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Participants in the 2015 Institute will have the opportunity, in the spring, to sign up for the craft sessions that interest them the most. To get a sense of what our craft sessions can do for you, here are descriptions of just a few of the sessions that were offered last June:

Have I the Lip of the Flamingo: Dickinson and Catachresis
But do flamingos even have lips? And what could it mean to “pluck” at a partition? How can floods be served in bowls, or the heavens appear to be “stitched”? In this craft session, we’ll take a close look at the elegant mayhem afoot in a handful of Emily Dickinson’s poems, reading with a special emphasis on turns of phrase that fly against, and therefore expand, our sense of the possible. We’ll discuss the various kinds of catachresis, which may be broadly defined as the deliberate violation of a word’s standard usage for expressive ends, considering the ways in which this rhetorical figure appears to be central not only to Dickinson’s poetry, but to what we mean by poetry in general. We’ll experiment in class with enhancing our own writing’s complexity of meaning, verbal texture, and sense of surprise through a practice of lexical selection that brazenly, but not without principle, disrupts what’s standard. We’ll encourage ourselves to march against the grain of the routine in apparently illogical rather than merely logical steps, confident that le mot juste might be just right for prose, but more often than not, it’s the last thing we want for our poetry.

We read, in part, to be lifted away from the daily. We want mystery, scope, relief from the weight of detail. Fiction provides a haven, sometimes even from itself. It can swerve, rupture, disburden. It can lift out and away. This lifting away reminds us of the pleasing elasticity of being we know to be true and forget. On certain pages of prose (poetry too) we are reminded to see more deeply, perhaps more widely, as though an aperture has been opened, as though time has been dilated and space. What emerges from the rupture might be wisdom, a confession of fear, a declaration of fury, or love. Love and fury and wisdom and fear have accumulated line by line: the rupture feels at once spontaneous and inevitable, an impulse that overwhelms intention. The rupture is larger than the story and yet contained by it and it can take your breath away. Recollection and premonition; accumulation and release. The rupture is not explanation but declaration: People require strengthening before the acts of life. (Grace Paley) I am in retirement from love. (William Gass) My questions for the time we have together will be: how do writers accomplish this feat? How might we invite it?

Anecdotes of the Jar: How to create a tiny universe in less than 10 lines
Do you ever wonder how a poet makes a perfect poem in less time than it takes most people to say hello? Well, us, too. In this craft session, we will explore some great short poems by H.D., Jack Spicer, Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Lucille Clifton, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and James Schuyler and try to uncover how these poems become tiny universes and not just short poems waiting to be longer. We will write our own small poems, too, inspired by these poets and others, and sparked by some real life miniature objects and things. And in doing this work, we will discover the very nature of poetry itself, with its exquisite sound minimalism, pretty and small factories, with its imagery of our human wilderness caught in the tiniest of glass jars, over and over and over again.

The Glimmer Moment
In every really memorable short story or essay—and the two are much more similar than we often think—there's a moment where we experience that wonderful, piercing ache of realizing that what this piece is about…which is so rarely what we thought it was, even one sentence before. I call this the glimmer moment. In our talk we'll be looking at how we arrive at it—putting aside John L’Heureux’s instruction “to capture a moment after which nothing will ever be the same again” Is it an action that takes us there? Or an accrual of similar actions? Or linking together of multiple very different events? Is it memory or a reference to something outside the story? Is it a metaphor? Once we have some structural models, we look at how it’s revealed in language: told, shown, told and shown, hidden, hinted at, denied? Expect examples from Jayne Anne Phillips, Aimee Bender, Dorthe Nors, Shawn Vestal, and Claire Vaye Watkins.

Reinvigorating Your Writing Practice
In this craft session we will go back to the basics: breath, senses, the body—where stories and poems are housed. Being attentive to your inner world and experience provides information that can be used to write deeply and distinctly. We grow our ability to respond as writers when we learn to take notice of the present moment. Mindfulness meditation and generative writing exercises will help you to awaken your writing and invigorate your practice.

This reminds me of this reminds me of that reminds me of you remind me of us
Two things writers have a habit of thinking and sometimes saying: this reminds me of and how did she get away with that. Not necessarily in combination, but sometimes. A while back someone said that the chance meeting on an operating table between a sewing machine and an umbrella reminded them of... something. When we meet we'll have a little over an hour to deal with what this reminds me of and other things remind us of and how our brains’ tendencies to do these things make us the writers we are and will be. 9 minute writing opportunity to remind us of what we're doing here. (adjacent items for consideration: associational generation, sound generation, sense generation, random generation, skipping steps, syntax's defining presence, the limits of direction, imagination's invigoration). Everyone welcome.