Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Do You Teach Poetry?

If so, you need to know about the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching!

The conference is much shorter than either Helen Vendler's NEH seminar or my own--five days, not three to five weeks--but it, too, offers teachers the opportunity to study poetry intensively with master teachers and poets, the people who know it best. The conference director, poet Baron Wormser, is co-author of the single most inspiring book I know about teaching poetry: the immensely useful and readable A Surge of Language: Teaching Poetry Day By Day.

Here's the scoop:
For the past seven years, THE FROST PLACE, a Museum and Poetry Center in Franconia, New Hampshire, has hosted a Conference on Poetry and Teaching; this year's conference will run from June 25–29, 2007.

A unique opportunity for teachers to work closely with their peers and with a team of illustrious poets who have particular expertise and enthusiasm for sharing poetry with young people, featuring Director Baron Wormser and Resident Poet/Teacher Renée Olander plus poets Patricia Fargnoli, Dzvinia Orlowsky, Tim Seibles and BJ Ward.

Tuition: $500 ($400 N.H. teachers), plus $80 for meals (optional but recommended).

3 graduate credits available through the University of New Hampshire system.

Applications accepted from December 1, 2007.

Each summer, the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching brings together hard-working classroom teachers and highly skilled poet/teachers to share their experiences of how poetry is most effectively presented in the classroom — not as a fossilized system of literary tropes, but as a living art.

As one teacher participant said, “This week I learned more about the craft of poetry than I ever did as an undergraduate.”

“Poets talk about how poems work. Students and teachers can do that, too. That’s why we bring poets and teachers together at The Frost Place—so the teachers can hear how poets look at poems.” —Baron Wormser, Iron Horse Literary Review (Spring 2004)

Conference director Baron Wormser is the author of seven acclaimed collections of poetry and co-author of two influential books on teaching poetry. Baron’s co-facilitator for the 2007 Conference on Poetry and Teaching will be Renée Olander, who for five years has led annual seminars for K–12 teachers in poetry pedagogy for The Tidewater Writing Project, an affiliate of The National Writing Project.

In addition, four nationally recognized poets, over the course of five days, will present very specific ideas about teaching poetry, including sample exercises and prompts that teachers will be invited to try out then discuss. We’ll talk in depth about poems and writing. Each day will offer sessions devoted to the participants sharing of their own teaching ideas, a popular element in past conferences. The final morning session will provide an opportunity to discuss what’s been learned and ways to implement new approaches.

And both faculty poets and participants will have the chance to read their poems in Robert Frost’s historic barn, now a rustic auditorium/classroom.

“After one morning, heck, after one hour in the barn, I was cured. By today, I am recharged, rededicated, and bolstered by the company of amazing educators whose kindred spirits I will call upon in the year to come. It may sound ridiculous, but there are moments when I thought, 'This is so good to be here. It's nearly too good to be true.' And listening to poets read at night made the week sublime.”

“I continue to see so many ways I can use poetry in the classroom and I plan to do so. There's no end in sight—soon it may be all poetry, all the time.”

Application Process and Fees

To apply, send a brief letter describing your current teaching position, background, and interest in poetry and teaching to:

The Frost Place Teacher Conference
Box 74
Franconia, NH 03580

Applications for the conference are accepted after December 1, 2006, and are read and reviewed as they are received. Space is strictly limited to preserve the opportunity for participants to interact with the poets in an informal setting.

Tuition for the conference is $500 ($400 for New Hampshire teachers). Daily lunch and two dinners (optional but recommended, as alternatives are some distance away) are available for $80.

Three graduate credits are available for conference participants through the University System of New Hampshire at an additional fee ($636 in 2006: Please inquire about 2007 rates). Certification of contact hours is also provided.

Reasonably priced accommodations can be found locally (see suggestions on the Frost Place website, or let us know if you’d like to receive a list in the mail). Public school teachers are urged to inquire if their principals have Title 5 and Rural Education Program funds for professional development to disperse, which teachers have found can partially or fully cover tuition expenses for this conference.


Baron Wormser, founder and director of the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching, is the author of seven collections of poetry and co-author of two guides for teachers, Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves and A Surge of Language: Teaching Poetry Day by Day. Baron has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Maine, Augusta. He served as Poet Laureate of Maine from 2000 to 2006. He is currently on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA Program and works as an independent poetry teacher and mentor. He lives with his wife in Hallowell, Maine.

Resident Poet/Teacher Renée Olander’s poems, interviews and essays have appeared in many journals, including The Writer’s Chronicle, Verse and Universe, and MARGIE. Nominee for a Pushcart Prize and recipient of the Kate Smith Award for Poetry, for the past five years Renée has led annual seminars in poetry pedagogy for K–12 teachers through The Tidewater Writing Project, an affiliate of The National Writing Project. A graduate of Mary Baldwin College (BA, 1984) Old Dominion University (MA, 1987), and the University of Southern Maine (MFA., 2005), she now serves as director of Old Dominion University’s Virginia Beach Higher Education Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Patricia Fargnoli is the author of three collections of poetry and two chapbooks. Her first book, Necessary Light (Utah State University Press, 1999) was awarded the May Swenson Poetry Award, judged by Mary Oliver. Her newest book is Duties of the Spirit. Pat, a retired social worker, is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. She currently teaches in the Lifelong Learning program of Keene State College and privately. A Touring Artist for the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, in 2006 Pat was named New Hampshire State Poet. She resides in Walpole, New Hampshire.

2006 Pushcart Prize-winning poet Dzvinia Orlowsky is a founding editor of Four Way Books and a contributing editor to Agni, Marlboro Review, and Shade. She is the author of three poetry collections, — A Handful of Bees, Edge of House, and Except for One Obscene Brushstroke — with a fourth, Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, due in early 2008. Dzvinia has taught at Emerson College and the Stonecoast MFA Program, and she currently teaches in the Solstice MFA Creative Writing program of Pine Manor College.

Tim Seibles was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is the author of Hurdy-Gurdy, Hammerlock, and Buffalo Head Solos. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and also received an Open Voice Award from the 63rd Street Y in New York City. He has been a workshop leader for Cave Canem (a retreat for African American writers) and for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation. He lives in Norfolk, Virginia, and is a member of Old Dominion University's English Department and MFA in Writing faculties.

BJ Ward’s three books of poetry are 17 Love Poems with No Despair, Landing in New Jersey with Soft Hands, and Gravedigger’s Birthday (finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize). BJ’s poetry has been featured on National Public Radio, New Jersey Network’s “State of the Arts,” and Poetry Daily, as well as in journals such as TriQuarterly, Poetry, Painted Bride Quarterly, Puerto Del Sol, and The Sun. In 2002, one of his poems (“For the Children of the World Trade Center Victims”) was cast in bronze and acquired by Grounds for Sculpture, an outdoor museum in Hamilton, New Jersey. He has received fellowships from the Dodge Foundation and the Artists/Teachers Institute, been named Teaching Artist of the Year by Playwrights Theatre for his work in the N.J. Writers Project, and has received the New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education. He is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Warren County Community College, and he lives on a bank of the Musconetcong River in Changewater, N.J.

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