The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Field Trips

Field Trips offer Juniper participants the opportunity to explore beyond the UMass Amherst campus and creatively engage with the surrounding nature and literary culture of Western Mass. Field trips are guided by Juniper Creative Writing Instructors, and encourage participants to write alongside and pull inspiration from the many engaging sites Amherst and surrounding towns have to offer. This year, participants in the Juniper Institute for Young Writers will take one Craft Session elective on Wednesday morning and then embark on a field trip to a Western Massachusetts destination with their Craft Session Creative Writing Instructor.

Craft Session Field Trips are offered during the Juniper Institute for Young Writers.

Discovering Poetic and Prosaic Forms in Nature (at the Smith College Botanical Gardens)

Taught by: Larry Flynn

“Many structures that recur in texts coincide with fundamental patterns in nature,” writes Jane Alison in Meander, Spiral, Explode. Using these principles of discovering prose forms in nature, we will craft poetic or prosaic structures guided by organic life forms around us while walking the Robert Frost Trail. We will pick a natural structure and write to mirror the natural form. For example, we may write a poem as a river—one which flows, meanders, rushes, and trickles. We may consider how we could write a paragraph that intentionally gets “stuck in the mud” or “branches” into tangents. At the end of this generative craft session, we will have developed new ways of engaging both nature and our writing, transforming our vision of structure, line, propulsion, and other craft elements.

Emily Dickinson's Punctuated Garden (at the Emily Dickinson Museum)

Taught by: Scout Turkel

During Western Massachusetts summertime, we are surrounded by the world's natural abundance in a place that has inspired poets and writers for centuries. Together, we will visit Emily Dickinson's Homestead to consider the relationship between her (and our) local greenery, and the formal choices of Dickinson's poems. How can writing "like" a garden encourage experimentation? How does the poetic line replicate, split-off, and flower as a plant does? We will also consider the knowledges that overlap Dickinson's, namely indigenous forms that have thrived in the Pioneer Valley throughout history. What inspiration does a garden's method and complicated history hold for us? We will walk, talk, look, write, and touch grass together.

Interiors and Envelopes: Keeping House with Emily Dickinson (at the Emily Dickinson Museum)

Taught by: Sarah Ahmad

In the 1850 national census, Emily Dickinson listed her occupation as “keeping house”. In this craft session, we will pay attention to Dickinson’s radical attention to the domestic, the interior, the objects of the everyday. Through a visit to her Homestead, we will ask: what is the relationship between the house and the poem? What shared architecture might move between both forms and how can we think of them generatively for our own work? What do Emily Dickinson’s envelope poems offer us in terms of rethinking the life, form, and function of a shape, and how can we re-make surfaces and objects through cultivating the kind of noticing this visit to her Homestead offers us?

There and Back Again (at the Robert Frost Trail)

Taught by: Noelle Mrugała-Paraan

‘The natural’ is a controversial matrix in our age of climate collapse, while also being the longest standing inspiration for artists. After reading work by writers with varying relations to the natural, such as Bei Dao, Juliana Spahr, and Robert Frost, I will challenge students to define their own connections to the natural, as we walk about, taking lengthy pauses to write in nature; to form and question our own connections to the natural. Initially, the plan is in three phases: to pause and postulate our relation to surrounding images, walk forward and reflect collectively, and write, and finally to walk back, challenging our initial images on our return to the first location.

With ability accommodation in mind, our hike will not be strenuous, but if further accommodation is required, our class could possibly meet at the Botanic Garden of Smith College, where our walk would be much shorter, and more accessible – in addition, questions and ideas around what defines the natural would be heightened, given the increased presence of human architecture.

“You Don’t Have to Explain Baseball” (at the Smith College Art Museum)

Taught by: Sara Hetherington

Whether you set out to tell a story based on your personal experience or one describing a new reality, you may find yourself tempted to overexplain—to make sure your readers are “getting it.” But over explanation can, paradoxically, bring your readers out of the story, and even derail your goals for that piece.

In this craft session, we’ll think about how we center and convey the customs, logic, and rules of our stories’ worlds and how to lessen the anxiety around being understood in order to communicate authentically.