The Marge Piercy Intensive Poetry Workshop
in Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Submissions for the June 12-16, 2017 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, was published by Alfred A. Knopf last April, is now available in paperback. She has also written 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS, a memoir, SLEEPING WITH CATS, and 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 six 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, and Australia.
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 cocktail party and 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 for participants, their families, partners, and friends. 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 and share news.
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 with your original five for your conference with Marge. At that time the remainder of the tuition is due.
You are responsible for food and lodging. We can 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).
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
Located some seventy-five miles out to sea on the crooked arm of Cape Cod, the Town of Wellfleet is bounded by the wild Atlantic Ocean and the calm waters of Cape Cod Bay. Over 60% of the town’s land area is located within the boundaries of the Cape Cod National Seashore ensuring that its spring-fed kettle ponds, immaculate back shore beaches, bayside salt marshes, and working harbor remain free from development.
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.
With its dunes, sail boats and trawlers, and the sandy flats that give rise to its world-famous oysters, Wellfleet’s Central Village is a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly shopping area of old homes, fine restaurants, cafes, a celebrated five-star library, and the cloister of more than twenty galleries—all within walking distance—that make it known as Cape Cod’s ‘art gallery town.’
Bordering Truro to the north, which in turn borders Provincetown, Wellfleet is one of four small towns comprising Outer Cape Cod, one of the best known artists’ retreats in American cultural history. Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Jackson Pollack, Robert Motherwell, Edmund Wilson, Mary McCarthy, Tennessee Williams, Norman Mailer, Howard Zinn, all lived and worked here, and today, Robert Pinsky, Michael Cunningham, Sebastian Junger, Noam Chomsky, Jhumpa Lahiri, among many others, call it their second home. Wellfleet is also home to the Cape Cod Modern House Trust a world-reknowned project dedicated to preserving the experimental structures inspired by the most famous names in post-WWII architecture, the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, and the Harbor Stage Company, the premiere regional theaters on Cape Cod. The Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro presents internationally celebrated musicians all through the season while Preservation Hall, a thriving community arts center, is host to lectures, films, concerts, dances, and a farmer’s market. A full schedule of yoga and massage are available at the Quiet Mind Studio and, in the same renovated 19th century warehouse, the Heart Core Studio features pilates, spinning, cross training and more.
Check out much more about Wellfleet including campgrounds, hotels and motels, B&B’s, cottages and apartments, and restaurants, as well as articles from the NY Times about Wellfleet in the off-season and in high summer. If you are accepted to the workshop, you’ll receive a detailed booklet about Wellfleet and a map.
Submissions for the June 12-16, 2017 workshop are now closed.
If you are interested in applying please send 5 poems–in one file; limit seven pages–to firstname.lastname@example.org. (If possible, format as .doc or send all poems in the body of the e-mail.) Upon acceptance to the workshop, you’ll receive additional information. (Please note, submissions sometimes get caught in our spam catcher. If you don’t hear back in about a week, it would be a good idea to send a note to the same address email@example.com to ask if your submission has been received.) 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 at least one hundred submissions every year and your poems can get lost.