Posts Tagged ‘2010: Poetry’


Valerie Martin offers KWLS Workshop

09/03/2009  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

Photo by Jerry Bauer

Critically acclaimed novelist Valerie Martin will return to Key West to teach a four-day advanced fiction writers’ workshop this January 11-14. Martin is the author of nine novels, including Mary Reilly, the Orange Prize-winning Property, and her newest work, The Confessions of Edward Day, which a reviewer in The New York Times Book Review last month called "Hitchcockian in its trenchant and perverse knowledge about the human animal." Martin is also the author of three collections of short fiction and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi, titled Salvation. Her awards include a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kafka Prize.

Participants in Martin’s advanced fiction workshop will work on the critique and revision of a work-in-progress to bring it to a more complete and polished form. There are no limitations as to genre or subject matter, however a writing sample is required to determine acceptance. To learn more about Martin’s workshop click here; other workshops, with Billy Collins, Dara Wier, and E.J. Miller-Laino, can be found here.

Listen to Martin’s reading from Property at KWLS 27 in our audio archives.

The Pleasures of Disorientation:
a conversation with Billy Collins

08/20/2009  by Arlo Haskell  1 Comment

photo by Curt Richter

Billy Collins is a two-term United States Poet Laureate, New York State Poet, and the author of eight collections of poetry. With the Library of Congress, he established Poetry 180, a teaching aid for high school students founded on the belief that “poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race.” His newest book, Ballistics, has spent nearly a year on the Poetry Foundation’s best sellers list, where his previous book, The Trouble with Poetry, has now appeared for more than 120 consecutive weeks.

Collins’s poetry displays a deep affection for the details of middle-class American life. His landscapes are marked by suburban parks, dogs, and country houses, and inhabited by a narrator whose idylls of contentment and quiet adventure at first appear utterly familiar. But just as these reveries come into view, they are subverted by mischievous impulses that shift the reader, as Collins says here, “from the familiar to the strange, from coziness to disorientation.”

In this interview, conducted over the course of several emails this summer, Collins talks about his poetic rivalries, the theories of John Keats and T.S. Eliot, the importance of keeping secrets in poetry, and the pleasures of disorientation in the age of the GPS.


Littoral: Which poets do you read again and again, and why? Which poet did you read last?

Billy Collins: My reading of poetry is very random at this point because I am not so much studying a particular poet as I am cruising the pages of poetry books and literary magazines looking for a poem, or even a passage, striking enough to urge me to write my own poem. What inspires poetry is poetry. So I read others not to steal but to find gates of departure for my own flights. Of course, some poets provide these more reliably than others. A few of the ones I return to often are Ron Padgett, Charles Simic, Clive James, Yiannis Ritsos, and Wislawa Szymborska. They all make me jealous, often enough to try to show them who’s boss by writing a better poem than any of them. This always fails, but at least something gets written. Did I mention John Donne and Emily Dickinson? They make me furious.


L: Did your time as United States Poet Laureate change how you think about poetry and the audience for it? How so?

BC: My overall view of American poetry and its audience did not really change during my tenure as Poet Laureate. I knew that the audience for poetry was relatively small but that there were many readers out there who had been driven away from poetry and were ready to find a way back. Something I did not realize then was the readiness of high school students to respond fully to poetry if they were exposed to the right kind of poetry. I suppose what I am really doing here is endorsing the Poetry 180 program that I put in place at first for high schoolers. I had no idea I would hear from so many teachers who found that Poetry 180 made poetry come alive for their students, some of whom actually demanded to hear more poems. For me, making the poems available on the Library of Congress website was setting out the water; I had no idea so many horses would come to drink. And I mean “horses” in the best sense of the word!

L: One pleasure of your poetry is the way it cuts through the ceremoniousness of capital-‘L’ Literature. In Ballistics, for example, you spoof well-known lines of poets including Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost. How much should younger readers and writers respect established literary elders like these, and how much should they try to have a more irreverent experience?


BC: I wouldn’t advise coming right out of the box and ridiculing your betters. But if you think you have learned enough from a teacher, you seize the opportunity to signal their current uselessness. Any poet I have parodied or poked fun at– O’Hara, Frost, Stevens– I have been in awe of at one point. But for every poem I have that pokes fun at a poet or poetry itself, I have at least another poem that pokes fun at me. I am critical of poetry because I often suspect its intentions, and I am leery of the easy elevation of poetry into an empyrean condition. The clay feet of every artistic endeavor need to be kept in mind.

Robert Pinsky to give Keynote at KWLS 28

05/19/2009  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

photo of Robert Pinsky by Robert Van Otteren
photo by Robert Van Otteren

Three-time United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky has been named the keynote speaker for the 28th annual Key West Literary Seminar. Pinsky will deliver the John Hersey Memorial Address on Thursday, January 7, 2010, to kick off Clearing the Sill of the World, a celebration of 60 years of American poetry that will feature a total of eight Poets Laureate, including current Laureate Kay Ryan, Rita Dove, Billy Collins, and our guest of honor Richard Wilbur.

As Poet Laureate from 1997-2000, Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, an enormously popular initiative dedicated to celebrating, documenting, and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives. This unique project resulted in a series of video documentaries showcasing individual Americans reading and speaking personally about poems they love, as well as an anthology, Americans’ Favorite Poems, that is now in its 18th printing. In addition to this project, Pinsky has championed poetry’s presence in American life with columns in The Washington Post and Slate, television appearances on The Simpsons and The Colbert Report, and videos on internet outlets including YouTube and BigThink. He is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently Gulf Music; collections of essays including the National Book Critics’ Circle Award-nominated Poetry and the World; and translations including the work of Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and a landmark version of Dante’s Inferno that received the Los Angeles Times Book Award in poetry and the Howard Morton Landon Prize for translation.

The John Hersey Memorial Address was established by members of the literary community in fond remembrance of Hersey (1914-1993), an acclaimed journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and much-loved figure in Key West, where he lived with Barbara, his wife, for many years. Hersey’s writings include the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Bell for Adano, Hiroshima, A Single Pebble, and Key West Tales.

2010 Scholarship Program for Writers, Teachers, Librarians

04/08/2009  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

Scholarships for Writers

We are now accepting applications for our 2010 Scholarship Program. Click here for complete details.

The Key West Literary Seminar’s three named scholarships- the Joyce Horton Johnson Fiction Award, the Marianne Russo Scholarship, and the Scotti Merrill Scholarship– recognize excellence in a manuscript submission from an emerging writer. Each provides full tuition to our January Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program, support for travel, lodging, and living expenses while in Key West, and an opportunity to appear on stage during the Seminar. In addition to these scholarships, we provide limited financial assistance to writers, students, teachers, and librarians who would otherwise not be able to attend the Seminar or Writers’ Workshop Program.

In only two years, our scholarship program has supported more than 100 individuals with nearly $100,000 in fee waivers and lodging and travel assistance. This assistance is made possible by extraordinarily generous support from our community. We are grateful to Joyce Johnson, The Dogwood Foundation, and The Rodel Charitable Foundation-Florida for providing the endowments which will support our scholarship program for years to come; to Judy Blume’s KIDS Fund for financial assistance to teachers and librarians; and to our board of directors and the many individuals whose support allows young writers to join the Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program each year.

Visit our Scholarships page for complete application guidelines and a list of past winners.

Collins, Wier to teach Writers’ Workshops

04/03/2009  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
Billy Collins and Dara Wier collage
We’re happy to announce that two of our most popular faculty members will be returning for the Writers’ Workshop Program next January 11-14. Two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will offer a three-day workshop titled "Strategies in Reader-Based Poetry." "’Reader-based poetry’ might sound as redundant as the medical field known as ‘patient care,’" Collins explains in the course listing, "but, sadly, that is not the case. Our gathering will have as its starting point the poet’s duty to engage and sustain the attention of a reader."

Also returning to the program is Dara Wier, director of the MFA program for poets and writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and co-director of the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action. Her four-day workshop, "Discovering What You Want to Say," promises to stress the importance of "poets as readers of their own poems, and poets as writers who thrive on upsetting some of the conventions of writing and reading." In contrast to Collins’s approach, Wier says "It’s most important for you to be your own best reader, not your only reader, but your most insightful, alert, aware, difficult, hungry, demanding, and encouraging reader."

Other faculty include E.J. Miller Laino, whose four-day workshop is called "Getting To The Next Level: The Practice of Poetry." Miller Laino has published poems in journals and magazines including The American Poetry Review and New York Quarterly, and teaches creative writing and poetry workshops at Florida Keys Community College. She first taught in our program in 2003.

More writers’ workshops and faculty members will be announced in the coming weeks. Our Writers’ Workshop Program main page will list all faculty members and provide links to course description, requirements, and biographical material. Click here to register for a writers’ workshop.

Rita Dove is 8th Laureate to Join KWLS 28

03/14/2009  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

Rita Dove Photo by Fred Viebahn
Photo by Fred Viebahn

We are delighted to announced the addition of Rita Dove to our roster of speakers for the Key West Literary Seminar next January. Dove joins current United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, and past Laureates Billy Collins, Charles Simic, Robert Pinsky, Maxine Kumin, and Mark Strand for our 28th annual event, intended as a celebration of 60 years of American poetry and a tribute to Richard Wilbur, himself a former Laureate. Dove served two terms in the office, from 1993-1995, and was also appointed a Special Bientennial Consultant in 1999. At 40 years old, she was the youngest poet to hold the office, appointed each year by the Librarian of Congress and meant to serve as "the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans."

Dove’s collections of poetry include Thomas and Beulah, which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize; a 1993 Selected Poems; and the forthcoming Sonata Mulattica. Her collaboration with composer John Williams on the song cycle Seven for Luck was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and her play The Darker Face of the Earth has been produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Royal National Theatre in London, among other venues.

You can learn more about Rita Dove on her KWLS Speaker Page. See all of this year’s speakers here.

Register for 2010.

KWLS 28 to Feature 7 U.S. Poets Laureate

02/20/2009  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

U.S. Poets Laureate past and present, from top left: Charles Simic, Kay Ryan, Robert Pinsky, Maxine Kumin, Billy Collins, Mark Strand, and Richard Wilbur at center. Photos by Richard Drew, Christina Koci Hernandez, Emma Dodge Hanson, Associated Press, Steven Kovich, Emily Mott, and Stathis Orphanos.

Clearing the sill of the world, the 28th annual Key West Literary Seminar, will feature a cast of poets including seven past and present United States Poets Laureate. The office, appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress since 1937, exists to "raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry," and serve as "the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans."

Joining us in Key West next January are Richard Wilbur, Laureate from 1987-1988 under Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin, who called him "a poet for us all, whose elegant words brim with wit and paradox. He is also a poet’s poet, at home in the long tradition and traveled ways of the great poets of our language." Maxine Kumin, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1973, served as Laureate from 1981-1982, where she was noted for a popular series of poetry workshops for women she started at the Library of Congress. Mark Strand, whose most recent work is Man and Camel, served from 1990-1991. His work has earned Pulitzer and Bollingen prizes and has been called by Octavio Paz "the opening to a transparent verbal perfection." Robert Pinsky, currently the poetry editor at Slate, served an unprecedented three terms as Laureate, from 1997-2000. While in office, Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, which documents thousands of Americans of diverse occupations, education, and backgrounds reading and talking about the poems they love. Billy Collins served two terms as Laureate, from 2001-2003, and founded Poetry 180, a teaching aid for high school students based on the belief that "poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race." Collins has joined us for the Seminar nearly every year since he left office, and is an annual favorite of the students who join us from Key West High School. Charles Simic, a Yugoslavian immigrant who later served in the U.S. Army, is a MacArthur Fellow, a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and a Pulitzer Prize winner. He was appointed Poet Laureate in August of 2007, on the same day he received the $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, for "outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry." The current Poet Laureate is Kay Ryan, winner of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from The Poetry Foundation and an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award. Of her work, Ryan has said "An almost empty suitcase-that’s what I want my poems to be. A few things. The reader starts taking them out, but they keep multiplying."

You can learn more about these and the other poets joining us in January by visiting our speakers page, which contains biographical information and links to resources like interviews and audio recordings from around the web. To learn more about the office of Poet Laureate, visit the Library of Congress.

Update: We’ve added an eighth Laureate: Rita Dove.

Register for 2010: clearing the sill of the world

2010: Clearing the Sill of the World

11/08/2008  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

We’re pleased to announce the theme for our 2010 Seminar. Clearing the Sill of the World, from January 7 – 10, will be a celebration of 60 years of American poetry in honor of our longtime friend Richard Wilbur. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, National Book Award winner, and former Poet Laureate of the United States, Wilbur has, in his distinguished career, received virtually every award available to a poet. Our title comes from a line in his poem, "The Writer," which you can see on our home page for the 2010 Seminar. We’ve begun to assemble an excellent cast of poets for the event, and will be announcing their names in the weeks and months to come.

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