With the generous participation of outstanding poet/instructors, the Sue Boynton Poetry Contest offers a number of workshops each year. No previous poetry experience is required.

Registration is required and all fees benefit the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest: $30 per workshop. Zoom links will be provided after registration.

TO REGISTER, please submit your payment of $30 via Venmo (www.venmo.com/SueC-BoyntonContest ) OR by check (made out to Sue C. Boynton Contest) mailed to PO Box 5442, Bellingham, WA 98227-5442. Please be sure to include your name, email, phone, and the title/date of the workshop(s) you wish to attend. If you have questions, please contact Jay, our workshop coordinator by email: jsnahani AT gmail.com.


Saturday, February 5, 2022 PLEASE NOTE: Seth’s workshop has been postponed temporarily. Please watch for a new date.

10:00am – Noon Pacific
on Zoom

Seth Harris
Writing From the Right Side of Your Brain

Genius is the ability to play – Albert Einstein

In this interactive workshop, you will be encouraged to play, to shed all inhibitions and expectations, to become as children playing with language for the sole sake of exploration. Plan to embrace the child-like expectation that whatever manifests will contain its own intrinsic value. Special emphasis will be placed on crafting clear, vivid imagery — painting pictures that resonate off the page. At workshop’s end, we will interweave our collective output into a group poem whose whole will prove more than the sum of its parts.

Poet, fiction writer and performer Seth Harris openly admits to having a sordid love affair with language. His passion for words — particularly the rhythms and sounds of speech — extends not only to his craft, but to his presentation. One of Colorado’s best known performance poets, Seth has collaborated with countless musicians, poets, actors, singers and dancers in a never-ending quest to render poetry more entertaining, and thus more accessible, to general audiences. He is author of the poetic memoir, A Black Odyssey, and the award-winning satirical novel, The Perfect Stranger. Seth lives in Denver, where he spearheads Art Compost & the Word Mechanics, an improvisational poetic-musical ensemble that invites poets to join in every Sunday night for a poetry-musical jam.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

10:00am – Noon Pacific
on Zoom

Tere Harrison
Embodied Writing

You’re making something with words which are visceral, muscular, active, not just markers of how you feel. Anne Waldman

In this workshop, we will travel backward in the creative process from the poetry reading to the initial moment of creation. What is the moment of creation? How long is a creative moment and what exists in that moment? Is it experienced in the mind? In the body? Both?

We possess a somatic intelligence that is at the core of our experience as writers. The context, cadence, sound, and imagery we offer in our writing is suffused with a dynamic body-mind that both instigates and supports the words we choose to share. This physical mind permeates the initial creative moment, the writing, the editing, the reading, and the witnessing of our fellow writers.

Together, we will unpack the words somatic and embodied and visceral with playful writing prompts and exercises. Our goal in this workshop is to gently tune into your unique embodiment of language. We will tap into the thoughts and writings of Anne Waldman, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, William Carlos Williams, and Allen Ginsberg as we flex our understanding of how we discover, taste, hear, feel and assemble words.

Tere Harrison is a writer and performer who is fascinated with the intersection of spoken word and music and sometimes devises original one-woman shows with more than one woman in them.

A graduate of Naropa University’s MFA program in Contemporary Performance, she studied with Steve Wangh and Wendell Beavers of NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing, Barbara Dilley, original founder of the Judson Church and Grand Union dance collectives, Erika Berland with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s School of Body Mind Centering, and Ethie Friend of the Roy Hart Theatre of France. Harrison memorized and performed Allen Ginsberg’s Howl as a duet with a stand-up bass player at the Austin Fringe Festival, then with a pianist in a room full of typewriters in Boulder, Colorado, home of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Also in Boulder, Harrison deconstructed Macbeth from Lady Macbeth’s point of view and performed it as a one-act set in her kitchen at 3 a.m. with a harmonica player and resonator guitar. Tere now lives in Bellingham and learns from the poets of Whatcom County.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

10:00am – Noon Pacific on Zoom
Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest
Pulling Poems from the Ends of Our Pens

“Where do your poems come from?” This question is often asked in Q & A sessions and interviews. I think it’s a great question. Where do poems come from? We’ll have a discussion about where our poems come from and if you have a favorite poem you’ve written, I invite you to bring it along and share it, along with a few words about your process. People will also often ask “How do you start a poem?” In this workshop we’ll begin by sharing our strategies for getting started, and we’ll respond to a series of prompts. By the end of our time together you’ll have a fresh set of ideas on which to build new poems.

Rena Priest is a Poet and an enrolled member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. She has been appointed to serve as the Washington State Poet Laureate for the term of April 2021-2023. She is a Vadon Foundation Fellow, and recipient of an Allied Arts Foundation Professional Poets Award. Her debut collection, Patriarchy Blues, was published in 2017 by MoonPath Press and received an American Book Award. She is a National Geographic Explorer (2018-2020) and a Jack Straw Writer (2019). She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Alexandra Teague
Beyond the Mask: Possibilities and Pitfalls of Persona

From Patricia Smith, as a Black woman writing in the voice of a white male skinhead, to Molly McCully Brown, as a contemporary poet with cerebral palsy imagining the voices of women a century before confined at the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, poets have often taken on voices that are not their own. In this workshop, we’ll consider the ways in which those voices may offer complicated other perspectives and/or a more embodied or truer version of a self, as well as some of the ethics and potential pitfalls of speaking as another.

Alexandra Teague is most recently the author of the poetry collection Or What We’ll Call Desire (Persea, 2019), described in The New York Times as “passionate, quirky, and righteously outraged.” Her prior books are The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea, 2015) and Mortal Geography (Persea 2010); the novel The Principles Behind Flotation; and the co-edited anthology Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. A former Stegner and NEA fellow, and recent fellow at Civitella Ranieri, Alexandra is a professor at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

John S Green
Free Children’s Poetry Workshop

In this FREE CHILDREN’S POETRY WORKSHOP, John Green will present poetry as a fun, engaging act of creative writing. His workshop will be interactive, inviting all participants to write in response to a variety of prompts. Questions will be encouraged. The discussion will include style — for example, prose vs. verse — as well as suggestions for making writing a life-long love. NOTE: While the workshop is designed for young poets, all ages are welcome! Parents/guardians/educators, please feel free to accompany your child/ren as well, and… if you feel inspired, write along!

John S Green, founder of Papa Green Bean LLC, maintains a blog and Facebook page (Papa Green Bean) as an early childhood development and education advocate for first-time parents. He believes in respectful and thoughtful parenting foremost, but also understands the huge benefits of playfulness. Although a widely published poet, Whimsy Park is John’s first book of children’s poetry. John was born in Europe and lived in Turkey, Italy, and Belgium before moving to the United States at age 13. He has a daughter who is funny, and cooks with spice, and a wife who laughs at his jokes and still thinks he’s cute.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Kathryn Smith
I Get Where You’re Coming From: Maps as a Framework for Poetry

“No map entirely tells the truth,” says geography professor Mark Monmonier. “There’s always some distortion, some point of view.”

We rely on maps to show us where we’ve been and to direct us to where we’re going. But when we begin to consider maps’ flaws and biases, questions arise. Whose boundaries do we trust? How do we orient ourselves? Whose experience do we center? How do we organize layers of information and meaning?

These same questions can be applied to our experience of poetry.

Using works by Kiki Petrosino, Layli Long Soldier, Evie Shockley, and others, we’ll talk about how poetry can draw on the language, principles, and complexities of maps, geographic and otherwise. We’ll discuss the visual aspects of cartography and consider how they can relate to poetry. Then, we’ll let these elements serve as maps for us as writers as we craft poems that navigate and explore complicated physical, political, and personal landscapes.

Kathryn Smith is a poet and mixed media artist based in Spokane, WA. She is the author of Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, which won the Jake Adam York Prize and is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions, as well as the collection Book of Exodus and the chapbook Chosen Companions of the Goblin. Her visual poetry combines found text with collage, embroidery, and handmade ink. Author photo by Dean Davis.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Dayna Patterson
Exploring the Feminine Divine

The Shekhinah. Lady Wisdom. God the Mother. Although many religious traditions are patriarchal and worship mainly a male deity, traditions of the feminine divine persist, sometimes hidden, obscured. Poetry, where we “dwell in possibility,” is an ideal genre for exploring alternative approaches to theology, including uncovering and celebrating the feminine divine. In this workshop, we’ll look at poems by Alicia Ostriker, Allison Pelegrin, Traci Brimhall, Susan Elizabeth Howe, and Vandana Khanna, as we reconceptualize and draft our own poems questioning, invoking, praising, and complicating the feminine divine.

Dayna Patterson is the author of Titania in Yellow (Porkbelly Press, 2019) and If Mother Braids a Waterfall (Signature Books, 2020). Her creative work has appeared recently in EcoTheo, Duende, Gulf Coast, and The Carolina Quarterly. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Psaltery & Lyre and a co-editor of Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry. She was a co-winner of the 2019 #DignityNotDetention Poetry Prize judged by Ilya Kaminsky. Photo by Mariana Patterson.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Claudia Castro Luna
When in doubt make a list

Lists are ubiquitous in our lives. We use them as we gear up to travel, for grocery shopping, as everyday to-do reminders. It turns out poets use lists widely as armature for their poems. Sometimes the lists are so well disguised it takes some sleuthing to see them, at others it is the obvious structural element. We will take a close look at poems that contain lists and write our own.

Claudia Castro Luna is Washington State Poet Laureate. She served as Seattle’s Civic Poet from 2015-2017 and is the author of Killing Marías (Two Sylvias Press), also shortlisted for WA State 2018 Book Award in poetry, and This City (Floating Bridge Press). She is the creator of the acclaimed Seattle Poetic Grid. Castro Luna is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship, the recipient of individual artist grants from King County 4Culture and Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, a Hedgebrook and VONA alumna, and a 2014 Jack Straw fellow. Born in El Salvador she came to the United States in 1981. She has an MA in Urban Planning, a teaching certificate and an MFA in poetry. Her poems have been featured in PBS Newshour, KQED San Francisco, KUOW Seattle and have appeared in Poetry Northwest, La Bloga, Dialogo and Psychological Perspectives, among others. Her non-fiction work can be read in several anthologies, among them This Is The Place: Women Writing About Home (Seal Press). Claudia is currently working on a memoir, Like Water to Drink, about her experience escaping the civil war in El Salvador. Living in English and Spanish, she writes and teaches in Seattle where she gardens and keeps chickens with her husband and their three children. Photo by Timothy Aguero.

WORKSHOP POSTPONED due to family emergency
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
Self-Portrait, Selfie, and Snap Poems

We read and write poems in an era where the self is at the center of our considerations and artistic representation. Self-Portraits are abundant in poetry as they are in visual art, and offer a rich landscape to explore, question, subvert, and re/define the self. “Selfie” was officially added to the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2013 and the Selfie is now considered an art form in itself, with its own museum! And from my teenage daughters, I have tried to learn and been fascinated by the culture of Snaps — quick and often partial self-portraits, disappearing as soon as they are consumed. What can all these visual art forms offer us as poets? What does it mean to write a self-portrait, selfie, or snap poem? We’ll explore the blurry boundaries between these forms and use them to generate thrilling and revelatory poem drafts.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first book, Water & Salt (Red Hen Press), won the 2018 Washington State Book Award for Poetry. Her first chapbook, Arab in Newsland, won the 2016 Two Sylvias Press Prize. Her forthcoming chapbook, Letters from the Interior, will be published this fall. In 2017-18, she served as inaugural Poet-In-Residence at Open Books: A Poem Emporium in Seattle.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Stefania Heim
Ekphrastic Practice: Writing with Art

For centuries, poets have been making works that speak to, about, or out from pieces of visual art. John Keats asks direct questions of the Grecian Urn (“What men or gods are these?”). Carol Ann Duffy gives voice to the painting’s silent subject, the “Standing Female Nude.” Mary Jo Bang leaps from photographs to philosophical musings (“Art is what looking takes you to”). And Robin Coste Lewis collages descriptions of Western art objects in which a black female figure is represented in order to animate a history of art’s complicity in violence. Each of these writers uses art as a jumping off point for vibrant, original poems. We will join these experimenters, writing poems that describe, animate, and talk back to works of art in all genres. This workshop will be generative, giving participants a chance to expand their usual subject matter and deepen their practices of looking. Together, we will develop strategies and prompts for writing new poems, playing with imagery, sensory detail, perspective, voice, narrative, and history.

Stefania Heim is author of the poetry collections HOUR BOOK, chosen by Jennifer Moxley as winner of the Sawtooth Prize and published in 2019 by Ahsahta Books, and A Table That Goes On for Miles (Switchback Books, 2014). Geometry of Shadows, her book of translations of metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico’s Italian poems, is forthcoming with A Public Space Books. She received 2019 translation fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Stefania has taught at a range of institutions including Deep Springs College, Duke University, Hunter College, and University of Montana; she is currently an assistant professor at Western Washington University.

Keetje Kuipers
Bringing Back the Magic

If ancient poems were originally incantations and spells, why do contemporary poets often feel compelled to stick to story 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. By examining the use of magical realism in contemporary poetry — including work by Alberto Ríos, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Marilyn Nelson, Sharon Olds, and Cornelius Eady — we’ll explore the effect that the surreal has when placed within a poem that might otherwise feel narrative or naturalistically lyric. 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.

Keetje Kuipers is the author of three books of poems, including Beautiful in the Mouth (BOA, 2010), winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and a Poetry Foundation bestseller. Her second collection, The Keys to the Jail (2014), was a book club pick for The Rumpus, and her third book, All Its Charms (2019), includes poems honored by publication in both The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Narrative, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, Orion, The Believer, and over a hundred other magazines. Her poems have also been featured as part of the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series and read on NPR’s Writer’s Almanac. Kuipers has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, a Bread Loaf fellow, and the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident, among other honors. She now teaches at Seattle’s Hugo House and serves as Senior Editor at Poetry Northwest.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Jane Wong
Revisiting the Ode

This course is completely celebratory! We will revisit the ode form, which comes from the Greek “aeidein” (to sing or chant). In J. A. Cuddon’s words, an ode is “a full-dress poem.” Full of fervor, we will consider the ode as an address to a person, event, object, or something even more ineffable. Along with writing our own odes, we will read traditional and contemporary odes from John Keats, Pablo Neruda, Lucille Clifton, Eduardo C. Corral, Hannah Sanghee Park, and C. D. Wright.

Jane Wong’s poems can be found in Best American Poetry 2015, American Poetry Review, AGNI, Third Coast, jubilat, and others. A Kundiman fellow and recipient of a Pushcart Prize, she is the author of Overpour (Action Books, 2016). She is an Assistant Professor at Western Washington University.

Bruce Beasley
Dreams and the Work of Poetry

“The dream thinks like a poet” – Bert O. States
If our dreams think like our poems, then every night gives us each two hours of rough drafts for poems, in a state of mind where metaphor, wild and brilliant leaps of association, puns, extraordinary images, and so much more are offered us. If poems, as a parallel, also think like dreams, what do those forms of thinking sound like — what are the forms in how their sayings move, and why? How do poems and dreams proceed—with what interior logic — from one assertion or image to another, and how does that procession differ from less “bizarre” ways of speaking? In this workshop we’ll dig into poems and into dreams to learn from dreams about how poems move and learn from poems about the imagistic, linguistic and narrative assemblages of dreams. This is a generative workshop using exercises, dream-images and fragments, borrowed images and dialogue from workshop colleagues’ dreams to lead to new forms of poems not by imitating or recording our dreams but by building poems that learn from dreams’ intricate structures of metaphor, juxtaposition, metonymy, wordplay, and radical compression.

Bruce Beasley is a professor of English at Western Washington University and the author of eight collections of poems, including All Soul Parts Returned (2017) and Theophobia (2012), both from BOA Editions. He has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and three Pushcart prizes. His recent work appears in Kenyon Review, Gettysburg Review, Southern Review, Agni, and other journals.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Jory Mickelson
Spectacular, Wild, Precarious!

Yellowstone National Park has been a source of inspiration for more than a century. At times called “Wonderland,” “Colter’s Hell,” and Mi tse a-da-zi by the Hidatsa people, more than four million nature lovers make a pilgrimage to this place each year. In this same spirit of discovery and wonder, we will use Yellowstone as a lens to examine our own writing.

During our time together, we will use the park as metaphor and structure to reinvigorate and let a little wildness in to our writing. We will experiment with the terrain and landscape of our work. There will also be a discussion about what the ecology of our personal vision and voice may look like. Be prepared to compose some new work based on provided prompts.

Please bring one or two short poetic pieces/fragments that don’t want to come together for you and a photograph (on your phone/tablet/laptop is great) of an outdoor place you love. Plan on having fun and maybe even learning a thing or two about the “Serengeti of North America.”

Jory Mickelson is a queer writer who grew up in the wilds of Montana. He has traveled extensively in the National Parks in the Western U.S. His work has appeared in The Rumpus, Ninth Letter, Vinyl Poetry, The Florida Review, Superstition Review, The Collagist, and other journals in the United States, Canada, and the UK. He is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and a Lambda Literary Fellow in Poetry. He is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Self-Portrait with Men in Cars. You can follow him at jorymickelson.com

Maya Jewell Zeller and Laura Read
The American Character & The Personal Pronoun

In 2017, poets Natalie Diaz and Ada Limón conducted a project they called Envelopes of Air, writing first person narratives to one another. These intimate collaborations helped them address, through the daily details of their individual lives, what it’s like to be alive in this time, “when immigration officers of ICE are as present figures as the poets’ partners and lovers.” The poems that come out of this project “ultimately expose and explore the American character,” writes The New Yorker. Drawing from Diaz and Limón, as well as a similar correspondence between workshop leaders Laura Read and Maya Jewell Zeller, this session will help you generate writing that explores your own individual lives as artifacts of our current national landscape.

Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of the interdisciplinary collaboration (with visual artist Carrie DeBacker) Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts (Entre Rios Books, 2017), the chapbook Yesterday, the Bees (Floating Bridge Press, 2015), and the poetry collection Rust Fish (Lost Horse Press, 2011). Her essays and fiction appear in recent issues of Passages North and Booth Journal, as well as the anthology This is the Place: Women Writing About Home (Seal Press, 2017). Recipient of a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation as well as a Residency in the H.J. Andrews Forest, Maya teaches for Central Washington University and lives in the Inland Northwest.

Laura Read’s first collection of poems, Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral, was published in 2012 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her second collection, Dresses from the Old Country, will be published by BOA in October of 2018. She teaches English at Spokane Falls Community College.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Megan Spiegel
Text + Image: A Hybrid Poetry Studio

What is a hybrid? In this studio-based workshop, we will explore hybrid forms, especially those that incorporate visual elements, to find out how writers might draw from poetry, memoir, visual art, cartography, and more in their creative practices. We will experiment with working visually to draft new poems and discuss ideas for shaping our drafts in inventive ways. Borrowing images and other items to incorporate into our own work, including sources of re-mixable text and visuals, will be discussed. No visual art experience is needed, but please come prepared to work without a laptop as we sketch, diagram, and write by hand. You will leave with at least one work in progress and generative prompts to keep you going.

Megan Spiegel is a graduate of the multi-genre MFA program at Western Washington University, and served as the first Hybrid Genre editor for Bellingham Review. Her poetry, prose, and collaborative works have appeared in journals such as Ghost Proposal, Sweet, Fugue, and Vinyl.

Ely Shipley
Presence Through Poetry

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison,” Coleridge sits injured in his garden, inhibited from hiking with friends. He starts off in a state of sadness and frustration, but ends up somewhere else entirely through the course of the poem, as if he too were hiking in real time with his friends, all through waking to his imagination. He thinks of where along the hike they are, what exactly they might be seeing, and ultimately finds them “Struck with deep joy…as [he has] stood” (L.38). Indeed, he is able to “perceive” them and know their experience through becoming increasingly aware of his own present experience in his garden. He writes that “A delight/ Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad/ As I myself were there…” (L.43-45). Ezra Pound’s famous description of “an ‘Image’” in poems as “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time” also invokes this quality of presence. In this workshop, through close reading and writing prompts, we will consider both conventional and innovative techniques to generate an experience of time in our writing that opens a sense of simultaneity and presence.

Ely Shipley is the author of Some Animal, forthcoming from Nightboat Books; Boy with Flowers, winner of the Barrow Street Press book prize judged by Carl Phillips, the Thom Gunn Award, and finalist for a Lambda Literary Award; and On Beards: A Memoir of Passing, a letterpress chapbook from speCt! Books. His poems and cross-genre work also appear in the Western Humanities Review, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse, Interim, Greensboro Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Witness, Diagram, Gulf Coast, Fugue, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from Purdue University and a PhD from the University of Utah. He taught for many years at Baruch College, CUNY in NYC and is currently an assistant professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Nancy Pagh
Corresponding Intimacy: The Letter Form in Creative Writing
This lecture and workshop invites you to explore the expressive power of the literary epistle or “letter-shaped” text. Journalist and memoirist Vivian Gornick tells us that “To write a letter is to be alone with my thoughts in the conjured presence of another person. I keep myself imaginative company.” In this workshop you’ll discover a wide range of occasions for and approaches to the letter and will investigate the potential to morph these rhetorical containers into imagined epistles: fresh and contemporary poems, stories, and memoir posing in varied shapes — brief as a postcard or expansive as an exchange spanning months. Our objective is not to wax nostalgic about how “great” letters were compared to social media, but to understand some of the modes and effects of personal address. We will attempt new drafts, harnessing these intimate modes to craft meaningful literary works.

Nancy Pagh is the author of three poetry collections and a book of nonfiction about women traveling the Pacific Northwest aboard ships. Her multi-genre writer’s guide, Write Moves, was published by Broadview Press in 2016. She lives in Bellingham and teaches at Western Washington University. More at nancypagh.com.

Neil Aitken
Writing at the Threshold of Loss and Desire

The death of a loved one, the failure of a relationship, the excitement of new love, or the anticipation of a new stage in life. We write out of our sorrow or joy, trying to make sense of these and other significant transitions in our life. As important as these moments are to us, we often find ourselves at a loss as to how to capture what we are feeling and connect what is intensely personal with the larger world of human experience. In this generative workshop, we will use a variety of exercises that draw on images, technology, and memory to unlock the deep images and language within us we need to write these powerful poems.

Neil Aitken is the author of Babbage’s Dream (Sundress Publications, 2017) and The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga Press, 2008), which received the Philip Levine Prize. Of Chinese, Scottish, and English descent, he was born in Vancouver, BC, Canada, but grew up in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and various parts of western Canada. A former computer programmer and a proud Kundiman fellow, he holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from USC. He is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, curator of Have Book Will Travel, and co-director of De-Canon: A Visibility Project. More at neil-aitken.com.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Judy KleinbergJ.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 WesthoffElizabeth 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. EricksonSusan 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'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 SpiersAnn 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 DaleyMichael Daley

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 MorganJeffrey 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 RichKelli 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 Addonizio 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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