Poetry at the PTWC

Thirteen days until registration opens for the 2011 Port Townsend Writers' ConferenceFor the first time ever, not only are we looking at nine core faculty members–three each in poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction–but with nine afternoon workshops each day, as well, the Schoolhouse Building will be completely hopping.

Poets hanging out with us next summer will include Dorianne Laux, Cate Marvin, Carl Phillips, Gary Lilley, Kelli Russell Agodon, Susan Landgraf, Susan Rich, Maya Jewell Zeller, Richard Widerkehr, Ashley Capps, Gabriel Gudding, Bill Mawhinney, Paisley Rekdal, Jenifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Austen, Michael Schein (teaching fiction), Erin Belieu, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Gayle Kaune, and Laura Read. And that's just so far–and that doesn't include the plethora of literary fiction and nonfiction.

Dorianne Laux, who last taught here in 2002, just sent us what she'll be doing in her class: "The Hidden Architecture of the Poem." She writes: all poems have a structure, even free-verse poems that seem to range around with no apparent form. We'll be looking closely at poems by master poets such as Ruth Stone, Mark Doty, Li-Young Lee, Belle Waring and B.H. Fairchild, peeking behind the words to get at the poem's underlying scaffolding. This kind of seeing is a useful in re-visioning our own poems. Is there a structure that could be put in place to hold up a poem that is sagging at the joists? What's its floor plan, blueprints? Does it need a front porch, a new roof, a bay window, a basement? Bring three new poems you're struggling to complete, drafts that just won't seem to fall into place, and we'll bring out our new tools and get to work. 

Dorianne laux Dorianne worked as a sanatorium cook, a gas station manager, a maid, and a donut holer before receiving a B.A. in English from Mills College in 1988. She is the author of Facts About the Moon which was the recipient of the Oregon Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other collections include Smoke, What We Carry, and Awake. With Kim Addonizio, she is the co-author of The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. Her poems have been widely translated. Laux lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she serves among the faculty at North Carolina State University's MFA Program.

Another new class is Cate Marvin's.

“How to Duke It Out With Stubborn Poems…and Win.”
Our best poems are hard-won. Such poems often arrive to us at a point in our writing lives when we are technically unable to articulate the visions they demand of us, emotionally and formally. Such poems Catemarvin resist even our fiercest attempts to craft them into a final product. This workshop will tackle such “problem poems,” as learning how to re-approach the work we find most difficult to “finish” is an important lesson for any serious writer. Such an undertaking requires us to renegotiate the means by which we re-envision our work.  Students are asked to bring to class three different versions of a “problem poem,” by which I mean a poem that has vexed its writer for some time. The goal of this course is to provide the writer with direction in reimagining and ultimately achieving the completion of intellectually and emotionally ambitious poems.

Cate's first book of poems, World’s Tallest Disaster, was chosen by Robert Pinksy for the 2000 Kathryn A. Morton Prize and published by Sarabande Books in 2001. In 2002, she received the Kate Tufts Discovery Prize. She is co-editor with poet Michael Dumanis of the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century. Her second book of poems, Fragment of the Head of a Queen, for which she received a Whiting Award, appeared in 2007. She teaches poetry writing at Columbia University’s MFA program and Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program, and is an associate professor in creative writing in the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.

Registration for everything opens on October 25.