May Poetry Retreat

With March underway, it’s time to start thinking about spring. I’m looking forward to doing a few poetry readings during the warmer months, and my creative juices always flow a little easier once winter is in the rear-view. If you’re looking for a writing retreat, I highly suggest the poetry retreat at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA on Saturday, May 11. The cost is only $25 and includes lunch and dinner, several workshops, readings, and reserved space to write and/or read. I’ll be one of the workshop leaders, most likely teaching a fun class on incorporating pop culture into writing. If interested, check out the RVSP form.



Writing with Teens

I want to give a shout out to the fine folks at the Osterhout Library for letting me teach a poetry workshop for teens last week, in honor of National Poetry Month. The workshop was just what I needed, as the semester winds down and I, like my college students, start to feel the burnout that comes with a waning school year. At first, I was unsure if the workshop would be successful, since every teen wrinkled their noses confessed to me that they dislike poetry and don’t want to write it.

However, I first wanted to share with them contemporary poets and ideas that I thought they could relate to. I handed them a packet containing poems about teen/parent relationships and poems about place/location. We launched into Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s poem “Betrays.”  After I read the poem out loud, I was surprised by the number of comments. In fact, their comments were on the same level as some of my college literature courses. We probably could have spent the entire workshop discussing their poems and their reaction, but I wanted them to write. I wanted them to overcome that hurdle and their disdain for the genre. I gave them a simple prompt, in response to Maria’s poem. Write about your parents or a specific childhood memory.


At first, 20 minutes passed, and then 30. They barely looked up from their paper. By the end of the block of time, they each had a solid draft. One teen told me that he never tried writing before, but now he wants to start a writing group! Another teen mined his memory to address the day his dad left. Heavy stuff! We went over one more poem and did one more prompt. By the end, their minds opened to poetry, and I committed to doing another poetry workshop with them at some point, most likely over the summer. This is what National Poetry Month should be all about, not worrying so much about publication credits, but reaching communities that need poetry as a means of expression and communities that may not be that exposed to the art form.

Osterhout Library Poetry Workshop Series

Last year, the Osterhout Library in Wilkes Barre hosted free poetry workshops each month by a variety of different writers with publishing credits. The series has returned again this year, and tonight, my friend and fellow poet Dawn Leas will be hosting a workshop on found poetry. The event begins at 6:30 pm and is slated to run until 8 pm.

I am also going to teach a workshop in the series again. Mine will be held on Tuesday, March 20, also from 6:30-8 pm. The subject of my workshop is finding journals to place your poetry. We will look at different methods of finding journals suitable for your poetry and writing a cover letter for editors. What I will stress the most, though, is that you should NEVER send your work out to any journal if it is not ready for prime time. Revise, revise, and revise some more.

Check out the workshop series as it progresses through the spring months. The series will conclude on Tuesday, June 19 with an open reading of students and instructors. All of the workshops are free and open to writers of any level. The library is located on 71 S. Franklin St.

Poetry News

Just wanted to mention that The Portland Review published two of my poems online this week, and they will appear in print later this year. The first, “The Summer of Our Fall,” can be read here. It’s a poem left over from the Front Man manuscript, but it was taken out during the final edits. The second poem, “Missed Cues,” which is part of my new manuscript, can be read here.  I also have three poems forthcoming in Yes, Poetry. They will appear online in October. I also have a poem forthcoming in the fall issue of Evening Street Review.

I also want to announce that the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre is hosting free poetry workshops throughout the fall months. I’m hosting one in November, and several of my friends are also involved. The workshops start next week and run from 6:30-8. The dates and some blurbs are listed below.

September 6–“Writing Tools and Habits.”
Rachael Goetzke, teen poetry coordinator, will host a session on environment, writing tools, and making poetry a part of your daily life.

September 20–Dawn Leas “Channeling Memories.”

October 4–Amye Archer “Language Poems”

October 18–“Performance Poetry”  Not sure who’s teaching this section.

November 1–Alexis Czencz Belluzi Not sure what her focus will be.

November 15–Jenny Hill “Heavy Metaphor.”
We’ll explore the use of metaphor in prose and poetry and use the library resources to write our own extended metaphors.

November 29–Brian Fanelli will focus on writing about home/place in poetry. We will look at how certain poets depict home/place in their work, and do some writing prompts that tie into home/place.

All sessions held in the Gates Lab.

Final workshop/oration/open mic December 13 (Reading Room)

Vintage Theater Poetry Workshop

Over the summer, I will again teach a 5-week intensive poetry workshop at the Vintage Theater, located at 119 Penn Ave. in downtown Scranton. I wanted to cap the workshop at 5 students again, and I have that many down already, but I’ve decided to bump the number up a little bit. The workshop will again focus on the key elements of poetry, such as crafting an extended metaphor, developing voice/persona, and strengthening the rhythm of the line. The workshop will again conclude with a public reading of student work at the Vintage Theater.

I think there’s a few benefits to joining a community workshop. First, it forces one to write each week, to bring two poems, one that gets critiqued by the group, and one that goes home with me for thorough written comments. Second, I teach a variety of contemporary American poets whose work ties into the units we focus on week to week. Third, it’s simply nice to be part of a writing community, to get solid feedback on your work.

The cost of the workshop is again $75. The dates are Thursday, May 26, Thursday, June 2, Thursday,  June 9, Thursday, June 16, and Thursday, June 30 from 7-9 pm each week. If you’re interested, email me at to reserve a spot.