The Marge Piercy Intensive Poetry Workshop
in Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Submissions for the June 11-15, 2018 workshop are now closed.
Marge Piercy is one of America’s preeminent poets. She has published 19 volumes of poetry, including the first of her two volumes of selected poems, CIRCLES ON THE WATER, now in its 15th printing; THE MOON IS ALWAYS FEMALE, MY MOTHER’S BODY, WHAT ARE BIG GIRLS MADE OF, THE CROOKED INHERITANCE and, now out in paperback, THE HUNGER MOON: New & Selected Poems 1980-2010. Her nineteenth, MADE IN DETROIT, is now available in paperback. She has also written 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS, a memoir, SLEEPING WITH CATS, four non-fiction books, as well as a play and a collection of short stories, THE COST OF LUNCH, ETC. She has given readings, workshops and speeches at more than 500 venues here and abroad. Her work has been translated into 21 languages.
For over forty-five years Marge has lived in Wellfleet, a small fishing village on Outer Cape Cod, year-round home of many
artists and writers, summer retreat for some famous names in American literature. The irony of leaving one magnificent location to teach in another (Aspen, Boulder, Esalen, etc.) has never been lost on Marge, and she created an intensive poetry workshop of her own design and held here. For the last seven years, she has selected the best 12 poets out of many submissions and two alternates. Participants have traveled to Wellfleet from California, Oregon, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Montreal, Vancouver, Sweden, England, Switzerland, Brazil, Australia, and Israel.
Limited to twelve serious poets, daily group sessions are held in a comfortable, climate-controlled conference room just outside the village, while individual conferences often take place in the gazebo at Marge’s hillside home among the gardens. The five-day week includes a poetry reading open to the public when the entire class reads with Marge to a sizable audience. Weather permitting, we host a bonfire on the beach. We want the experience to be a welcoming and friendly one as well as moving the poets to a higher level of skill. A private on-line social network is set up months before the class in order to begin building a sense of community among participants and to provide information on lodging and transportation. The private network continues after the workshop for poets to offer support and feedback on each other’s work.
This is a week to work with a master teacher and hone your craft with emphasis on imagery, oral aspects, line lengths and line breaks, work habits, and the uses of persona. Writing exercises are assigned to improve specific areas of technique. We also work on delivery throughout the workshop, since readings are the point of sale for most poetry books.
Participants will be selected on the basis of 5 poems [limit 7 pages] submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please place Piercy Poetry Intensive in the subject line. Place your poems in the body of the email or as an MS WORD attachment in one file. (Some submissions inevitably get trapped by a spam catcher, so if you don’t receive a response to your submission, please query or try again.)
Total cost of the workshop tuition is $750. If accepted, a non-refundable deposit is required against the full tuition but will be returned should the class be cancelled. Once accepted, on May 1, you will be asked to send 15 more poems to form the basis for your conference with Marge. At that time the remainder of the tuition is due.
You are responsible for food and lodging. We suggest accommodations that suit your needs and budget but you must reserve, book, and pay for lodgings on your own. (As Wellfleet is a popular destination, this is best done as soon as possible after acceptance.) Frequently participants bring friends or family along so they may enjoy the many beaches, ponds, art galleries, shops, museums, cultural events, and hiking trails of Outer Cape Cod (Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown).
Ten months a year—known as the ‘off-season’—Wellfleet hosts a permanent population of roughly 2,500, including fishermen, tradesmen, artists, writers and surprisingly active retirees, while July and August—known on the Cape as the notorious ‘summuh’ season —brings a number-jump to 20,000 visitors from all over the world. The Piercy Intensive Poetry Workshop is intentionally scheduled in advance of their arrival.
The class is open to serious female and male poets. If you’re interested in applying please send five poems–in one file, limit seven pages–to email@example.com. Please place Piercy Poetry Intensive in the subject line. (If possible, please format to MS-Word .doc or send all poems in the body of the e-mail.) Upon acceptance to the workshop, you’ll receive additional information and be asked for your deposit.
Some comments from past workshops:
“I just wanted you to know that the workshop was truly one of the best I have ever attended. We had an amazing group of women and the way you ran the workshop and the topics you discussed seemed to be tailor-made to fit our needs. I also want to thank you for all the wonderful input and help you gave me. I feel ready to take on poetry again with a new dedication, devotion, and insight. I am not only able to write with more abandon now (leaving the “inner censor” at the door until I need her), but I am likewise determined to give myself the space and structure needed to write. I have already created a workspace here at home just for writing (i.e., no bills or other tasks) and am ready to axe those things that “clutter” my life and keep me from having the time to write and the space to focus. I think I knew somewhere deep down that the decluttering of daily life had to be done, but I just hadn’t acted on it. Your workshop has given me the determination to act. it was an life-altering experience and you are an amazing, inspiring woman. You made our week in the Cape much more than just a workshop. I am in love with Wellfleet — from the beaches and bonfires to the Duck Creek Inn ghost. And I feel very fortunate to have a glimpse into your life and community.” —Andrea Witzke Slot, Chicago, Illinois
“I read a poem in our workshop and you said, ‘What a brilliant idea.’ Those words–that word–idea, idea, idea. My life has been cast with characters who called me stupid. Your comment has helped me (begin to) negate those voices, because once, an idea I had was called brilliant–by Marge Piercy!!! Thank you so much for that moment, for that gift. The women I met this week have also had an impact on the way I view my life. We all came here for the same reason–we have needed your strength, your wisdom, and your poetry so we could find our own strength, our own wisdom, and our own poetry. We formed friendships and cried together–it was emotional and powerful. It was beautiful.” —Rae Rose, Portland, Oregon
“Wow, a year ago, that group included me! A year later, 80 new poems, some publications coming up, a collection submitted to an award, and a 200,000 word memoir written. Does the workshop have a lasting impact? Yes!” —Helen Patrice, Australia
“Thanks for an excellent class. I found our work on titles and verbs especially helpful. Thanks for the thorough comments on my poems. Thanks also to my eleven classmates. Each of you brought good poetry and precise critique to our class. You were fun to work with. Thanks too for the beach party, for the party at your home and for your other help including the private network page.” —George Longenecker, Middlesex, Vermont
“Marge Piercy’s workshop was truly inspiring. She is a feisty, intelligent and incisive critic, with a vast wealth of experience to share. The other participants were a diverse and talented group of writers. Ira’s presence was warm and welcoming, and his beach bonfire a treat, and of course Wellfleet is a beautiful part of the world. If you can get in, go!” —Rachel Rose, Vancouver, Canada
“What a great experience Marge’s Poetry Intensive Workshop is! Marge inspired in workshop participants the courage to take risks in the assigned daily writing exercises. I was grateful for the wisdom she shared about subjects including the power of careful observation and exploring personally-significant subjects. Her straight-shooting and focused critique made me see my poems with fresh eyes, and will stick with me as I add to my poetry manuscript. In the beautiful natural setting of Wellfleet, the social gatherings hosted by Marge and Ira showed a real generosity of spirit and gave us lots of opportunities to kick back when we weren’t writing or sightseeing. And what a thrill it was to read with headliner Marge and the other workshop participants to a large and attentive audience. —Susan Elmslie, Montreal, Canada
“A big thank you for everything. I loved the workshop, loved getting to know Marge, enjoyed all the other poets she chose, left with all we discussed floating in my head. I loved the reading at the library. I like reading but especially enjoyed hearing Marge’s voice at the end. The party was above and beyond. It was a perfect ending. I noticed how all the poets lingered, not wanting the experience to end. –Sharon Munson, Eugene, Oregon
“I’m not sure I know how to properly thank Marge Piercy for the genuine care and attention to me, to us, to the work, to the mystery and the things we strive for. The wonder and confidence that five little days can foster is so much more than you might know. This experience has been as life and spirit and creatrix affirming as any I have ever had. No more hiding. No more apologies. No more I-don’t-knows. –Karen Elizabeth Sharpe, Sterling, Massachusetts
“This is the writing workshop that continues to resonate – it shifted something in my relationship to my writing. I participate in quite a few workshops and conferences but this one stays with me, because Marge, is a gifted teacher.” —Shana Ritter, Bloomington, Indiana
“People hear me talk a lot about going to this workshop but even though it was years ago now I’m still feeling the impact. I’ve had so many good teachers, but Marge has been the best. She is interested in such a wide range of styles and was able to see my work for what it was and where it was trying to go even in those very early stages. I’ve never had a teacher that had such a ‘large bag’ of tricks for dealing with such a diversity of styles. I felt she was always on the side of our poems and enforced really good boundaries in the critique process. It is also no small thing that the other poets that she chose were of such a high caliber. I have continued corresponding with a number of the other participants and those folks have been good friends and good sounding boards.” —Heather Beatty, St. Paul, Minnesota
It was a terrific week. Marge Piercy was clear-eyed and laser focused and told me exactly how I need to attend to my poems. She plays hard ball, but I was ready for that. I learned so much. It was a terrific week. Marge Piercy was clear-eyed and laser focused and told me exactly how I need to attend to my poems. She plays hardball, but I was ready for that. I learned so much.
—S.E. Venart, Montreal, Canada
Marge Piercy’s Poetry Intensive was the most fun and challenging writing week I’ve experienced. She is brilliantly sharp and accurate in her critiques. Generous with her knowledge and love of poetry. Humorous and entertaining. She is razor focused on helping the student see where they need to grow. For the poet who is ready to dig in, listen and learn, the potential for improving craft and sense of self as writer is immense. And meeting fellow poets along the way was equally rewarding. I wish I could do it again. -Mary Panke, Connecticut
I came away from this workshop with a plethora of new tools as a poet and a deeper understanding of craft. Marge is brilliant in her presentation and her feedback is spot on. I loved my experience so much I that would like to attend another workshop in the future. —Kellyann Conway, Santa Fe, NM
When Marge Piercy asked us to send in fifteen poems for our private conference, I knew this workshop would be thorough, but never imagined how productive I could be in just one week. Studying with Marge meant five days of focused lessons, no-nonsense critiques, and a generous dose of laughter. We worked hard and played hard (bon fire! class party! nonsense poems!) as Marge introduced solid, practical approaches to crafting our poems. She took us seriously as writers—and that, I think, was the greatest gift of all. —Jackie Craven, Schenectady, NY
Submissions for the June 11-15, 2018 workshop are now closed.
To apply, send 5 poems–in one file; limit seven pages–to firstname.lastname@example.org. Format as .doc or send all poems in the body of the e-mail. Upon acceptance to the workshop, you’ll receive additional information. Do not include resume or bio; only your poems are the basis for admission. But do put your name on each and number your pages. We receive many submissions every year and your poems can get lost.