Poets Online Archive
Writing Workshops


The featured poem for this prompt was "ON THE PORCH AT THE FROST PLACE, FRANCONIA, N. H." by William Matthews (from Time and Money: New Poems)

Summer was coming on for this prompt and that means, for some of us, poetry workshops. Time for poets to leave their campuses and move to new classrooms. A week or two of intense writing and talking about poetry. Talking about publication, open readings, poetic incest as we read and listen to each other and (mostly) gently try to guide our fellow poets.

William Matthew's poem is set at the Frost Place where annual poetry workshops are held and where he taught one summer (see our listings) Though the poem pays great attention to the place, Frost and Frost's writing, the center of the poem is in the poet's attention to finding the poetry of the place in his own writing.

He feels Frost cautioning him and the workshoppers: we have to be nearly as fierce / against ourselves as he / not to misread by their disguises.

And he thinks at the end of his stay that he should be able to see what I've taught myself / in two months here to discern.

Begin with a writing workshop or class you have taken and use it as the basis for a poem. Don't just use it as a setting, but rather explore the effect the place and participants had on your writing or your perception.

For more writing about the Frost Place experience check out The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices from the Robert Frost Place


Dive into the water to find
you've become the water,
dissolving, no longer self,
but flow and only flow,
what's right and gravitational.
Meals like photosynthesis
regular and effortless,
periods of light and dark,
respiration, inspiration,
out of the world but linked
with intensity to all that is
the world.  Body, spirit
shared among those gathered,
every carnal sacrament,
each ghostly inclination
tossed into the ether
to rain like manna
over deserts of the real.
Sleep between these paper walls
like Lao Tzu who dreamt of nothingness
but wrote with the blood-dipped pen
of the poet.

R.G. Evans


I want to go back to Waterloo
where we sat at the feet of
those Master Poets
whose words rained down like
fall on the canvas above us
while Canadian geese landed
on Braw Pond with big sweeping
splashes leaving feathers in their wakes
before parading through the grounds
and around the plastic tents
adding their honks to the cacophony.
Capital-p Poets and students of poetry shared
their rhythmic lines to the accompaniment
of the pinging and ponging rhyme
of steel pans played by shiny Bajans
far from their own sunny island.
There we sat on hard Methodist pews
while the words of the poet Kunitz bounced
off the holy white walls frivolously
stenciled with purple lacy patterns.
I want to go back to Waterloo
where poets wrote at picnic tables
all the while swatting bees that circled
paper plates of deep fried shrimp and pizza
and vegetable chili and things wrapped in pitas
while we drank hot cider from Styrofoam cups,
water from plastic bottles, and words
from the mouths of our fellow poets.

Gretchen Fletcher


I want to try it, to walk
across the telephone wire
between the Franconia Inn
and the pole across the road.
What better place to overcome
my fear of heights?  So out I go,
wondering if the sound of voices
underfoot can bear my weight.
From here, I have a bird's eye
view of mountain peaks
and each car sings its coming
or going, lyrically the same.
I am balanced in the wind,
as if suspense my natural
resting place.
the arrival of police.  Horses
gather at the fence.
A crowd of poets
ride the hook
and ladder truck, frantic
arms implore me
not to jump.  A blue-eyed man
with a long white beard rises up
like a psalm to rescue me.
I'm Donald Sheehan, here
to help you.  His arms are open
and I climb into them, full
of forgiveness-envy banished
beyond the distant hills.

Miles A. Coon


The waves of Cape May
bowed to our god of the holy word.
They curled and foamed and came ashore
like a deranged sea captain
who lost  the ship despite
prayer and alchemy,
rolling and turning and half drowned
in the thick of the thing,
sputtering in all the rage of the sea
and spitting out the castoff of pleasure boats.
We combed the beach
and found sketches in need
and bowed down to the temple of edit,
votive candles flickering in the wind,
for the skill to edit
rich and wonderful poems
from the scant wreckage
of yet another sea.

Lisa Bruckman


We favor water - ocean or lake - as a place to meet and write
and we call it a workshop because we think in tools, materials and craft.
Fifteen of us circling a table to read and listen.
We want the others to love us through our poems. We want to please.

At a beach fire on the final day,
one woman cries at how fine a moment it is.
All of us loving words so much and for these few days
all our love requited as it never is and will not be again

when we leave for our homes tomorrow afternoon
and when we return to our jobs and families
and I think of her tears that day on the beach
and her words that night in her room.

I stand at my desk with my books and papers
knowing that poetry is the brilliant light outside.
I create windows with words that are curtained,
but slants of light still come through.

There's not a day that I don't gaze out
and hope to see her there, and wish
that I could pull back the curtains,
open the window and call her name.

Charles Michaels


Ever since forever, I had
scribbled helter-skelter words
and hidden them - unspoken - in
some jaded crannies of my mind.
All these private, precious fragments,
much too delicate to risk
exposure to a public sun,
I sheltered in this shaded bay.

Often I had sought to think
them through again, to change a phrase,
or clear a thought, or make them say
most anything with poesy ;
but I would seldom bring them out
into the common light of day.

Before too long I found myself
buying many "how-to" books,
collecting some anthologies,
attending "virtual" poem-labs
on TV and the Internet.

Now I know I’m not alone:
that other poets I have met
also hold emotions deep
within their verdant, bursting brains.
There’s little competition here -
or jealousy; but what remains
is loneliness. Each Poet seeks
- with purity - the sound of Self.

Because I’ve found a new accord
with others’ patterned, singing shout,
I’m not afraid to write along.
I now employ extravagance
in using private, zealous verse
whose tone - sometimes with stinging pride -
I’m brave enough to shout about.

Catherine M. LeGault


Poets are sexy.
That's why we love to be together.
We say it's to write and to practice our craft
and be in the presence of others who do.
But we're poets
and we love the tease and the touch and the lick of the words.

The poet with books to sell tells us to write about an object in the room.
I choose the calla lilies in a vase next to the woman I've been watching.

Long-stemmed they rise
to a top fluted like lips
that a tongue might probe
like a bee buzzing for it.
Embraced by long green leaves
that first held them, now
tilt back to see the bloom-
fluid and flesh
it opens and spills.
The weight of it
makes your head fall.
Your own lips so tired,
you are glad to find
something to rest upon.

Does anyone want to share what they wrote?
We all want to share but most are coy, patient or afraid.
I read first.  I want there to be time for discussion.
I read slowly without looking at her. I look at the lilies, the floor,
our teacher - until I need something to rest upon.
I look right at her and she is looking at me.
Poets are sexy.
That's why we love to be together.

Ken Ronkowitz


St. Marguerite’s Retreat House—just
you and me, some poets and the nuns—
whatever is between us under cover,
or in a poem.

The back of my ankle rests against your
shin and we smile as the lady reads her
words across the surface of the table.

All the lovely letters, a leaf
I slip beneath your coffee,
a poem you slide into my
fingers while I write.

Outside, when all the other poets are
asleep, we walk and in the dark I
wear your sweater, we lean against
each other ankle deep in softening snow,
and more than a little off balance.

The moon stares, his eyes dark caves,
his mouth wide open and screaming.
Tall claws of maples creak and scratch
into the sky and there are curious sounds
like cries…

at breakfast in the morning the nuns tell us
“be careful of coyotes after dark, they are
always creeping closer to the house.”

This was a weekend of retreat—
the screaming moon, the melting
snow, the howling, the poetry,
the hunger, and you.

Svea Barrett-Tarleton



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