Workshops and Retreats in Europe 2014
Prize-winning Bloomsbury author, Thomas E. Kennedy author of In the Company of Angels and Kerrigan in Copenhagen returns to the island of ANDROS for another fiction workshop organized by the Aegean Arts Circle from June 25th -July 4 2014 See Kennedy's interview with Pokkoli writer Linda Lappin to learn more about his approach to writing workshops and don't miss this opportunity to study with a master on an enchanted island.
American novelist Teresa Cutler Broyles will be returning to Italy in May and October 2014. Pokkoli's own Linda Lappin will be joining her for a workshop. See Teresa's site TLC Writing Tours for more information.
An Interview with Thomas E. Kennedy
Linda Lappin talks with Thomas E Kennedy about writing workshops, his approach to teaching them and about what he has learned from them:
LL : “Do you take a particular approach when conducting fiction workshops? Are there some aspects you emphasize especially?”
Thomas E Kennedy When I was a student in an M.F.A. program, I particularly wanted to hear what the workshop leader had to say. After all s/he was a published writer and presumably had much more to say than me, so I tried mostly to listen. Not that I didn’t ask questions also. With that in mind, I try to impart what I have learned to participants in my workshops. I want to talk about specific topics – verisimilitude and sensory evocation, narrative flow, the need for revision and how to revise, the use of intuition, point of view, structure, and so forth. And I find that participants – as I did when I was a student – want to hear about the nuts and bolts of being a writer, how to submit a manuscript, what the writing life is like, etc. I also do a lot of one-on-one with student manuscripts – a student of writing can learn as much from hearing a professional critique of another writer’s manuscript as of his or her own. But I need to have the manuscripts in advance – I need to contemplate a piece of prose before I know what I think about it.
But there is room for spontaneity also; the generative approach is something I find very useful – with writing prompts. It is amazing what a participant in a workshop can produce on the spot by being prompted by the leader with a little presentation – e.g. on sensory evocation, on cut-ups and rotations, or simply by setting a scene – and then the leader calling on the participants to write. The results are usually quite exciting. The very first writing exercise I took – about thirty years ago – led to one of my first published stories.
to read more, please visit www.lindalappin.net
The History of Too Much
Poetry by Adrianne Kalfopoulou
THE ATHENS CENTRE Seek Inspiration from the Gods at the Muses' Poetry Workshop at the Athens Centre
Imagine yourself writing poetry in Greece. Imagine yourself inspired by the country of Homer, of Sappho, of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, in the city where Socrates, Aristotle and Plato walked the streets and taught in the Agora and the Academy.
The summer poetry seminar is a three week session focusing on the writing and appreciation of poetry in the land where western literature was born, and which has continued to inspire English-language poets through the ages, from Byron and Rupert Brooke to James Merrill and Seamus Heaney. The Athens Centre has been sponsoring poetry programs in Greece since 1970; well-known writers who have taken part in the programs over the years include Gregory Corso, James Merrill, Alan Ansen, Rachel Hadas, David Mason, Christopher Bakken, Katerina Angelaki-Rook, Tassos Denegris, and many others.
The seminar has been led for the past ten years by poet Alicia Stallings (a.e.stallings), with the participation of visiting guest poets. People of all ages and backgrounds, including those with little previous experience of writing poetry, university students, high school and university teachers of literature and creative writing, writers, and published poets are all typical participants in the program.
For more information see: Athens Centre Muses' Workshop
For students who cannot attend the entire three week session, it is possible to organize a stay of one to two weeks.
Scroll down to read Linda Lappin's interview with workshop leader A.E.Stallings on this page
An Interview with A.E. Stallings of the Athens Poetry Centre
Linda Lappin talks with A.E.Stallings about her life in Greece and the workshop she teaches for the Athens Poetry Centre.
Poet and workshop leader Alicia Stallings, author of The Archaic Smile (University of Evansville Press, 1999, winner Richard Wilbur prize) and Hapax (Northwestern University Press, 2006), talks about the Muses’ Workshop and its focus on myth.
Linda Lappin: How long have you been living in Greece?
Alicia Stallings: Twelve years, since 1999.
Lappin: And you’ve been directing the Muses Workshop at the Athens Center for most of that time?
Stallings: Ten years now. Previously, the program was held on the island of Spetses, but two years ago, we moved it to Athens as the islands were becoming quite expensive. Athens has its own charms—museums, nightlife, beaches, and easy day trips in the vicinity.
Lappin: There’s an emphasis on myth and mythology in your workshop, which is indeed dedicated to The Muses. Why?
Stallings: Because we are in Greece, I wanted to use what was around us. Mythology pervades Greek life. My children are named Jason and Atalanta, and their friends on the playground are named Electra, Achilles, Andromeda. It’s also a way to enter into contact with modern and contemporary Greek poetry: poets like Cavafy and Seferis make use of mythology. And it’s a key to understanding modern life in Greece. It brings together many elements in the classroom. Many of my students have been writing confessional poetry. For them, using myth in different sorts of ways and seeing different examples of myth-based poems introduces a new dimension, and can help open them up to new subject matter.
Lappin: Some people may remember studying the Greek myths or the Odyssey at elementary school, with antiquated Victorian translations, high flown language, or modern bland prose versions. In class, you were saying how important it is to approach this material with fresh eyes and a spirit of innovation.
Stallings: In working with myth, you have to feel free to make variations. You don’t have to approach the material in a fusty way, or feel reverent and respectful. Ancient writers didn’t feel that way. They experimented and could be both playful and raunchy. You can take the standard story and give yourself permission to play with it. The Greek myths are very contemporary. Consider the story of Phaeton and the chariot of the sun. It’s the story of a teenager who has been given the keys to his dad’s Porsche and doesn’t know how to control it. Or take The Odyssey—among other things, it’s the first western.
Lappin You say that Greek myths still pervade contemporary Greek consciousness and Greek life. In the current economic and political crisis, do you see any myths operating?
Stallings I’d have to think about this.
Lappin: I was thinking the other day about the sacrifice of the young Athenians to the Minotaur…
Stallings : Actually, that might make a bit of sense… There is a resonance of events. You need to read the current crisis against a larger backdrop of modern Greek history: the founding of the Greek republic, a sort of colonialism that took place. Some people wondered if Greece was ready for democracy. Loans were made on calamitous terms. In any case, it is a gerontocratic society. Young people have no power, no say, an insecure future. Like Kronos, Greece eats her young.
Lappin: In your own work, are there myths that have shaped your life or your vision of your art?
Stallings: I have written a lot about the underworld. Hades and Persephone. Orpheus and Eurydice. I am fascinated by the Underworld. The classical, pagan view of the afterlife seems much less abstract to me, more real than our Christian heaven and hell.
Lappin: I share your fascination. I find your images of the Underworld extremely striking, particularly in the poems “Hades Welcomes His Bride” and “Persephone Writes a Letter to Her Mother “ in Archaic Smile, or “Dogdom of the Dead,” and “An Ancient Dog Grave Unearthed During the Construction of the Athens Metro.” Especially in the first two poems, you give Hades such vivid physical reality, it’s the world of roots and snakes and burrowing right under our feet. In a forum I found on the Internet, you mention that for a while you lived in a basement flat, and that this subterranean environment might have unconsciously influenced you. I’d be interested in hearing more about your fascination for the underworld and its meanings for you.
Stallings: I think if I fully understood my fascination with it, it would subside somewhat. Part of it may be how the dead continue to exist, but as shadows of themselves, like dim but stubborn memories. I like the realness of its geography, how it is a place to be travelled to but not (usually) returned from. I sometimes think, looking back at early poems of mine about the underworld that they are as much about depression as death. But that’s an idea that has only come to me lately. And I think writing about the underworld is fun, too, as well as frightening.
Lappin: You’re a classics scholar and a great admirer of the Odyssey, which you use in your writing classes at the Muses Workshop. I was wondering how you relate to one of its main themes: exile or dislocation. What’s the hardest thing you have had to deal with as an expat writer?
Stallings: Losing track of American vernacular and being out of touch with popular culture. You’re not watching the same television shows, keeping up with the same trends.
Lappin: That might not be bad for an artist.
Stallings: Of course, yet sometimes I find myself re-reading a line I have written and will ask myself, “would someone really say that?” You have to keep in touch with the language. As an expat and also as a mother you are isolated.
Lappin: Elsewhere you have described yourself as a “Mommy poet.”
Stallings: I am. With small children it’s a struggle to find time and quiet in which to work.
Lappin: Do you feel part of the American writing community, the poetry community?
Stallings: With social media, internet, Facebook, Skype, it’s easy to be included in the conversation and to keep in touch. But it’s also good to be independent of it all.
Lappin: Do you return often to the US?
Stallings: I have been four times in the last six months! Thrice for work and once for family. We have our Christmas in the states. Christmas isn’t a big deal in Greece—Easter is the major holiday here. My children enjoy having an American Christmas. In early June I was in West Chester, Pennsylvania where I teach at a poetry conference centered on technique and narrative.
Lappin: Do you ever think of returning to live in the US permanently?
Stallings: Sometimes. But I am glad my children are growing up here for the moment. It’s like the ’50s. It’s safe. We live in a neighborhood where people are nosey, they look out for your kids. Children can go to the store and buy milk or go off on their own somewhere without their parents having to be obsessed with crime, worrying about something terrible happening to the children, as happens in the US. Children still have their innocence here. I am also glad they are growing up bilingual. They’re lucky because they’ll have an option. There’s currently no future for young people here in Greece.
Lappin: That’s a very strong statement! You don’t think the situation might improve?
Stallings: I hope it will. But it might take a generation. The Greeks are resilient. They’ve been through worse.
Lappin: Do you teach elsewhere in Athens or Greece?
Stallings: I run this workshop (normally 3 weeks in summer) and teach at some workshops/ residencies in the US. I do a lot of literary translation, and also some of what I call “hack work” –reviews, articles, essays. I am a professional writer. If someone says, write me a 500 word blog on Greek food and pays me, I’ll do it. After all, I have to pay my Bulgarian baby sitter who looks after my children when I am teaching or when I need time to write! But both writing and translation take time and energy away from my main work.
Lappin: In this very intense week of the Muses Workshop, we’ve worked a lot with rhyme and form: sonnets, sestinas, pantoums, and villanelles. Would you elaborate a bit about your emphasis on form in your writing classes?
Stallings: I run a poetry boot camp! Many people misunderstand the use of form and think it entails submitting to restrictions. But instead it means giving up control. Not submitting to restrictions, but to destiny or chance that helps choose the next word. Rhyme is also an engine of syntax. And it helps make lines memorable.
Lappin: What writers do you read for inspiration?
Stallings: Among many others, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wilbur, Don Paterson, Seamus Heaney. And ancient writers. My favorite poet is A.E. Housman.
Lappin: You have translated both texts of classical antiquity as well as modern Greek poetry, and have received a grant for your translation work. In class you said that translating was a form of very close reading, and a way to know another writer’s work intimately. Aside from Cavafy or other early modernists, are there any contemporary Greek poets whom you have translated whose work you find especially inspiring?
Stallings: I suppose you could include Angelos Sikelianos in the early modernists? There are many wonderful contemporary Greek poets. Interestingly, two of the most prominent are women: Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke and Kiki Dimoula. I have not, however, attempted to translate any living writers. (Indeed, Anghelaki-Rooke translates herself!) I suppose one advantage of working with a living writer is you could pose queries to them. But the disadvantage is you might not like the answers.
Lappin: In class, we looked at the many hand written and typed drafts of Elizabeth Bishop’s famous villanelle, The Art of Losing, which I believe went through eleven drafts. Do you think word processing has made the labor of writing poetry easier—not having to retype every fresh revision? Do you work with a word processor or write long hand?
Stallings: Some people have a fetishistic approach—they have to use a certain pen, etc. I am not like that. People need different things. I write long hand and then on the computer. I actually have some theories about using computers to write poetry. I think that looking at a back-illuminated screen ties up your visual attention in a way that looking at a page doesn’t. I always print out and revise on the printed page. Sometimes in revision, you can lose a certain freshness, and if you’ve just deleted blocks of text, it’s hard to go back and find your earlier versions. I tell my students to always keep a copy of their earlier versions.
Lappin: You’ll be bringing out a new book soon…
Stallings: Yes, it’s called OLIVES—which can also be O LIVES.
It is forthcoming with Northwestern University Press, and should be out early in 2012.
Lappin: A word of advice to writers?
Stallings: You have to give yourself permission to write bad poetry. Clean the brown water out of the pipes. It’s often in revision that a poem goes from bad to good or from good to great.