With the generous participation of outstanding poet/instructors, the Sue Boynton Poetry Contest offers a number of workshops each fall and winter. Details are posted on this page as soon as workshop information is available.

Workshops are held in Bellingham, Washington. Registration is required and all fees benefit the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest: $30 for one workshop or $50 for both workshops offered the same day, paid by check or cash at the workshop.

Register by sending an email to boyntonpoetrycontest@hotmail.com indicating the workshop(s) you wish to take and including your name and a phone number. Please bring writing materials.

PAST WORKSHOPS

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Judy Kleinberg10:00am – Noon
J.I. (Judy) Kleinberg
Finding Poems: a hands-on workshop
In this fun and fast-paced workshop, Judy Kleinberg will offer an overview of found poetry techniques and an opportunity for you to experiment and identify the ones that resonate for you. You’ll discover ways to add found elements to more conventional-form poems and to use found prompts to kick-start new work. Some materials will be provided, but your writing notebook, pens, paper, scissors, junk mail, magazines (or books you’re willing to cut up), and glue sticks will be welcome.

Co-editor of Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington (Other Mind Press 2015) and winner of the 2016 Ken Warfel Fellowship, Pushcart-nominated writer, artist and poet J.I. (Judy) Kleinberg works and plays with words. Her found-word collages, from a growing series of more than 1,200, have appeared in Diagram, Hedgerow, Otoliths, Yew Journal, Shadowgraph, Atlas & Alice, Truck, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and elsewhere. She blogs most days at chocolate is a verb and the poetry department and doesn’t own a television.
 
 
Kami Westhoff1:00 – 3:00pm
Elizabeth VignaliKami Westhoff and Elizabeth Vignali
Why Write Collaboratively?
Most people think of writing as a solitary act, yet ultimately the goal of the writer is to connect with the reader. Through collaboration, the writer can connect in a more immediate, tangible way. Writing with others can rejuvenate a sometimes lonely process, allowing the writer to be both contributor and reader, enhancing their perception and bringing into focus the goal of that ultimate connection with the reader.

One of the wonderful things about collaboration is that there are nearly as many ways to collaborate as there are types of people, so anyone can find a collaborative process that works for them. In this workshop, we’ll engage in various collaborative exercises that highlight our strengths, as well as encourage us to venture outside our comfort zones and ultimately enable us to grow as writers.

Knowing another writer’s name will be attached to your piece of writing can push us to work a bit harder to find that image that sears into the reader’s consciousness, to offer that perspective that incites action or a quiet moment’s reprieve, to render that scene in a way that promises the reader that even in a lonely world there are profound connections to be made, not the least of which come through the written word.

Kami Westhoff’s work has appeared in various journals including Meridian, Carve, Third Coast, The Pinch, Passages North, Redivider, and West Branch. Her poetry chapbook, Sleepwalker, won Minerva Rising’s 2016 Dare to Be contest and will be published this fall. She teaches creative writing at Western Washington University.

Elizabeth Vignali is an optician and writer. Her poems have appeared in various publications, including Willow Springs, Crab Creek Review, Nimrod, Floating Bridge Review, and Menacing Hedge. Her chapbook, Object Permanence, is available from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her daughters, a geriatric cat, and a variety of spiders in the dark corners of the laundry room.
 
Saturday, October 8, 2016

Susan J. Erickson10:00am – Noon
Susan J. Erickson
Self-Portrait Poem Workshop
The image you see in the mirror is one “you” that could inspire a self-portrait poem. In this workshop we will also look at and discuss a variety of alternative poetic “yous.” Contemporary poets have written self-portrait poems as places (a river, a city, a state), as objects (as slinky, as rain gauge), as personas such as Frida Kahlo, and other surprising riffs (Wikipedia entry). So bring your imagination and your favorite writing materials.

Susan J. Erickson’s debut full-length collection of poems in women’s voices, Lauren Bacall Shares a Limousine, recently won the Brick Road Poetry Prize. After writing persona poems for a long, long time she is looking for a new obsession. Her poems appear in Crab Creek Review, The James Franco Review, The Fourth River and The Tishman Review.
 
 
Anastacia Renee'1:00 – 3:00pm
Anastacia Renee’
Cry Out Loud
In this workshop, we will examine overarching themes, hybridity, historical nuances, technique, and writing with courage from Jamaica Kincaid, Naomi Jackson, Zora Neale Hurston, Chinelo Okparanta, and Ya Gyasi. Discussion will include intersection(s) and entry points of race, culture, and sexuality and what it means when, as Audre Lorde said, “There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself — whether it’s Black, woman, mother, dyke, teacher, etc. — because that’s the piece that they need to key in to.” We’ll write pieces that demonstrate courageous hybrid writing and end with a group share out.

Anastacia Renee’ is a queer super-shero of color moonlighting as a writer, performance artist and creative writing workshop facilitator. She has received awards and fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Jack Straw, Ragdale and Artist Trust. She was recently selected as the 2015-16 Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House, a place for writers in Seattle. Her Chapbook 26, published by Dancing Girl Press, is an abbreviated alphabet expression of the lower and uppercase lives of women and girls. Her poetry & fiction have been published in Literary Orphans, Bitterzoet, Radius Poetry, Seattle Review, Duende, Bone Bouquet, Dressing Room Poetry and many more. Recently Anastacia Renee’ has been expanding her creative repertoire into the field of visual art, and has exhibited installations surrounding the body as a polarized place of both the private and political. Lately she’s been obsessed with the body’s memory and infatuated by myths, fables & imaginary truths.
 
 
Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ann Spiers10:00am – Noon
Ann Spiers
The Poem’s Line, or Lessons in Break Dancing

“Yet there is at our disposal no tool of the poetic craft more important, none that yields more subtle and precise effects, than the linebreak if it is properly used.” Denise Levertov

Linebreaks help you construct a poem, especially as you draft the poem’s final form. In this workshop, we will respond to writing prompts to create stanzas, and then practice the art of line breaks.

We will consider how other poets used this integral craft by studying poems to discern poets’ diverse decisions about linebreaks. Linebreaks can define the poem, create cadence, establish emphasis, aid the reader in decoding meaning, uncover rhyme and half-rhyme, fudge clunky moments, provide humor, enhance sound, alter pace, and clarify phrasing. Some poets use linebreaks, spacing, and tabbing to display the process of the poet writing at the moment of creating a poem — its intellectual or emotional structure.

Ann Spiers is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Vashon Island. She stewards the Poetry Post in Vashon’s Village Green, co-produced the 2009 Vashon Poetry Fest, and curated Broadsides: Poems on Paper at a Vashon art gallery.

Bellingham’s poets have been good to Ann. Egress Studio Press published her chapbook, What Rain Does. She has read at the Whatcom Poetry Series and Village Books. She fondly remembers reading T. S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men at Fast Eddie’s Tavern when the audience raucously joined in the poem’s refrain. This year, Peasandcues Press designed and printed the broadside, “Rain Violent,” a poem from her Weather Station manuscript. Visit her webpage http://annspiers.com.

Michael Daley1:00 – 3:00pm
Michael Daley
Attentively

This workshop will suggest the practice of “organic form” described by Denise Levertov in her essay by that name. Attentiveness, or “attentivity” (not a word), may be the prime mover of poetry, or at least its muse’s primary tool, so basic it operates at the instinct level, and like spontaneous dance, leads to refinement. Our efforts will be toward an organic practice of composition through six different exercises. As they are exercises, rough drafts are our hope, but the practice includes recognizing three distinct tiers, or phases, in crafting observational responses. During our time together we will grope toward the form of what we need to say.

Michael Daley was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He later took vows and prepared to become a Catholic priest. Upon leaving religious life, he was wild in the streets, protesting wars and seeking a life of experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts and an M.F.A. from the University of Washington. He is the founding editor of Empty Bowl Press, former Poet-in-Residence for the Washington State Arts Commission, the Skagit River Poetry Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and a retired English Instructor for Mount Vernon High School. In addition to seven chapbooks, he has published three full-length collections of his poetry and a book of essays. He has been awarded by the Washington State Arts Commission, Seattle Arts Commission, Artist Trust, Fulbright, and the National Endowment of the Humanities.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Jeffrey Morgan10:00am – Noon
Jeffrey Morgan
Submission: A Practical Guide to Literary Publishing

In this workshop we’ll explore how to create a more enjoyable and manageable submission practice that increases publication credits and improves writing habits. We’ll discuss ways to write better cover letters and successfully navigate various online resources and tools such as Duotrope and Submittable. We’ll also discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of entering into literary conversations with editors and journals, always with the goal of pushing oneself, as Samuel Beckett opined, to “fail better.”

Jeffrey Morgan lives in Bellingham, where he especially enjoys hiking and beer. He is the author of Crying Shame. His poems have recently appeared, or will soon, in Copper Nickel, The Kenyon Review Online, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, Verse Daily, and West Branch, among others.

photo by Susan Rich1:00 – 3:00pm
Kelli Russell Agodon
Fire On the Page: Generating New Work With Writing Prompts

Taking inspiration from Fire On Her Tongue, an anthology of some of the best women poets writing today, we will discover how inventive imitation can lead to poetic discovery and innovation. Through a series of writing exercises and prompts based on poems we read and listen to as a group, we will generate new work and explore individual themes, topics, and subjects that motivate us. We will consider how to set aside our own self-consciousness and self-doubt by turning off our “internal editors” to write our strongest work. We will also discuss how our own unique stories and life experiences — including struggle, conflict, vulnerability, and passion — can open the doors to new poems. This class operates with the belief that nurturing environments and creative group energy can assist poets and spark new work. Each poet will leave with 3-5 new ideas for poems and/or poems in progress. All levels of poets and writers from beginning to published author are welcome. Bring a pen and paper, or laptop for two hours of generative writing.

Kelli Russell Agodon is an award-winning poet, writer, and editor from the Northwest. Her recent books are Hourglass Museum, (finalist for the Julie Suk Poetry Prize) and The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, which she coauthored with Martha Silano. Her other books include Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year in Poetry and Ffinalist for the Washington State Book Prize), Small Knots, Geography, and Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry.

Kelli is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press and is the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Retreat for Women Writers. She is an avid paddleboarder, mountain biker, and hiker. She has a fondness for typewriters, desserts, and fedoras. Find out more about Kelli at www.agodon.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2015
Ellie A. Rogers
Ellie Rogers
In Other Words: Diction and Wordplay in Poetry
In a poem, every word matters. Poets choose words not only for their meaning(s), but also for their associations, the way they look on the page, the way they feel in the mouth and sound to the ear. In this workshop, we’ll focus on a poem’s basic unit. We’ll read poems that revel in the specificity and physicality of words, we’ll revise one in-process poem through guided wordplay, and we’ll develop individual lexicons from which we’ll launch new work. Please bring 1-2 in-process poems as well as paper and a writing utensil.

Ellie Rogers received her BA from Macalester College. She currently studies with the MFA Creative Writing program at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, where she also teaches writing and critical inquiry. She is the Assistant Managing Editor of the Bellingham Review and formerly served on the Whatcom Poetry Series’ Board of Directors. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Crab Creek Review, Floating Bridge Review, Midwestern Gothic, and Winter Tangerine Review. She draws material from her experiences as a botanical herbarium curator, circus tag-along, and Midwestern transplant to the stunning Pacific Northwest.

Rachel Mehl
Rachel Mehl
The Contemporary Sonnet

Do you think the sonnet has gone the way of wig powder and wooden teeth? Have you always wanted to write a sonnet? Do you write classic sonnets and want to try something new? Either way this workshop is for you. Using examples of contemporary sonnets by living writers, such as Kim Addinizio and Tod Marshall, we will discover how this classic form has evolved and is used in the present day. Prompts and inspiration will be provided. Expect to leave the workshop with two brand new sonnets written by you, as well as inspiration and ideas to keep writing them.

Rachel Mehl has an MFA from the University of Oregon, where she taught poetry for two years. Her poems have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Portland Review, Poet Lore, and Willow Springs. Both her full-length poetry manuscript and chapbook manuscript have been finalists in national competitions. Her poem “Bellingham” was a 2011 Boynton Walk Award winner. She lives in Bellingham and is a member of the Sue Boynton Poetry Contest Committee and secretary of the Whatcom Poetry Series. She wrote her first crown of sonnets while her daughter was sleeping on her lap.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jeffrey MorganJeffrey Morgan
Eavesdropping in the 21st Century
In his famous and somewhat tongue-in-cheek essay “Personism,” Frank O’Hara points out that the telephone is a much better tool for communication than the poem. And yet, O’Hara knows well that how one addresses “the reader,” how one utilizes voice in poetry, is crucial.

In this workshop, we will explore many ways voice functions in poetry. We’ll read and discuss several poems that utilize voice in interesting and effective ways. Most importantly, we’ll write original poems and practice using some of the tricks and tactics we’ve discussed to make our own writing more persuasive. I hope you can attend.

Jeffrey Morgan grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska. He received a BA in English from Macalester College and an MFA in English from Penn State University. He has taught writing and literature at Penn State University, The City University of New York, and Stevens Institute of Technology. He is the author of Crying Shame (BlazeVOX [Books], 2011), and his poems have appeared in the literary journals Bellevue Literary Review, Pleiades, Rattle, Third Coast, Verse Daily, and West Branch, among others.

In 2012, Jeffrey moved from Brooklyn, NY, to Bellingham, WA, to be closer to family. He loves living in the Pacific Northwest and now only misses Brooklyn pizza occasionally. Currently, he’s writing a book of personae poems and hopes to have the manuscript completed by the end of the year.

Elizabeth Austen
Elizabeth Austen
What Else Is Also True?
Good writers know to beware of clichés of thought and feeling as well as language. We’ll use poems by Lucille Clifton and Marie Howe as inspiration to embrace emotional courage and complexity in our work. We’ll experiment with ways to shake up our habitual thought and feeling patterns as we generate and revise. Bring two poems-in-progress, and be prepared to ask yourself discomfiting questions.

Elizabeth Austen is the 2014-16 Washington State Poet Laureate. She’s the author of Every Dress a Decision (Blue Begonia, 2011), a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, and the chapbooks The Girl Who Goes Alone (Floating Bridge, 2010) and Where Currents Meet (Toadlily, 2010). Elizabeth produces poetry programming for NPR-affiliate KUOW 94.9, and earned an MFA at Antioch University LA. She works at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she also offers poetry and journaling workshops for the staff.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jessica Lohafer
Jessica Lohafer
The Poetry of Place.
As we get older, we learn that we can’t always go home. While we might not be able to physically return to the spaces of our past, poetry allows us to reinhabit these locations in new ways. In this workshop, we will be exploring the poetry of place, working to recreate the settings of our lives. We will look to the poetry of Robert Lashley, Jack Gilbert and Kim Addonizio (among others) to help create a fuller picture of where we are coming from. Please come to this workshop with three different life locations in mind.

Jessica Lohafer is a poet, feminist, and bartender out of Bellingham, Washington, whose work has appeared in Whatcom Magazine, The Noisy Water Review, Thriving Thru The Winter: A Pacific Northwest Handguide and Your Hands, Your Mouth. Her collection of poetry, What’s Left to Be Done, was published by Radical Lunchbox Press in 2009. She has served as the Program Director for Poetry in Public Education, bringing writing workshops to schools throughout the Pacific Northwest. Jessica recently received her MFA in poetry from Western Washington University. She has an ongoing collection of stories and poetry at lohafer.wordpress.com.

Caitlin in tulips
Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson
A Fine Balance: Narrative Poetry
A poem that tells a story and remains a poem is a wonderful thing. So often narrative poems tilt in one direction or another, either being too much a poem or too much a story. This workshop is focused on reading, writing, and editing poems that contain this balance.

The workshop will be focusing on craft, narrative ideas, and poem generation. We will read a number of poems from poets such as W.H. Auden and Sharon Olds to help inspire us, and to instill a sense of balance in our work. Participants should bring a narrative poem they themselves have written, as well as paper and a pen.

Caitlin Thomsonreceived an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. She has taught creative writing at Berkley College in Manhattan and at Seattle Pacific University. Her work has appeared in numerous places, including: The Literary Review of Canada, Going Down Swinging, The Liner, Green Briar Review, The Alarmist, and the anthology Killer Verse. Her second chapbook, Incident Reports, was published by Hyacinth Girl Press in 2014. You can learn more about her writing at www.CaitlinThomson.com.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Caleb BarberCaleb Barber
Writing the Insignificant
What happened on your way home from work today? Where was it you found the missing shoe? In this workshop we will explore the poetry of the day-to-day, discovering subtle profundity in the casual conversations, odd encounters, and mild annoyances of routine life. With guidance from examples across a broad spectrum, we will write the poetry that fills the space between the milestones.

Caleb Barber holds a BA in English from Western Washington University, as well as an MFA in poetry from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. He lives in Bellingham, Washington, where he works at an aerospace machine shop. He has been widely published in literary journals, notably in Fulcrum, New Orleans Review, Los Angeles Review, and he was featured in Poet Lore. His first book, Beasts and Violins, is available from Red Hen Press. The title poem appeared in Best American Poetry 2009.

Richard WiderkehrRichard Widerkehr
Poetic Diction: Words You Can Fit in a Wheelbarrow, Words You Can’t.
Diction means word choice. Looking at our images and language—high, low, or mixed; slang or formal, plain or fancy—can be a way into talking about voice, the kinds of poem we’re writing, what we may want to try doing. Using some examples of contemporary and past poems, we’ll discuss mixing high and low diction, living at one end of the spectrum or the other, and making leaps. There will be prompts for in-class writing and chances for those who want to read their work aloud to do so.

Award-winning poet Richard Widerkehr has had two recent collections of poems published: The Way Home (Plain View Press) and Her Story of Fire (Egress Studio Press), along with two chapbooks. Tarragon Books published his novel about a geologist, Sedimental Journey. He’s taught at the University of Hawaii and worked as a counselor on a mental health unit of a hospital.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Kevin MurphyKevin Murphy
The Poetics of Humor.
Humor is increasingly acceptable in serious poetry, and it may be impossible to write a serious poem without it. In this workshop, we’ll look at the elements of poetic comedy including irony, hyperbole and wackiness. We’ll talk about poems by James Tate, Russell Edson, Mary Ruefle, Charles Simic and others, and we’ll experiment with a way or two of wooing the muse through humor.

Kevin Murphy has been performing poetry for over 30 years. He is the author of A Beautiful Chaos Demands Energy and has released a poetry CD, Between Onions and Oxygen. He regularly performs poetry on the Chuckanut Radio Hour and has toured the Pacific Northwest and beyond as a member of the New Old Time Chautauqua. His poetry tends toward the comic and the surreal, and he frequently accompanies himself on guitar and percussion. Kevin Murphy was born on a U.S. Army base in Stuttgart, Germany, grew up in the suburbs of Albany, New York, and is the survivor of 13 years of Catholic School. He lives in Bellingham with his wife, Jeannie.

Jeanne Yeasting teaches The Prose Poem.
“Which one of us, in his moments of ambition, has not dreamed of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical, without rhythm and without rhyme, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of reverie, the jibes of conscience?” Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), from a letter to Arsene Houssaye, sent with Paris Spleen, his book of prose poems.
What is a prose poem? What makes prose poetry tick? This two-hour, hands-on, interactive workshop will introduce the prose poem form; consider the line between “regular” poetry, prose poetry, and prose; and try our hands at writing our own prose poems. We’ll do some serious play with poetics and images. A background in poetry is not necessary, but a willingness to experiment, to luxuriate in reading writing aloud, and to move beyond your habitual writing patterns and style is desirable.

Jeanne Yeasting is a writer and visual artist living in Bellingham. She teaches creative writing and literature at Western Washington University. One of her recent prose poems, Discriminating Distinction, can be seen on the Washington Poet Laureate’s website, “The Far Field.”

Saturday, February 9, 2013
Rachel Mehl - BTVSubmissions to the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest don’t open until March 1, but if you’re thinking about sending in a poem, or even if you’re not thinking about it yet, the contest committee is offering a little encouragement: a FREE workshop on Saturday, February 9, 2013, 1-3pm, in the Fireplace Room at the Fairhaven Public Library.

The workshop, Writing Boynton Contest Poems, taught by poet Rachel Mehl, will use examples from past contests and other poems to inspire and encourage submissions to this year’s contest, and to help people understand the contest guidelines. The workshop is open to all ages and all abilities of poets and will focus on writing short, free-verse poems. Participants will come away with a working draft of a poem.

Rachel Mehl earned an MFA from the University of Oregon, where she taught poetry for two years. Her poems have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Portland Review, Poet Lore and Willow Springs. Her poem “Bellingham” was a 2011 Boynton Walk Award winner and you can watch her read it here. Rachel lives in Bellingham and is a member of the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest committee. She is not a contest judge and has no influence over the judges’ decisions or their choice of winning poems.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Brenda Miller and Abbe ~ photo by Anita K. BoyleBrenda Miller teaches The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World using selected readings, meditations and writing prompts from her book of the same name.

Kathleen Flenniken ~ photo by Rosanne Olson
Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken
The Importance of Surprise
Participants will read poems together and discuss the role of surprise in poetry — how it engages the reader, pushes the poem forward and provides the poet an essential ingredient: discovery. Kathleen Flenniken will share writing tricks that court surprise and participants will employ them to write a new poem draft or two.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rachel Ballard photo by Marc GriffinRachel Ballard
The Master Copy
Like a painter who meticulously labors to copy the work of a beloved master, we will delve deep inside some of our favorite poems. Rather than copy the form, we will explore what we as writers gain when we allow ourselves to inhabit a much-loved work. Attendees will work with exercises that aim to recreate and repurpose those captivating words and images for each participant’s own writing. This workshop will be an exercise in intimate imitation. Please bring writing materials and a favorite poem or two.

Casey FullerCasey Fuller
Honing the Process

This workshop will be fun, informal and serious — no judgment or criticism. Attendees will generate new work along a series of related exercises, following the traditional approach of prompts, writing and sharing (sharing is not required). The exercises will increase in complexity and be arranged to reveal the theme of the workshop: the process of writing poems. The exercises, taken from the instructor’s personal approach, will be arranged around some of the following topics: poems as (almost) posing questions; poems as (almost) answering questions; the future as an imaginative context; the uses of enjambment; the art of distance. Participants will learn how each approach can sustain daily writing. Please bring something to write with and something to write on. Everybody will leave with a small packet of poems and suggestions to sustain their writing.

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