Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway

I spent my holiday weekend (Jan. 16-19) attending the 19th Annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, sponsored by founder Peter Murphy and Richard Stockton College. This is my third trip to the conference, and as in the past, I had a thoroughly good time. It’s three days of writing workshops, special programs, readings, book sales, food, lodging, partying, and so forth. For the first eighteen years, the conference was held at the Grand Hotel in Cape May, a landmark that has seen better days. But this year it moved to a new venue, the Seaview, a historic hotel and golf resort that was recently bought and renovated by Stockton College. The rooms and facilities were very fine and luxurious, and the food was generally very good. It was such a frigid weekend that I didn’t venture out at all, but there was no need, because all my food and creature comforts were provided right there in the hotel.

The thrust of the weekend, at least for poets, is the ingenious writing prompts that Peter comes up with each year. We get our assignments on Saturday and Sunday morning, and have time to write until the afternoon workshops convene. I took Stephen Dunn’s and James Richardson’s workshops (same as I did two years ago) and as usual both were excellent. Stephen Dunn is not for the “thin-skinned” poet, because he often gives very frank critique. Some have called his style severe, even “brutal”, but I’ve never seen that from him. He’s a very wise man and I appreciated his comments on my poetry as well other wisdom he shared, and he’s quite approachable. Jim Richardson is just a very nice and laid-back guy, but he also has a lot to offer with critique. Both of them have impressive credentials: Dunn has won the Pulitzer Prize and a raft of other awards, and Richardson last year won the prestigious Jackson Prize and earned a National Book Award nomination. Having the opportunity to work with both of them is, as they say in the credit card commercials, priceless. In addition, there was a gallery tribute to Dunn sponsored by the Noyes Museum, featuring memorabilia from his career and an insight into his writing and revision process. (Anyone who thinks his critique “severe” should study these displays , because I came away from them realizing that he doesn’t offer any critique that he wouldn’t give to himself.) He also released a chapbook of short poems, Falling Backwards into the World, in conjunction with this year’s conference.

The rest of the conference was terrific too: I got a tutorial session with poet friend B.J. Ward, and took a third workshop run by another poet friend, Barbara Daniels. It was fun to see so many poets whom I know, and I made a few new friends as well. There were two evening open mic sessions, both of which were very good, as well as a talk by Nelson Johnson, author of Boardwalk Empire, the book about Atlantic City that was the basis for the hit HBO series. The weekend was capped off with an inspiring gospel choir to celebrate Dr. King’s Birthday. I came home with three new poems that I wrote, plus a bag full of books from the book sale, including Peter’s anthology of published poems that had been written for his prompts over the years, Challenges for the Delusional . I submitted three of my poems for the anthology and didn’t make the cut, but the list of poets that were included is quite impressive. All in all, it was a great weekend, and I came home feeling, as one of my poet friends described it, "blissfully exhausted". Thanks once again to Peter, his right-hand woman (daughter Amanda), and all the staff and faculty who made it possible.

4 comments:

Patricia Anne McGoldrick said...

Lucky you! Sounds like a great poetry weekend!

Kristin said...

I was happy to have met you there! I'm still catching up with getting ready for the semester, which started Tuesday, but I have your chapbook on my stack of things to read soon. :)

Mad Kane said...

That sounds like a delightful experience. So glad you had a good time.

And thanks for your fun contribution to last week's Limerick-Off. I just posted a new one. Hope to see you there: Leading With Limericks.

Mad Kane said...

I'm back to congratulate you on your Honorable Mention in last week's Limerick-Off. Great job! Limerick of the Week 47.