Two events stand out in my admittedly thin-broth of a writing life: my first piece ever to be accepted for publication (by the journal happy—anyone ever heard of it?) for which I still have the check, dated December 21, 1998, pinned to a bulletin board (it was for $5, so not a big sacrifice), and being accepted into a poetry workshop taught by Tony Hoagland.
Needless to say, if you are a lover of contemporary poetry, the second event was much more momentous. It was even tinged with aspects of intrigue. I had been working for Inprint for about two years and had been writing poetry for only a few more, and mostly undercover, hiding it like some drug addiction that I did not want family and friends to discover, when I found out that Tony had come to Rich (the big fromage at Inprint) and offered to teach a poetry workshop for us. Even more surprising, and what nobody but the staff has ever known, he said that he did not want to be paid for it; he wanted to do it as a service to his new community.
When I heard this, I was rapturous. To take a workshop with Tony is something that only graduate students are usually accorded. There was, though, one catch: Tony wanted it to be by selection only and he would be the selector. Everyone who applied was asked to submit several poems. I knew that my chances were slim, but of course, I wanted to try. On the other hand, I did not want to be granted any favoritism because I worked at Inprint, so I decided to apply under a “pen name”, and told no one on the staff what I was doing. When Tony sent back the 12 names of the people he had selected, my pseudonym was among them! Only then did I go to Rich and confess that I had applied for the workshop. Our ever-kind leader, having seen the list, said he was sorry that I had not gotten in. That’s when I had to tell him that I had in fact applied, but under my neighbor’s name!
For six weeks, I had the great privilege of having Tony as my teacher. Like a surgeon, he dissected each poem with no-nonsense precision, deftly diagnosing any problems, finding the strong points, and sewing it back up without leaving any emotional scars. His passion for poetry, his immense knowledge of its history and of his contemporaries, made him an inspiration and delight to spend time with every week.
And now, you, too, can have the opportunity to work and learn from Tony! This summer, he is conducting two poetry seminars designed especially for teachers of poetry to teach them how to talk about poetry with expertise and precision and help them to acquire analytical skills for conducting deep and wide-ranging discussions of poems. Poems studied will come from a broad palate: from Akhmatova to Keats, O’Hara to Howe, Kleinzahler to Mullen, and daily reading and writing assignments will be given. Tony is calling the seminars the Five Powers of Poetry, and the first one will take place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from June 25-29. For more information, you can go to his website: www.FivePowersPoetry.com.
Tony Hoagland says, “I think I have designed a fun, insightful, intensive, cumulative course which will entertain, nourish and develop experienced poets as well as relative newcomers to contemporary poetry.”