Two Poetry Workshops Happening This Month (A FEW SPOTS STILL OPEN)

There are still some spots open in the two poetry workshops I’m teaching this month, in case you were interested in signing up for them but haven’t yet. Both will be taught on Zoom, so covid surges and geographical distances are not a problem here.  😉

Daily Dose of Poetry is a one-night-only experience through Write About Now as part of their Monday night poetry class series. You can do just mine — happening TOMORROW, June 13th — or get a bundle of weeks at a discount. In this generative workshop, we’ll try our hand at several different poetry prompts designed to kickstart your writing or refresh your writing practice if you’ve been away from it for a while. Each exercise is also translatable, to duplicate or adapt on your own after the workshop ends. You will also get a chance to share and/or workshop what you write during class. Click here for more details and to get the link to register:


grackle painting by Kerry James Marshall

Poetry: Grounded in Place But Not Confined is a four-week workshop through Grackle & Grackle. We’ll be meeting on Tuesday evenings starting this week, June 14th. In this generative and feedback-oriented workshop, we will look at ways poetry inhabits landscapes both literal and figurative and create poems along that theme. You can expect to write new poetry each week and to have at least two of your poems workshopped in a respectful and supportive environment over the course of the four weeks. (And if you’re able to attend most but not all of the sessions, don’t let that stop you from signing up, as I’m happy to share materials with you if you’re absent.) G&G is also great about offering discounts on their classes, too, so if you need one, try these: 15% sun; 25% squawk; 35% sweat. Click here for more information and to register:

I hope to see you in either or both of these workshops! Feel free to share with others who might also be interested.

A Class on Character

Great news! I’m going to be teaching my one-day course on character development for Writespace at the end of this month!

I’ve taught it once before, and it went really, really well, and so Writespace has me teaching it again on Saturday, July 31st, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. (central time). This three-hour session (with a break) focuses on creating characters who drive their own stories in smart ways. We’ll be drawing from sophisticated craft/technique, pop culture, and literary analysis in this generative workshop, at the end of which you’ll have written a good strong start to a new story — or gained a better grasp on a story you’ve already got in progress. This class is open to all skill levels.

I’ll be teaching on Zoom, so you can take this course from anywhere with an internet connection. Last time we had people joining us from Houston, the farther US, and even Mexico! Very cool stuff.

Here’s the link to register for the course.

One last note: one thing that’s so good about Writespace courses is that they tend to be far more affordable than other organizations for the same quality or better. (Writespace offers scholarships, too.) Early bird registration lasts until July 26th.

I hope to see you there!

A Poem Has Resurfaced in the Midst of My Editing

I’m nearing the final stages of editing my new collection of poems, Playing House. In this long process, I’ve uncovered some old poems, essentially my personal back catalogue, some of which hasn’t been published yet. There are poems in here that are more than fifteen years old, and I’ve been examining them to see what can be revised and useful now, if anything.

One poem I’ve run across, which I love but probably cannot include in the book, was an exercise from a poetry workshop I took back in 2002 through Inprint in Houston. The teacher was Alan Ainsworth. He had everyone in the class come up with a line of blank verse, and then our homework was to arrange all those lines together into a poem. There must have been fourteen of us, because we ended up with a collection of extremely different sonnets.

I don’t remember which line I contributed. I actually don’t even remember if the poem I collated was truly all the lines from the class, or whether I ended up taking a few of the lines I especially loved and writing the rest of it myself. I do remember that all the resulting poems were wildly different, and that we enjoyed the exercise. It’s one I’m planning to use in my own classes this spring.

Anyway, since I’m not still in touch with any of the other poets in that workshop, I have no way to verify anything about this poem — assuming the others would even remember it. I remember it only because I have a hard copy of this poem in my archives.

So with the disclaimer that I don’t remember how much of the following poem I composed but I certainly did arrange it all, and with grateful acknowledgement of all who were in that class, including Alan, and a desire that any of them who might see this post come forward, here is the cleverly entitled “Exercise.” Enjoy.







Whisper to me in Urdu, “I know you”:
after we kiss, mildew falls from heaven
and the old silence suffocates the hills.
Turning from you, I decipher voices


like a sandy crust. In my mind, lazy,
thought collapsed upon thought in lines,
remembering the frayed pockets of ancient ships,
where I wrapped my legs around your wooden ones


while two lawyers watched from across the room,
leering over the table, grinning gin.
They swarm, these creatures of the night.
Ten years have passed since you finally left.


Now you enter again in a battered white van, senseless.
You should know better than to summon a holy scribe.




Featured Poet: Paul Otremba

Several years ago, when I hadn’t been doing much writing and was near crazy with the frustration of not having enough time to do it, my husband wisely insisted I take a poetry workshop over the summer to get myself back into writing regularly.  I hadn’t produced any poems for years, though, having focused almost exclusively on fiction since my son was born three years earlier — when I could focus, that is, which wasn’t much.  I was unhappy, steadily denying a vital part of who I am by allowing myself to be busy with other work.

Poetry, Aaron reminded me, was something I could do in relatively short pieces; the manuscripts were bite-sized compared to the novel I was trying to write.  I could draft and workshop and revise and edit and be done without taking years and years to finish something.  (I suppose it must seem, to an observer, like a poem is the closest to instant gratification this craft achieves.  I suppose, in a way, it can be.)

Anyway, the poetry workshop I signed up for that summer was led by Paul Otremba, and it was cathartic and intellectually nourishing in the best of ways.  Without abandoning fiction, I became a poet again; I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it.  That summer was wonderful, geeking out about language every week in Paul’s class.

Paul Otremba is the author of two poetry collections, The Currency (Four Way Books 2009) and the forthcoming Pax Americana (Four Way Books 2015), which will include the poem posted here today. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in such places as Witness, Southwest Review, Hotel Amerika, Green Mountains Review, Third Coast, and The Minnesota Review. He teaches creative writing at Rice University. His website, where he also writes about poetry and cooking, is


The Hive

– “To the Age Its Art, to Art Its Freedom”


New techniques, material
layers, so a body
of work glued together—we found

that break showing honey.
Oh, Vienna, you cannot move!
But always in the same period-dress

gardens and words
feel stepped on.
Their progressions curdle

behind our profiles
like eggs, or an obvious Typhon
if only you know the handshakes

for entrance to the dance.
And Mal? Your strings
still echo full of wolves.

At the end of the day
they call us where?
Just some hope a cue summons

within you. Here, I submit
a list of my complaints.
I did but taste the field.