Conversing with Chris: The Long Poem, an Upcoming Workshop

The Long Poem is a six week workshop starting Thursday, March 30, open to all writing levels and backgrounds. We’ve interviewed instructor Christopher Kondrich about what to expect in class. To view complete course information, and to register, click here.

“For me, this is what poetry is all about—discovering not what we have already done, but what we haven’t thought that we might be able to do.” – Christopher Kondrich

fw-chrisHow might beginner writers, or people new to writing poetry, benefit from the Long Poem workshop? 

It’s a class for anyone, at any level, interested in generating new work (or working on something in-progress) a bit differently. This is to say that I think we move too quickly through our writing lives, at a speed that mirrors the speed through which we move through our days and weeks. We want to finish poem after poem fast! Slowing the process down a bit, spending more time on an individual piece as it evolves and flourishes—these are ways that could lead us in unexpected, surprising directions, that could open new pathways and avenues for us creatively. For me, this is what poetry is all about—discovering not what we have already done, but what we haven’t thought that we might be able to do.

What most excites you about the class?

I’m excited to explore the long poems from contemporary poets that I’ll be sharing, but I’m more excited to explore/discuss/workshop the long poems that the class will be starting or continuing. Because the long poem allows for such variety and possibility, I’m particularly excited to see what folks are up to, how they interpret and invoke the form of the long poem. I’m eager to work with those who take the class to explore what else a long poem can be, what lyric or narrative, prose or hybrid work they can create.

How can long poems, as you’ve said, “bend and stretch language, expression and expectation,” and how can this be rewarding and surprising to readers and writers? How will this be explored in class?

Well, when I think about a beautiful, incredible poem like “Song” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, I think about how short a long poem can be (it’s a page and a half). I think about how many times that poem surprises me, how many times she could have stopped, but the poem keeps going, breaking my heart more and more, into smaller and smaller pieces.

I also think about Timothy Donnelly’s “Hymn to Life,” which eulogizes, with a breathtaking number of stanzas, the endangered species we are on the cusp of losing forever, all intermixed with pop culture references that feel deeply personal and resonant to him. So, to me, “Hymn to Life” represents a memorialization of the loss of species and the memorialization of memory itself, as it churns and fuses the species/pop culture references with line breaks, to name one craft element it utilizes to this effect.

There will be exercises stemming from these, as well as all the other poems we’ll explore together, that will challenge writers to incorporate these strategies (the short long poem, the fusion of disparate elements) into their own work.

What led you to choose the particular poets that this course will explore? 

It dawned on me, when I was brainstorming ideas for a Frequency class, that almost all the poems that stood out to me from the last couple of decades are long or sequential. So, it was a no-brainer to group Kelly and Donnelly with Jorie Graham, Lisa Robertson, Heather McHugh, Vijay Seshadri and Alice Notley. These are some of the most awe-inspiring and vital poets of our time! Each one is so different and vibrant—those who take the class will see from them just how rewarding writing long poems can be.

The Mark Baumer Celebration of Life

Our friend, Mark Baumer

Frequency is heartbroken over the loss of writer and activist Mark Baumer. Mark was struck by car on his 100th day of crossing America barefoot. He was walking to raise awareness of climate change, and in support of the work of the FANG Collective.

Mark was a friend to many of us, and he performed at Frequency events on several occasions over the years. His humble empathy, humor, compassion, and creativity distinguished him as a much loved poet and friend of Providence and the greater community. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends. Mark, you inspire us and we miss you.

A celebration of activist, writer, performance artist, librarian, son, friend, and vegan superhero Mark Baumer’s life will take place at 2:00-4:00pm on Saturday, February 4th at Brown University’s Granoff Center in Providence, RI. All are warmly welcome to attend. It will be a beautiful afternoon of holding space together in remembrance of Mark and his compassionate spirit.

Find more information on the Facebook event page.

Event location: Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University, 154 Angell St, Providence, Rhode Island 02906.

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All are Welcome at our Open House

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Frequency Writers Open House will take place on Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 186 Carpenter Street from 4:30-6:30 pm.
Come meet Frequency instructors and mingle with other writers in the Frequency community!

This session will be helpful for those who would like to learn more about our writing community and upcoming Winter/Spring classes taught by Tina Cane, Rosalynde Vas Dias, Chris Kondrich, and S. Tourjee. For more information, visit https://frequencywriters.org/current-courses/.

Talking with Tina Cane about “The Poet as Witness to History”

The Poet as Witness to History is a six week workshop starting February 16, and is open to all writing levels and backgrounds. We’ve interviewed instructor and Rhode Island Poet Laureate Tina Cane about what to expect in class and what it means to be a witness to history.

To view complete course information, and to register, click here.

“History is within us, is a mechanism of how we operate, is inescapable and belongs to everyone.” — Tina Cane

Who might be interested in joining The Poet as Witness to History writing class?

Anyone interested in writing. One doesn’t need to have a particular interest or
background in history to take part. I am not an historian, but I am fascinated by the intersection of literature and history.

tina-caneWhat most excites you about the class?

I am always excited to lead a workshop. It galvanizes me to have to collect my thoughts and think about how to share them. I have spent many years teaching as a visiting poet in middle and high school history classes. I enjoy encouraging students to see the connections between history and the literature produced during a particular era.

What does it mean to be a witness to history as a writer? Is one’s history in the past or is it happening now?

We are all witnesses to history—whether or not we write. A writer’s work can be considered an historical document by virtue of the fact that it is produced during a particular moment in time. Even if a piece of writing does not explicitly refer to events, or uses another period as its setting, there are often allusions, approaches or markers that characterize the era in which it was created.

It’s interesting to explore what a writer is revealing about his/her time through writing that is distinct from facts. One’s history is always unfolding, even as each hour passes.

The way we see the past is also always in flux— much in the way that when one returns to a book years later, there is something new to be found. The reader has changed, not the book. Add time to anything and it becomes history. The past is always being revised— sometimes even factually, but certainly always in how we view it. Context and perspective are everything. We can look to personal history for the clearest, most compelling examples of that. Ask several members of the same family about an experience they shared—each personal, account of that history will be different. History, like memory, can be quite subjective and unreliable. Since history is usually written by the victors, it is worth reading what the poets were up to.

In the course description, you begin with a quote by poet Charles Olson: “History is the function of any one of us.” Can you explain how this quote is a peek into what this course might be like and the themes that students will read and write about?

History is within us, is a mechanism of how we operate, is inescapable and belongs to everyone. We will read and write about personal and world histories as expressed in poetry. We will think about the factors that come to bear on our how we understand and approach the past.

What led you to choose the particular poets that this course will explore? 

I am most interested in exploring how poets of an era may choose or choose not to address history in their work and how, regardless, historical insights may be inherently present in their writings.

As recently appointed Rhode Island’s poet laureate, how has being a witness to history influenced your own writing and poetics?

Long before I was appointed Poet Laureate, I began writing a series of “minor history” poems which are largely autobiographical but also wish to capture particular places and times. These poems grew out my work as a visiting poet to history classes at Central Falls High School. I was working with recent immigrant students, encouraging them to write short personal histories and to connect those stories with events they were studying. I wanted to help them understand how past events in this new and foreign country could still be relevant to them by virtue of shared humanity.

You’ve helped to establish a full scholarship for veterans of the military, to cover the full cost of any 2017 Winter/Spring Frequency Writers course. What prompted you to do so, and why might The Poet as Witness to History be a writing class well suited for veterans?

I established this scholarship—which I will fund continuously during my five-year term—because I think there are people in the veteran community who want to write but who may not have the opportunity or impetus to take a writing workshop otherwise. I also think that the larger community of writers and readers benefits from the widest possible spectrum of voices.

This workshop would be a wonderful place for veterans, in particular, to explore poetry and history. Veterans have perspectives on past and unfolding world events that most civilians do not—and each veteran’s experience is as unique as the individual. Their writings—whatever the content—is an important contribution to literature.

As Poet Laureate, I am a public servant. Veterans serve our country and this scholarship is a chance to serve them. I am working on bringing more workshops for veterans to the state through federal funds. That will take some time though. Stay tuned.

Writing Communities Matter: an End of the Year Letter

“Writing matters, and writing communities matter. I believe that when creativity is empowered, and when we actively empower the creativity of others, we engage with a 14525221_1221111361265978_8038657737801716848_o-smallradical human instinct—to give shape to the internal, to visualize and make physical that which does not yet exist, to witness and make tangible our own voice, and, in a community, to support others in this process.”

Frequency Writer co-director, S. Tourjee, has written a letter and year-end review of what
we accomplished together in 2016. Our writing courses and scholarships are made possible by your support and generosity.

Please consider making a year-end donation to Frequency. We look forward to a collaborative and creative new year!

 

 

 

You are welcome here.

As our mission states, Frequency Writers is a moving creation of the people in it. We believe art-making to be a vital part of healthy communities. We know that education and writing is always enriched when our identities can be shared and celebrated in safety and respect.

We are committed to making our classes accessible, welcoming, and safe for anyone who wishes to take one. To us, this means that we value the ever-expanding identities of our writers, including those who are women, POC, LGBTQ, immigrants, veterans, disabled, neurodivergent, gender-nonconforming, and writers of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. We believe in educating ourselves, challenging ourselves, questioning our assumptions, listening, and working to cultivate learning spaces that do the same.

Particularly now, the need and impact of intentionally safe spaces extends beyond the work being done within a specific organization. It is our hope that those attending a Frequency class or event will take the support that they have felt, and helped to create, into other aspects of their lives when they leave. This is work that each person contributes to, benefits from, and takes with them, and therefore impacts the community at large.

We invite a dialogue about what we can do to make our offerings welcoming for everyone. At the end of each course, we will ask students to assess their experience and comment on whether we have succeeded in putting our policy into action. In addition, anyone is welcome to contact us via our website with any concerns or suggestions; we will respond promptly.

The Poet Laureate Veterans Scholarship

 The Poet Laureate Veterans Scholarship

We are thrilled to announce that Rhode Island Poet Laureate Tina Cane has established a full scholarship for a veteran of the military. The scholarship will cover the full cost of one Frequency class that takes place during the Winter/Spring of 2017. All veterans of the military are eligible for this scholarship. To apply please submit:

  1. Name one of the current classes that you want to take
  2. A 2-3 page writing sample in any genre
  3. A short statement (a paragraph) about how a Frequency class would benefit your writing life at this time

Please send the above to frequencyprovidence@gmail.com by January 7, with the subject “Veterans Scholarship Application.”