Make yourself at home. Put your feet up. Grab your favorite beverage and prepare to enjoy the reads.



The World Inside


8th Annual Poetry Workshop with
Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar

July 24-29, 2011
at Esalen, Big Sur, CA

Esalen housing sometimes fills up fast, especially the less expensive rooms, so register soon. Online registration is open now at esalen.org

Scroll down to the bottom for poems by Dorianne, Joe and Ellen

There is a world inside each of us that we know better than anything else, and a world outside of us that calls for our attention. Our subject matter is always right with us. The trick is to find out what we know, challenge what we know, own what we know, and then give it away in language.

We will write poems, share our writing, and hear what our work touches in others. We'll also read model poems by contemporary poets and discuss aspects of the craft. But mainly this will be a writing retreat-- time to explore and create in a supportive community. Though the focus is on poetry, prose writers who want to enrich their language will find it a fertile environment.

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy…that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist… It is not your business to determine how good it is…It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.   --Martha Graham

The focus of this workshop is on generating new poems. Dorianne, Joe and Ellen will each give a talk on craft to help us extend our skills. 

Dorianne Laux will talk on: The Spare Poem
After I've put everything in, what should I take out?  Big question.  HUGE.  We’ll look at a few poems by established poets such as James Wright, Jack Gilbert, Malena Morling, Jane Kenyon and Mark Doty to see what they might have left on the cutting room floor, how setting, implication and image can help us say it without saying it, how less can be more.
Joe Millar will talk on: The Fork In the Road

This year Joe will talk about various places where the poem in progress can change direction or mood and the delight that can arise from such turns and surprises.  We'll look at a few poems which shift and change their way down the page and consider some strategies for incorporating these techniques of mutability into our own writing.

Ellen Bass will talk on: Embodiment
The body is a great resource in poetry. By paying attention to the body and using physical detail, we can move our poems along the continuum from telling to showing, from abstract to concrete, from reporting to enacting. You don’t want your reader to say, “Oh, this poet feels really strongly about this.” You want readers to actually have the experience of that strong feeling themselves. We’ll look at poems which achieve this visceral impact, study how they do it, and practice some of those gestures ourselves.

Please join us if:

*You've hit a plateau in your writing and want to break through to the next level.

*You're just beginning and want to get started with supportive teachers.

*You're an experienced writer and just want a chance to learn more from the best.

*You're in a dry spell, due to lack of inspiration or time.

*You love to write and want a gorgeous, inspiring retreat.

Although the emphasis is on poetry, this workshop is open to prose writers too. Rich, textured, evocative language is the province of all writers, so this workshop will be applicable to writers of fiction and memoir as well.

Lastly, there's Esalen itself. If you've been to Esalen before, you already know it's one of the most magnificent places on the planet. If you haven't, don't postpone it. It's breathtakingly beautiful and deeply nourishing. We'll be having our group meetings in the Big Yurt this year. We'll also be breaking into smaller groups for individual attention. Participants will have an opportunity to work with all three teachers.

ELLEN BASS's most recent book of poems, The Human Line, was published by Copper Canyon Press in June 2007. She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the groundbreaking No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973), has published several volumes of poetry, including Mules of Love (BOA, 2002) which won the Lambda Literary Award. Her poems have appeared in many magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Progressive, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, and The Sun. She was awarded the Elliston Book Award for Poetry from the University of Cincinnati, Nimrod/Hardman’s Pablo Neruda Prize, The Missouri Review’s Larry Levis Award, the Greensboro Poetry Prize, the New Letters Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Poetry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and a Fellowship from the California Arts Council. She is also co-author of Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth (HarperCollins 1996) and The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (Harper Collins 1988, 1994), which has sold over a million copies and has been translated into ten languages. She teaches in many beautiful locations and at Pacific University's MFA Program in Oregon.

DORIANNE LAUX’s fifth collection of poetry, The Book of Men, was published by W.W. Norton in February, 2011. Her fourth book, Facts about the Moon, is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award and was short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Laux is also author of Awake, What We Carry, finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and Smoke, as well as two fine small press editions, Superman: The Chapbook and Dark Charms, both from Red Dragonfly Press. Co-author of The Poet's Companion:  A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, she’s the recipient of two Best American Poetry Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship.  Widely anthologized, her work has appeared in the Best of APR, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and The Best of the Net. In 2001, she was invited by late poet laureate Stanley Kunitz to read at the Library of Congress. She has been teaching poetry in private and public venues since 1990 and since 2004 at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program.  In the summers she teaches at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Her poems have been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Romanian, Dutch, Afrikkans and Brazilian Portuguese and her selected works, In a Room with a Rag in my Hand, have been translated into Arabic by Camel/Kalima Press.  Recent poems appear in Cimarron Review, Cerise Press, Margie, The Seattle Review, Tin House and The Valparaiso Review. She and her husband, poet Joseph Millar, moved to Raleigh in 2008 where she teaches poetry in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.

JOSEPH MILLAR is the author of Fortune, from Eastern Washington University Press.  His first collection, Overtime (2001) was finalist for the Oregon Book Award and the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America.  Millar grew up in Pennsylvania, attended Johns Hopkins University and spent 25 years in the San Francisco Bay area, working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines including The American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, DoubleTake, New Letters, Ploughshares, Manoa, and River Styx. His work has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in Poetry, Montalvo Center for the Arts, Oregon Literary Arts and a 2008 Pushcart Prize in Poetry.  In 1997 he gave up his job as a telephone installation foreman to teach.  He now lives in Raleigh, NC and teaches at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program in Oregon and yearly at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. and will be a featured teacher and reader at this year's Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, NJ. Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa has said, “There's a tenderness at the core of Fortune, where the commonplace becomes atypical and fantastical, and each poem possesses a voice that summons and reveals. Joseph Millar is a poet we can believe.” His third collection of poems, Blue Rust, will be published in fall of 2011 by Carnegie Mellon Press.

Esalen fees cover tuition, food and lodging and vary according to accommodations--ranging from $570 to $1105. The least expensive rate is for sleeping bag space which can be very comfortable, but it's limited, so you need to sign up for it early. Some work-scholarship assistance is available, as well as small prepayment discounts and senior discounts.
All arrangements and registration must be made directly with Esalen. If you have questions about the workshop itself, please email Ellen or call her at 831-426-8006.

Please register directly with Esalen
at 831-667-3005 or visit www.esalen.org


Enough Music

Sometimes, when we're on a long drive,
and we've talked enough and listened 
to enough music and stopped twice, 
one to eat, once to see the view, 
we fall into this rhythm of silence.
It swings back and forth between us
like a rope over a lake.  
Maybe it's what we don't say
that saves us. 

--Dorianne Laux (from What We Carry)



Long after daybreak they were still trying
to deliver me,  the birth blood dropping
on the hospital tiles, glittering under the lights.
I saw my father’s corporal’s stripes,
his tan army shirt that smelled of tobacco,
I heard the cold wind no one remembers
pouring out of Canada.

My mother wrapped me up in her robe
fragrant with camphor and sweat,
hushing my desolate howls.
She loved me and she hated me
through those early months
when I wanted everything she had,
and all my father wanted
aside from her warm, pale body,
was to finish his hitch and get
the hell out of the army forever.

Each morning fine grains of salt
glinted like ice on the kitchen table
and like the insatiable mammal I was
I fastened onto her chafed, dark nipples.
They named me Rent Money
because I didn’t pay any,
 they named me Popsicle, Little Tongue, Gasser.
In August the Japanese surrendered
and he mustered out in Wisconsin.
We headed east in a ‘38 Studebaker,
its big engine swallowing the miles
of America, wheat fields and highway,
Chicago and Cleveland,
and they named me So Long
It’s Been Good to Know You.

--Joseph Millar


The World Has Need of You

            …everything here seems to need us…

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It's a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you've managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn't care.
But when Newton's apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well.

--Ellen Bass

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