beast

The word hybrid comes from the Latin hybrida which means mongrel, a creature of mixed breed. The tradition of poetry is widening, drawing from many art forms, blending and fusing to create contemporary cross-pollinated forms. In this class we will explore the many ways in which poetry is increasingly a hybrid beast, as innovative and exciting projects are envisioned across the genres. We will discuss the process by which poets collaborate with visual artists, filmmakers, choreographers, and we will practice one of the following: prose poem, ekphrastic poem, erasure, or lyric essay.

Chen Chen
Workshop: Elegy in a Time of Pandemic

How do we write about grief right now, when there are so many (and simultaneous) forms of grief to address? Can poems speak to job loss, loss of everyday routines, loss of future plans, missing friends who are alive but who knows when we’ll get to see them next? And what if we simply can’t write poems at this moment—what do we do with the loss of our sense of being poets? In this generative workshop, we’ll make space for all these questions, looking to a range of elegies not for neat answers (which don’t exist anyway) but a deepening of our attention to where we are, who we are, in the midst of crisis.

Workshop: Poetry in & of Crisis

"Who would / be left alive to care?” asks Nikky Finney at the end of “Left,” a poem about the lack of care toward Black lives in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. In the context of the pandemic—or previous crises, large and “small"—what kind of care can we, as writers, as the living, offer? In this workshop, we’ll read poems that explore/enact care in a multitude of ways and also poems that address what happens in the lack. In between reading, we’ll write our own poems (or lines) toward aliveness and yes, being here to care.

Natashia Deón
BACKSTORY: Moving Forward, Looking Back
Backstories help to create the world of your story. It tells us what’s driving your protagonist (and antagonist) to take the action, to attain a goal, and what your protagonist feels about passionately. Layering the characterization with these histories show us who they are today and will help you avoid writing stereotypes.
The aim of this workshop is to address backstory and to get your creative juices flowing in writing scenes (the past affecting the present) and relevant history details that can affect dialogue, POV, and attitudes of your characters. These details, when woven successfully into pertinent places of your story, will give it added meaning.

Mark Doty
Keynote Talk: What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life

In 1855, Walt Whitman walked into a printer’s shop in Brooklyn Heights with an unfinished manuscript in his hand and began the process of self-publishing a book of poems, Leaves of Grass. He was 35, had a third grade education, and had published a few poems, newspaper articles, and a moralistic novel. There was no reason to believe he could write a good poem, much less revolutionize American poetry, people his work with the most diverse cast of characters of any writer of his century, become a crucial literary and political influence around the world, write from a position of gender fluidity, propose a radically new relation between poet and audience, and write the first direct poems of same-sex love in English since the Renaissance. We will discuss these remarkable accomplishments as well as some of Whitman’s intriguing quirks, and think a bit about why he has such profound importance for this moment. Together, we'll highlight some of the brilliant, often surprisingly modern strategies he used to make his best poems perennially fresh and alive with energy.

Workshop: Learning From Walt Whitman

Whitman's poems make some of the boldest and most startling claims in American poetry, but the assurance of his voice and the subtleties of craft in his best work allow readers to consider his ideas as if they were not the radical assertions they truly are. Whitman called "Song of Myself" a "language experiment." In this workshop we'll look at a few elements of his craft and try experimenting with them ourselves; writing implements and an exploratory attitude are all you need to join in.

Workshop: Writing the Self in Time

Memory and anticipation bring texture and richness to the present as our attention moves backward and forward in time. Paying attention to time in our work can add dimension and suggest new structural possibilities. In this generative workshop, we’ll read poems by Dorianne Laux, Gwendolyn Brooks, C. P. Cavafy, Major Jackson, and others, paying attention to moments when the poem frees itself from linear or narrative time. And we’ll write, discuss, and read and write some more.

Camille Dungy
Workshop: Sprout your Seeds

In this generative workshop, we'll explore new ways to see our own work in relationship to the living world around us. Following a series of prompts and possibilities, you'll have a chance to start growing in new directions on the page. Exploring various strategies for how to get started, how to keep going, and how to improve what you've already written, this is a mixed genre class, welcoming poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers.

Beth Ann Fennelly
Build Me a Hummingbird of Words: Micro-Memoirs
The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly forward, backward, sideways, and, for short distances, upside down—hummingbirds can do things other birds can’t do precisely because they are so small.  In this class, we’ll look at tiny texts and learn what can be accomplished in a small space that can’t be accomplished in a bigger one.  What can we learn by radically shifting scale?  How can attention to the tiniest literary creations challenge and inspire us?  We'll look at word-hummingbirds such as the monostich, the 6-word memoir, the aphorism, the ten-second essay, and the American Sentence.  We’ll end with a focus on the micro-memoir.  Combining the extreme brevity of poetry, the narrative arc of fiction, and the truth-telling of creative nonfiction, the micro-memoir is an exciting hybrid form that blends inheritances from multiple literary parents.  I’ll share ten things I’ve learned from writing micro-memoirs, and we’ll end class with a prompt so students can write their own.

Carrie Fountain
The Image as Fuel for Writing (and Living)
In this workshop, we’ll explore the art and craft of image-making in creative writing and we’ll explore how developing a friendly relationship to image can help bring clarity and depth to our writing, as well as our everyday lives. We’ll begin with some simple collaborative writing and then, after reading examples of some our greatest contemporary poets, we’ll go on to longer, generative writing exercises, most of which can be easily reproduced at home to begin or strengthen a meaningful writing practice. While our reading will focus on poetry, this workshop will be useful for writers working in any discipline.

Major Jackson
Naked Poetry: Finding the Courage to See Ourselves

This exploratory, generative poetry workshop is designed to highlight the severe and beautiful truths of our lives and where in language we strike our greatest freedom. Based in the belief that poems that are pure, honest, and courageous in saying the unsayable get us closer to the highest reaches of human song, workshop participants will learn techniques of writing poetry that stress tapping the unconscious and facing our fears while nominally addressing form as a doorway into the mysteries that make up our lyric selves.

Keetje Kuipers
Workshop: Bringing Back the Magic

If ancient poems were originally incantations and spells, why do contemporary poets often feel compelled to stick to story, confession, or straight lyric, only allowing the fantastic to feature in their work through imagistic leaps or fanciful metaphors? Particularly as a way of exploring such very real-world strictures as gender, sexuality, race, or class, magic can create opportunities for a new kind of engagement with our identities. We’ll dig into how magic-making works on the page, and what we can do to bring more of it into our poems, exploring the effect that the surreal has when placed within a poem that might otherwise feel narrative or naturalistic. Finally, we’ll cast our own spells through writing exercises that ask us to both invent magic and also acknowledge the ethereal all around us.

Workshop: Outsiders Writing the Outside

While poets from Mary Oliver to Ross Gay have shown that the pastoral is not an experience limited to the poetic adventurings of straight, white men, wilderness writing is still a frontier dominated by the conventions of colonialism and domestication. However, as more of us leave the garden and go off-road, new poetic exploration occurs. In honoring the complexity of our relationship to the wild and what each individual experience of gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity might bring to the intersection of the human and non-human world, we’ll write poems towards answering the questions that critic Carol Anne Douglas has posed: “What is wilderness? A European invention to make the natural world seem more mysterious and forbidding? A place in which to scare ourselves into feeling brave? A place that belongs to other species, which humans should enter only on their terms? Any place that gives humans a wilderness feeling, whether it be a child's backyard lot or a city street at night?” Through our own poetic explorations, we’ll learn to wield the chainsaw that cuts that line between ourselves and the wilderness on the page.

Workshop: Stranger in a Strange Land

As we examine the work of writers who have crossed borders both to enter new terrain and to create new cross-genre writing, we will pay particular attention to voice and story, asking ourselves who has the authority to speak and to tell whose stories. The borders that are crossed may include those of race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and religion, and we will discuss how each author blurs, bends, and blends the lines of identity to become a trespasser on the page. Dichotomies such as city and country, east and west, male and female, and poetry and prose will be deconstructed and explored. You, too, will be invited to create work that imagines or establishes your own role as a stranger, exploring the boundaries of genre—where they meet and where they dissolve—as well as the work of being a witness and a walker-beside.

Workshop: Reinventing the Poem of the American Family

(with Geffrey Davis and Erika Meitner)

We all know that families can be messy. But while poets have long put words to the page in an attempt to explore those complications, we have sometimes been more reluctant to set fire to the traditional models of parental devotion or childhood trauma that writers often make use of when engaging with the topic. How do we breath new life into such old stories? Whether caring for elderly parents or raising adopted children, these narratives remain utterly familiar while their settings, voices, and structures have never been so varied or new. In this class, we’ll take dynamite to the traditional models of how we write about family, employing such techniques as irreverence and mysticism as we attempt to not only explore but also explode our notions of how to write a poem about family. You’ll walk away with several new drafts of poems, as well as exercises that can be used again and again in order to re-engage your own writing about family.

Taylor Mali
Workshop: Metaphor Dice

You may have grown up being told (as poet Taylor Mali was) that “a metaphor is a way of comparing two things,” which is ultimately a misleading and inaccurate definition of what a metaphor is and why it is employed in every human culture on earth. It’s like saying an automobile is “a way of burning fossil fuel.” Metaphors are really more like temporary figurative secret codes for saying one thing but meaning another. Metaphor Dice are an addictively imaginative way to think and write more figuratively, and Taylor Mali is the man who invented them. No experience necessary! Math teachers welcome (Taylor was a math teacher)! This workshop can be adapted for teachers, students, and general public of all experience levels.

Erika Meitner
Workshop: The American Family

(with Geffrey Davis and Keetje Kuipers)

We all know that families can be messy. But while poets have long put words to the page in an attempt to explore those complications, we have sometimes been more reluctant to set fire to the traditional models of parental devotion or childhood trauma that writers often make use of when engaging with the topic. How do we breath new life into such old stories? Whether caring for elderly parents or raising adopted children, these narratives remain utterly familiar while their settings, voices, and structures have never been so varied or new. In this class, we’ll take dynamite to the traditional models of how we write about family, employing such techniques as irreverence and mysticism as we attempt to not only explore but also explode our notions of how to write a poem about family. You’ll walk away with several new drafts of poems, as well as exercises that can be used again and again in order to re-engage your own writing about family.

Keynote Program: In Conversation with Alicia Ostriker

Maya C. Popa
Unpacking the Prose Poem
A favorite of the French symbolists and contemporary poets alike, the prose poem is an enigmatic, hybrid creature that wields the techniques of poetry but foregoes its line breaks. But the prose poem isn't strictly a modern experiment: its history can be traced back to early Bible translations, and passages of Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads are written in lyric prose. The poet James Tate went as far as to suggest that its paragraphs could trick the reader "into glimpsing a little sliver of eternity." What are some strategies and approaches to the prose poem, and how might we adopt them in our own practice? In the first half of the workshop, we will read and study examples of prose poems by Natalie Diaz, Matthea Harvey, Jose Olivarez, and Camille Dungy. In the second half, we will turn to writing exercises that will help us generate and share our own prose poems.

Emily Skillings
Craft Talk: A Place for Poetry in Your Prose

In this craft talk, poet Emily Skillings explores the ways in which a deeper knowledge of the sonic, associative, and formal properties of poetry can strengthen prose writing, discussing the “poetic prose” of Renee Gladman, Ander Monson, Sei Shōnagon, and Virginia Woolf alongside “essayistic” poetry by Layli Long Soldier, John Ashbery, and others. What does a poet do? How can a poet’s toolkit enhance the elasticity of prose writing? This lecture includes guided writing prompts, visual aids, as well as collective close reading of texts.

Maggie Smith
Keynote Talk: Keep Moving

Brian Turner
Workshop: 10 Tools from the Writer

In this hybrid workshop we’ll consider and explore 10 craft techniques that span genres. If you’re writing (creative) nonfiction, fiction, or poetry—this workshop is for you. A reading packet will be sent to you prior to our workshop. Please have writing tools (pencil, paper, computer, etc.) on hand during the workshop—as we’ll be generating new work during this session.

Workshop: Writing the Impossible: On Navigating Love & Loss in Language

In this session, we’ll explore some of the ways writers give voice to the sublime and the beautiful, as well as the profoundly difficult. Our workshop will serve as an experimental space to share resources for writing through difficult times. We’ll discuss these ideas while exploring elements of craft through generative exercises meant to add to your own creative work and practice. This workshop is open to writers of all levels working in poetry and/or prose.

Workshop: Figure Studies with Brian Turner

Taking our cue from the studio artist’s practice of sketching the human figure in pencils and charcoals, this workshop will experiment with perspective and intention through a variety of poetic ‘sketches’ focused on one primary subject. Time permitting, we’ll also consider poetry’s use of white space and silence (just as the sketch artist’s lines and shadows are in conversation with the blank space of the canvas or paper).

Crystal Valentine
I Survived The Fire, Now What?

Trauma is a main focal point for many writers, with a bulk of their work centered on dissecting and testifying against traumatic events they have experienced or witnessed in their lives. This can be necessary but tiring work, sometimes leading writers to see their pain as a crutch and re-traumatize the self; raising the question: how do we engage our pain in ways that are safe? In this workshop I invite participants to be brave. Reading the work of Patrica Smith, Natalie Diaz, Vievee Francis and more, we will analyze how their use of personification, tone, and form anchors and propels their writing forward. We have created defense mechanisms, built walls that have hardened into impenetrable fortresses as a means of survival but now that we have survived, these tools may no longer serve us. How do we shift the lens from our pain to acknowledge our healing. How might our writing change now that pain no longer fuels our work? What nuances can we find? We know how to write stories about the fire, now how do we write stories about emerging from the ash?

Poetic Obsession: Nuancing the Subjective Epicenter

We all have that one thing—a person, a memory, a fear, an idea—that keeps us up at night, that our minds circle back to time and time again. In writing, this is commonly known as an obsession, and if fueled by passion and nuance, one’s obsession can be an everlasting well of inspiration. But what does one do when the spark and passion of their obsession dwindles into a cliche? Some might opt to change the subject but that is difficult to do if that subject is the epicenter of our craft—or even our lives. In this workshop through the use of form and repetition, participants will name and nurture their obsessions. In doing so, they will create an individualized strategy, build a literary toolbox that will come to their aid should the approach to their obsessions ever run stale, so that instead of running away, they can attack their obsessions head on.

On Intersectionality: Unblurring the Lines within Institutional Structures

In the age of borders, police brutality and state-sanctioned violence, cultural diversity and social understanding is a must. Centering the experiences of students and community members on campus who navigate various forms of oppression, this series of interactive writing workshops will examine the ways in which racial inequality, sexism, classism and other injustices have been reflected in their universities’ power structures. We will discuss the importance of intersectionality, an analytic framework which acknowledges the overlap of social identities including race, gender, sexuality, class, religion and others. The goal is to start a conversation right here on your campus, allowing for those who have been most affected by their universities’ systematic structures to voice their visions for change and inclusion, while beginning the first steps of radical healing.