Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer Poetry at the Frost Place

I've just learned that the Festival and Conference on Poetry at The Frost Place, held in Franconia, New Hampshire, still has openings for their one-week summer conference. If you're looking for a program, this one is terrific. I strongly recommend it. This is the place I first went to when I started writing poetry. I could not have picked a better place. It was exactly the place I needed. I went all nervous, not knowing if I'd be good enough, if I'd feel out of place, if I'd be lonely. But it was great. I never pursued an MFA—a late start, full-time teaching, and 3 kids stood in the way—so I instead cobbled together my own poetry education by attending workshops, conferences, and festivals. I've been to a number of other programs, but none goes so far out of its way to bring in all the participants, to make everyone feel welcome. Friendships form almost instantly. And many of them last long after the conference is over. In fact, a good number of the participants are returnees from previous years.

Here's how the program operates. It begins on Sunday morning with a meeting in Frost's barn. There are usually somewhere around 50 participants. At this meeting, everyone gets introduced. There are four resident faculty poets, all well along in their poetry careers. There is also a poet who resides in the Frost's farmhouse for the entire summer. This poet gives the craft lecture at that first session. Then on subsequent days a different well-known poet gives the morning talk.

The morning session is followed by a communal lunch on the grounds. You can sit on Frost's front porch or his back porch, or you can sit on the grass and enjoy the view of the White Mountains.

The view from Frost's lawn

Nobody is ever left to eat alone—unless by choice. After lunch participants break into small groups, each group meeting with a different resident poet. Each day, also, the guest poet meets with a group in the barn. So there is lots of variety. You meet with 5 different poets during the week. On the sixth day you audit the guest poet's workshop. Four sessions are for critiquing work you bring with you. One session is for a new poem. And one session is for a revision you do during the week. The afternoon ends around 2:30-3:00, so you have several hours to yourself. Dinner is on your own. Then each evening there is a reading in the barn with the guest poet and one of the resident poets.

Jeanne Marie Beaumont in the Barn. Note the photos of past resident poets.

Wednesday is unscheduled during the day. Lots of sights to see or you can spend time writing. Late afternoon is a picnic. Then that night is the participants reading. Unlike at some other conferences, at The Frost Place all the teaching poets attend all events. There is no sense of a class system here.

I went to the Festival and Conference on Poetry at The Frost Place for 7 years as a participant. Then I went as an auditor, attending the morning talks, using afternoons to write, and returning for the evening readings. Then I graduated to Baron Wormser's Seminar, a more intensive 5-day conference, now run by Jeanne Marie Beaumont. One of the thrills of my life was being invited in 2005 to be one of 4 guest poets at Baron's Conference on Poetry and Teaching, the third program run each year at The Frost Place. What a lovely way to complete a circle!

I owe so much to The Frost Place. It gave me confidence in myself as well as a lot of good information about how to write poetry. It also filled my spirit and sustained me throughout the year. So if you're looking for a place and you've had some experience writing poetry, are perhaps "pre-emerging" or "semi-emerging," this could be the perfect place for you. And if you're further along but want some terrific craft talks, some great company, and some beautiful scenery and good air, this could be the perfect place for you, too.

Franconia, New Hampshire, even has some flumes!

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  1. Diane,

    Thanks for this. I loved reading about what sounds like such a special place.

  2. I have a friend who also credits the Frost Place with starting her on her poetry-way. Thanks for the beautiful reminder!

  3. The Frost Place is, bar none, the best writerly gathering I've ever been associated with. I first attended as a student ("participant") in 1980, and I've been back in various roles a number of times since.

    Thanks for the lovely summary, Diane.

  4. Kelli-I know you too would have loved the Frost Place and would encourage others to go there. Marie, I'm sure there are many of us who credit the Frost Place for giving us just what we needed and at the right time. David--I didn't know you'd first gone as a participant since, when I first met you there, you were one of the guest poets.

    One suggestion I meant to make to anyone who goes to Frost or elsewhere: don't take your spouse or your kids. Go for a full immersion in poetry. Be selfish about it. Let it be your week. No distractions, no obligations to entertain or tend to other people's needs. As Georgia Heard said in another context, "Marinate yourself in poetry."


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