Reading and Writing through Emily Dickinson & Gertrude Stein

Reading and Writing through Emily Dickinson & Gertrude Stein:
a poetry workshop spanning 8 Sundays from June 3 to July 22
(Toronto, ON or Cyberspace)

General Description:

In this workshop, we will study a selection of poems by Emily Dickinson and Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein. These books of poetry will generate talk and strategies for the writing we enact.



We spend one hour reading poems aloud and another hour writing. The writing portion takes the form of starting points & prompts drawn from the poems as well as those of my own design. Writing sessions are formalized into poems—participants gather works into mini-manuscripts for review and commentary in the final class or, in the case of virtual students, in one-on-one consultations with me.


All students may keep abreast of the material via weekly email summaries regardless of method of attendance.


More Details on the Workshop:

Both in-person and virtual students have found that the workshop’s weekly engagement has generated poems, lead to revision of older work, given new understanding to poetics, and triggered the reworking of dusty manuscripts.


In-person attendance is on-location in my home near Chester Station, Toronto. Or, cyberspace. Meeting time for in-person attendance is 4 PM to 6 PM.

In My Emily Dickinson, poet-critic Susan Howe writes:

“As poetry changes itself, it changes the poet’s life. Subversion attracted the two of them. By 1860 it was as impossible for Emily Dickinson simply to translate English poetic tradition as it was for Walt Whitman. In prose and in poetry she explored the implications of breaking the law just short of breaking off communication with a reader. Starting from scratch, she exploded habits of standard human intercourse in her letters, as she cut across the customary chronological linearity of poetry. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), influenced by Cezanne, Picasso and Cubism, verbally elaborated on visual invention. She reached in words for new vision formed from the process of naming, as if a first woman were sounding, not describing, ‘space of time filled with moving.’ Repetition, surprise, alliteration, odd rhyme and rhythm, dislocation, deconstruction. To restore the original clarity of each word-skeleton both women lifted the load of European literary custom. Adopting old strategies, they reviewed and re-invented them.”

Required texts:

The Pocket Emily Dickinson
Brenda Hillman, ed

Tender Buttons
Gertrude Stein

Suggested text:

Selected Poems & Letters of Emily Dickinson
Robert N. Linscott, ed.

My Emily Dickinson
Susan Howe

History of the Workshop, Cost and How to Join:

I have been leading poetry workshops like this one for 14 years. The focus for it is transmission, absorption and enacting. Previous workshops have engaged the collected works of Creeley, Niedecker, Kyger, Berrigan, Spicer, and Whalen as well as Olson’s Maximus and Collected Prose. An essay on the class is included in the anthology “Poets on Teaching” (University of Iowa, 2010).

For more information or reserve a space, please contact me at hn2626 at Donations accepted.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 19th, 2012 at 1:37 am and is filed under How to Write Poetry, Workshops. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.