Workshops with Edwina Trentham

 

Edwina offers a variey of workshops for poets ranging in duration from one day, two part/two evening and six weeks. Workshops can be held at your place of work, school, library or organization. Workshops may be tailored to your specific needs including course duration, content and more. 

 

Longer workshops will include out of class assignments and in-class exercises. Participants will work closely with each other and with the workshop leader, both during the workshop and in individual conferences, on writing and revision, so that at the end of a six week period everyone should have the beginning of a chapbook.

 

For more information or to discuss workshops tailored to your needs, please contact Edwina Trentham or call 860-873-1472.

 

 

About Edwina

Edwina Trentham is a Professor Emeritus of English at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where she still teaches creative writing and various poetry courses. Edwina was a Visiting Instructor at Wesleyan University's Graduate Liberal Studies Program from 1988 through 2005. She is the founder and editor of Freshwater, a national poetry journal.

 

Edwina has been a fellow at Yaddo and her work has been published in a number of periodicals and anthologies. Her poetry has won many awards, including honorable mention in the 2004 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival National Competition. She was a featured reader at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in 2005. She won a 2010 Solo Writers Fellowship awarded by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund. Edwina won honorable mention in the 2011 Comstock Review Chapbook Contest.

 

Stumbling into the Light, a collection of her poetry,was published by Antrim House in 2004. Edwina gives readings and teaches workshops throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.

 


 

One-Day Workshops

 

ISN'T IT ALWAYS THE HEART?  Writing About Love

In her evocative, imaginative poem, “Washing the Elephant,” Barbara Ras uses a striking metaphor to ask, Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash / the elephant? She goes on to note, If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence. / Or the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading / through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants. Poets write endlessly about love, of course, some more successfully than others.  Li Young Lee, in his beautiful poem, “The Gift,” describes his father removing a splinter— I recall his hands, / two measures of tenderness / he laid against my face—an act of love mirrored by his own experience of taking a splinter from his wife’s palm two decades later. Tess Gallagher, in her stunning poem, “Each Bird Walking,” retells a story told by a lover who was returning to his wife— the story of him washing his dying mother, as though he were a mother—a story that freed her so she could love him another wayNot / of the body alone, or of its making / but carried in the white spires of trembling.  In “Stolen Moments,” Kim Addonizio uses powerful imagery to recall a kiss: an orange he sliced: the skin / unbroken, then the knife, the chilled wedge / lifted to my mouth, his mouth, the thin / membrane between us, the exquisite orange.  And Jack Gilbert, in “Finding Something,moves into a startling and original metaphor to describe his love for his dying wife: The arches of her feet are like voices / of children calling in the grove of lemon trees, / where my heart is as helpless as crushed birds. Finally, Mary Oliver, asks us simply, in “Peonies,” Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

In this workshop, we will explore the complexities and variations of love, looking closely at those desires that parade through a lifetime, from the first caress or rejection by our mothers and fathers, together with our essential and often complicated connections to our siblings, lovers, friends, and the families we build to recreate love we have lost or create the love we never had. We will also take a look at other forms of love that illuminate our lives: love of a higher being, love of the earth, love of pets, and love of creating. I will be sending an exercise ahead of time to participants, so that we can all write a poem and email it to each other in time to read and respond in detail for work-shopping during the morning session.  I will also provide a handout of poems, and hopefully participants will send suggestions for poems to add to that handout.  After work-shopping the poems written in response to the at-home prompt, we will also discuss the poems in the handout and do a series of in-class exercises to help us explore the endlessly fascinating topic of love.   

Participants will bring a potluck dish to share.  Coffee, tea, and cookies will be provided.  The workshop is limited to ten participants, and the cost is $100.00. 


 

DON'T BE AFRAID OF ITS PLENTY: Writing About Joy

Some say it is easier to write about sorrow, about loss, than it is to write about joy, delight, fulfillment.
Perhaps this is because we need to explore the “why” of suffering, while we are content to simply be in
the moment of joy.  There are many different ways to write about joy, however.  In “Don’t Hesitate,” a
prose poem included in her book Swan, Mary Oliver advises us:  “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel
joy, don’t hesitate.  Give in to it,” and adds that we should not be “afraid of its plenty.  Joy is not made
to be a crumb.” Jane Hirshfield, in “The Dead Do Not Want Us Dead,” written four days after 9/11,
focuses on the simple joys of being alive, when she writes: “Return one of them, any one of them,
to the earth, / and look: such foolish skipping, such telling of bad jokes, such feasting!”  And Gerard ManleyHopkins writes ecstatically of spring’s “juice and joy.” In this workshop, we will take on the challenge ofwriting about joy in ways that explore the complexities of that intense emotion, working toward capturing the “plenty” of joy as powerfully as many of us have learned to bring loss and sorrow to vividlife in our work.  Registration deadline for Don’t Be Afraid of Its Plenty is March 1st, because
participants will receive a writing exercise ahead of time and will email a poem to other participants for
a written response to bring to the workshop, so we can discuss those poems more fruitfully, as well as having time to read and write during the workshop.

The cost is $125.00 and is limited to ten participants. Coffee, tea, and snacks will be provided, and participants will bring their own brown bag lunch.

 


SINGING THE BODY ELECTRIC: Writing Through the Senses
From the moment of our births, we experience the world through our senses: reveling in sensuousness,
curling in on ourselves in pain, engulfed by joy and revulsion, delight and grief, fear and ecstasy—all
through what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. In this workshop, we will explore our bodies, how we both nurture and reward them, how we punish them, how we glory in what they give us, grieve what is taken from us as we fall ill and age.  Among many other poets, we will read work by Kim Addonizio, who wants “a red dress” she can “wear like bones, like skin”;  Yusef Komunyakaa’s who loves every part of his body, including his “crooked feet /shaped by vanity” and “the lips, salt & honeycomb on the tongue”; and Heather McHugh, who insists in her poem, “In Praise of Pain,” that “A brilliance takes up residence in flaws— /a brilliance all the unchipped faces of design / refuse.” We will write poems exploring the ways in which we experience the world in all its beauty, terror, and glory through our bodies.  Registration deadline for Singing the Body Electric is April 5, because participants will receive a writing exercise ahead of time and will email a poem to other participants for a written response to bring to the workshop, so we can discuss poems more fruitfully, as well as having time to read and write poetry during the workshop. 

The cost is $125.00 and is limited to ten participants. Coffee, tea, and snacks will be provided, and participants will bring their own brown bag lunch.


Two-Part Workshops (2 Hours each)

 

ORIGINAL BLISS, ORIGINAL WOUND: Writing About Childhood

Our earliest experiences can be the source of our most intimate and powerful poetry—provided we are willing to move beyond “what really happened” to “what really matters.” After a close reading and discussion of poems by a variety of poets, including Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, and Steve Straight, participants will use a selection of exercises to help them unearth and explore early memories of love, joy, loss, longing—the original wounds, the original bliss, which color all future experiences. Feedback on participants’ poems will focus on the subtle power of creating rather than recording the truth, the surprising effect that using form has on shaping memory, and ways of allowing memory to discover the sounds and images that at least come close to capturing the complexity of childhood. Participants should bring a childhood photograph of themselves (with family members if possible).

 

WRITING POLITICAL POETRY

What can we, as poets, do to respond to a world of suffering and inequality? As Polish poet Adam Zagajewski says, in his poem published in The New Yorker shortly after 9/11, we must "Try to Praise the Mutilated World." In this intensive workshop we will explore the ways in which we can write poetry that offers what Terrence Des Pres called "praises and dispraises," both glorying in what is right with the world and drawing attention to what must be changed. We will examine two questions “what is political poetry?" and "what makes a good political poem,” exploring the challenge of writing poetry that tries to convey a belief, without sliding into preaching. We will read the work of selected modern and contemporary poets, and we will write and revise at least twelve poems, including out of class assignments and in-class exercises. We will also give a public reading of our work at the end of the course.

 

THE GREEN GRASS, WITH ITS TERROR BENEATH: Love, Death, and the Natural World

What can we, as poets, do to respond to a world of suffering and inequality? As Polish poet Adam Zagajewski says, in his poem published in The New Yorker shortly after 9/11, we must "Try to Praise the Mutilated World." In this intensive workshop we will explore the ways in which we can write poetry that offers what Terrence Des Pres called "praises and dispraises," both glorying in what is right with the world and drawing attention to what must be changed. We will examine two questions “what is political poetry?" and "what makes a good political poem,” exploring the challenge of writing poetry that tries to convey a belief, without sliding into preaching. We will read the work of selected modern and contemporary poets, and we will write and revise at least twelve poems, including out of class assignments and in-class exercises. We will also give a public reading of our work at the end of the course.

 

A FAILURE TO DARE: What We Lose When We Play It Safe

A friend of mine recently spent six weeks at an artists’ colony, where she hoped to work on a project that asked her to dig deep, take chances. She told me at the end of the six weeks that she had suffered “a failure to dare,” had done the safe projects, the ones she knew she would be able to do without the kind of pain that digging deep asks of us, and she was deeply disappointed in herself. When we play it safe, when we suffer “a failure to dare,” we stagnate, lose the energy that fills us with excitement when we create. Taking chances as poets—going where we may not have dared to go with topics, using forms and approaches we may disdain because they threaten or confuse us, allowing ourselves to take on a voice that seems alien—all lead to writing poetry that may not be perfect but does push us and our readers in new directions, forcing us to grow.

 

LOSING HEART, FINDING VOICE: Writing in Response to Despair

 

Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;

Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man

In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

 

We all face times when life seems overwhelming, when sorrow engulfs us, when we see no way out of despair. Not surprisingly, many poets have written powerfully about facing loss and despair, and their work has been an enormous source of comfort and inspiration to others. In this workshop, we will read and discuss the work of W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Stephen Dobyns, Tess Gallagher, Robert Lowell, James Wright, and others. We will also try our hand at writing poems that explore grief and loss, using a series of exercises, and spend some time responding to each other’s poems. Don’t despair! This will not be a time of sorrow and grieving, but a time of exploration and the joy of reading the works of others who speak to us of our own pain. In addition to writing in response to exercises during the workshops, participants will be given prompts ahead of time, so that they have sufficient time to write or revise their own poems and respond to the poems of other participants, to ensure thoughtful and detailed discussion of each other’s work during the workshops. I will also be providing a handout of poems, and hopefully participants will send suggestions for poems to add to that handout.

 

Coffee, tea, and snacks will be provided. The workshop is limited to 8 participants per day, and the cost is $100.00 per day: $200 for both days. Participants may sign up for one or both of the workshop days.

 

Praising the Mutilated World: The Joys and Perils of Writing Political Poetry

 

What can we, as poets, do to respond to a world of suffering and inequality—the horrors offered to us by the media as our daily bread? As Polish poet Adam Zagajewski says, in his poem published in The New Yorker shortly after 9/11, we must "Try to Praise the Mutilated World." In this intensive two-part workshop we will explore the ways in which we can write poetry that offers what Terrence Des Pres called "praises and dispraises,” both glorying in what is right with the world and drawing attention to what must be changed. We will examine two questions “what is political poetry?" and "what makes a good political poem,” exploring the challenge of writing poetry that conveys belief and passion, without sliding into preaching. We will read the work of selected modern and contemporary poets, and we will write before, during, and after each workshop. We will also give a public reading of our work on Thursday, December 1st, at the Clinton Art Gallery, together with participants in the October two-part workshop by Edwina Trentham and two November workshops by Greg Coleman.

 

 

NOTE: DEADLINE FOR SIGNING UP FOR PRAISING THE MUTILATED WORLD IS SEPTEMBER 1ST. THIS WILL GIVE PARTICIPANTS TIME TO WRITE IN RESPONSE TO A PROMPT AND EMAIL THEIR POEMS TO OTHER PARTICIPANTS IN THE WORKSHOP FOR WRITTEN COMMENTS TO BRING TO THE FIRST WORKSHOP.

 

Finding Form, Finding Freedom: The Surprising Gifts of Writing in Form

 

In this intensive workshop, we will read and write poetry in a variety of forms: rimas dissolutas, sestinas, sonnets, syllabics, terza rimas, and villanelles. We will write before, during, and after each workshop, so that by the end of the two-part workshop, participants will have at least a nodding acquaintance with these six forms, but most of all will have learned the delight and paradoxical freedom of writing poetry in form. Most of the forms we will explore are demanding, and some can be frustrating, but all will improve our writing. Chances are, participants will discover that by working in a form, no matter how successfully, they will learn something new about poetry and about themselves as poets. Writing in form is a skill, part of the craft of writing poetry; writing in form is neither better nor worse than writing in free verse, but serious poets know and understand form, so that they can draw on that knowledge when they need it. What joy to be working on a poem and—realizing that the poem has it in mind to be a sonnet or a villanelle—being able to let the poem have its way!

 

NOTE: DEADLINE FOR SIGNING UP FOR FINDING FORM, FINDING FREEDOM IS SEPTEMBER 22ND. THIS WILL GIVE PARTICIPANTS TIME TO WRITE IN RESPONSE TO A PROMPT AND EMAIL THEIR POEMS TO OTHER PARTICIPANTS IN THE WORKSHOP FOR WRITTEN COMMENTS TO BRING TO THE FIRST WORKSHOP.

 


 

Six Week Workshops

 

A PERPETUAL POSSIBILITY: Poetry Of Beginnings And Endings

In “Burnt Norton,” the first of his “Four Quartets,” T.S. Eliot writes, “What might have been is an abstraction / Remaining a perpetual possibility” and throughout the quartets explores the ways in which time past, time present, and time future are one, embodied in all our beginnings and endings. In “Little Gidding,” the last of the quartets, he writes that “the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” Similarly, in “The Shore,” a poem from her most recent book, Stag’s Leap, Sharon Olds says, “We have always been going back, since birth / back toward not being alive,” and in the title poem from the book she confesses, “When anyone escapes, my heart / leaps up. Even when it’s I who am escaped from, / I am half on the side of the leaver.” Both these poets, in very different voices, explore the ways in which beginnings and endings are one, challenging us to see how in each beginning, in each ending we can see our whole journey of life—the resonances and connections often unnoticed or ignored at the time. In this workshop, in addition to discussing Stag’s Leap, we will read and discuss a selection of poems by such poets as Robert Cording, Carol Frost, Jack Gilbert, Jane Hirshfield, Marie Howe, Ruth Stone, and Jean Valentine, exploring the many beginnings and endings we experience throughout our lives. We will do a series of exercises and also write a series of poems that allow us to write about the complexity of our feeling about what we are given and what is taken away. The first meeting of the workshop will be devoted to a discussion of Stag’s Leap, looking closely at the poems and the structure of the book, which was a unanimous selection for the 2012 T.S. Eliot prize for the best new collection published in the UK and Ireland. The book, described as a “series of poems that describe the sharp grief of divorce and the slow, painful, incremental creep of recovery” will be the foundation for exploring the topic of beginnings and endings. Participants should have read Stag’s Leap closely before that first meeting.

 

Participants will write and revise twelve poems—including out of class assignments and in-class exercises. Participants will work closely with each other and with the workshop leader, both during the workshop and in individual conferences, on writing and revision, so that at the end of a six week period everyone should have the beginning of a chapbook. We will discuss the ins and outs of publishing, take a look at form, and we will also do a public reading of our work near the end of the six weeks.

 

The workshop is limited to twelve people, and the cost is $300.00 for the six week period.

 

Icarus Also Flew: Myths, Fairy Tales, and the Sacred as Poetic Inspiration

In the opening line of his moving and imaginative poem, “Failing and Flying,” Jack Gilbert says, “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.” He goes on to ruminate on “the way love comes to an end” noting that “anything / worth doing is worth doing badly,” and concludes by saying, “I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, / but just coming to the end of his triumph.” Poets throughout the centuries have turned to myths, legends, fairytales, and sacred stories for inspiration, often discovering a strangeness and richness that illuminate a personal experience, making it more universal; or to gain some distance from a painful or difficult topic by telling the story “slant” as Dickinson suggested; or simply to tap into the huge wealth of ideas, language, and images from centuries of artistic creation. As poets, we might use a mythic character, as Gilbert does, when he explores the complexity of love’s ending. Or we might transform memory to legend, as Lucille Clifton does in “Shapeshifter Poems” to tell the story of being sexually abused as a child: “the legend is whispered / in the women's tent / how the moon / when she rises / full / follows some men into themselves / and changes them there” so “their daughters / do not know them.” Or we might retell a fairytale, as Anne Sexton does in her dark reimagining of Grimm’s stories in her book Transformations, where, for example, Cinderella and her prince live “happily ever after / like two dolls in a museum case” with “their darling smiles pasted on for eternity. / Regular Bobbsey Twins.” And of course we might discover a new voice by drawing on the rich and evocative stories from world religions, as Carol Duffy does when she takes on the persona of “Mrs. Lazarus,” going on with her life after Lazarus dies, planning to wed again, only to recoil in horror when he is raised from the dead: “my bridegroom in his rotting shroud, / moist and disheveled from the grave's slack chew, / croaking his cuckold name, disinherited, out of his time.”

 

In order to explore, in rich and original ways, the many possibilities available to us, we will read a variety of poets, including but not limited to Jack Gilbert, Lucille Clifton, Carol Duffy, Brandi George, John Keats, Linda Pasten, Anne Sexton, Mary Szybist, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Participants will write and revise twelve poems—including out of class assignments and in-class exercises—and will work closely with each other and with the workshop leader, both during the workshop and in individual conferences, on writing and revision, so that at the end of a six week period everyone should have the beginning of a chapbook. I welcome suggestions of other poets, ones you love or hate, to add to the list of works we will read. We will also explore the use of form in considerable detail. We will do a public reading of our work on Sunday, July 24, at Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House in East Haddam.

 

The workshop will be held on Thursdays from 6.00 until 9.00 PM, June 23 through July 28, 2016 at 204 North Moodus Road, Moodus, Connecticut. The workshop is limited to twelve people, and the cost is $350.00 for the six week period. For more information or to sign up for the workshop contact Edwina at trentham@comcast.net. This workshop is sponsored by HeartStone Labyrinths llc.

 

Only This Failure to Praise: Poetry and Our Place in the World

In the first four lines of his poem, "Sin," Dane Cervine tells us that "The worst part is failing to kiss the ground each morning. / Or the cold pot of resentment stirred and simmered / well into the evening.  Everything else comes from this, / grows."  Using this short poem as a guide (see below), participants in this intensive workshop will explore our relationship to the earth, to those closest to us, to abundance, to the material world, to death, and to spirituality.  We will read work by such well known poets as Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mary Oliver, and Seamus Heaney, but we will also read and discuss the works of lesser known poets who have written about these topics, in order to explore the universal questions brought up by querying our basic earthly and spiritual relationships. Participants will also write and revise at least twelve poems—including out of class assignments and in-class exercises.  Participants will work closely with each other and with the workshop leader, both during the workshop and in individual conferences, to write and revise their poems, so that at the end of a six week period they will have the beginning of a chapbook.  We will discuss the ins and outs of publishing, take a look at form, and we will also do a public reading of our work at Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House near the end of the six weeks.  The workshop will be held Thursdays from 6.00 until 9.00 PM, July 13 to August 17, 2017, at 204 North Moodus Road, Moodus, Connecticut. 

 

The workshop is limited to ten people, and the cost is $350.00 for the six week period.