The Marge Piercy Intensive Poetry Workshop
in Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Submissions for the June 15 – 19, 2020 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 THE HUNGER MOON: New & Selected Poems 1980-2010. Her nineteenth, MADE IN DETROIT, is now available in paperback and her 20th will be published in Fall, 2020. She has also written 17 novels, including the classic Woman on the Edge of Time, 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 almost 50 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 ten 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 climate-controlled conference room just outside the village, while individual conferences 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 $800. If accepted, a non-refundable deposit of $400 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 January.) Frequently participants bring friends or family along so they may enjoy the many beaches, ponds, art galleries, shops, museums, cultural events, and hiking and biking trails of Outer Cape Cod (Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown).
The class is open to serious poets of all genders. 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:
“Meeting and working with Marge Piercy taught me to be more generous and more urgent about my writing, which may seem contradictory. Even though I have an MFA and have worked with many writers, there was, to use an image from Virginia Woolf, that angel in the house I could not fully expel who insisted I am wasting my time. Marge’s cut-to-the-chase feedback and openness to each poet’s unique voice and insistence that our writing is important — all of us — gave me the courage and the clarity to finally come home and expel that angel of the house. For the daily assignments, I was inspired by Marge’s work ethic and high expectations to write more complete poems in a few hours than I remember doing in a very long time. There did seem to be a bit of magic on the Cape or maybe just the synergy of the group. Nonetheless, I loved how demanding the course was while evenly balanced looking at the work of everyone in the group and lessons on craft. It was rounded out by ending the workshop with information on the practicalities of writing and a lovely party at Marge’s home.”
—Lisa Eve Cheby, Los Angeles, CA
“Marge Piercy is a force of nature. It was an honor to spend five days in her brilliant company. She challenges and inspires poets to do their finest work. Her deep insight and candid commentary propelled me to take creative risks and relentlessly seek excellence. I have never had a better editor. Her emphasis upon supplying context, finding clarity, sustaining focus, and recognizing the inherent integrity of poems (regarding them as organic, living entities) has compelled me to try and write with greater intelligence and grace.
—Mindy Ohringer, New York, NY
“Marge Piercy’s Poetry Intensive 2018 inspired and affirmed my work as a poet. I came away believing in myself in ways I never was able to before. She invested a great deal of time and energy into reading my poems and giving me honest, constructive, insightful, straightforward feedback on each one. I went into the Intensive with questions around line breaks, prose poems, and my own sense of self as a poet. I came away with clarity around those questions and so much more. The daily schedule, filled with Marge’s clear teaching, informational poetry packets, workshopping, and writing assignments, was organized so that we were immersed in poetry—living, reading, writing, and breathing poetry. A true privilege. I also appreciated the care that Marge Piercy and Ira Wood demonstrated through the week. Ira treated us all to a bonfire on the beach, a warm circle glowing with conversation, creating a very special memory for me of ocean and camaraderie. And, after a full week of poetry intensity, including an incredibly rewarding public poetry reading, Marge still had the energy to cook us all a delicious spread of homemade delights, inviting us into her home, sharing with us not just poetry, but a celebration of food and human kindness. My experience was invaluable. I continue to treasure that week as one of the as one of the most special and profoundly transformational weeks of my life.”
—Diana Tigerlily, Marion, Ill
“The workshop was truly one of the best I have ever attended. We had an amazing group of women and the way Marge ran the workshop and the topics she discussed seemed to be tailor-made to fit our needs. 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 de-cluttering of daily life had to be done, but I just hadn’t acted on it. The workshop has given me the determination to act. It was a life-altering experience and Marge Piercy is an amazing, inspiring woman. Our week on the Cape was much more than just a workshop. I am in love with Wellfleet — from the beaches and the bonfire to the Duck Creek Inn ghost. And I feel very fortunate to have a glimpse into Marge Piercy’s life and community.”
—Andrea Witzke Slot, London, England
“I read a poem in our workshop and Marge said, ‘What a brilliant idea.’ Those words–that word–idea, idea, idea. My life has been cast with characters who called me stupid. Her comment has helped me (begin to) negate those voices, because once, an idea I had was called brilliant–by Marge Piercy!!! 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 Marge’s strength, her wisdom, and her 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
“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.”
—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, Hartford, 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
‘Marge Piercy’s Intensive Writing Workshop challenges even the most experienced writer to push themselves. Every poet in our group brought a different perspective and all brought talent. The lectures were thoughtful, engaging and I found new ways of looking at how to approach titles and line breaks. Cape Cod makes a lovely setting for a week of connecting with other writers and pushing yourself to hone your writing. The Workshop was worth every minute and every penny. Challenging, informative and very engaging – the workshop immediately impacted my writing and I left excited to prove my literary chops!”
-Jonie McIntire, Toledo, OH
“To say that I learned a little bit about line breaks and expressing to your audience which words are the important words may sound insignificant, but this knowledge was a sea change for me, and so wonderful that it took place along an actual sea! When I got home, I went over all of the poems I brought to Wellfleet with me, revised, submitted, and now I wait to learn how others in the world will see those poems. I am also in the process of revising the poems I did not bring along with what I’ve learned in mind.
Also, I appreciated the quick, focused workshops we had and the opportunity to go to our week-long homes and write. Prior to attending the workshop, I was afraid that I couldn’t write poems anymore (long, boring story that has no bearing here), but while in attendance, I was happy to find that was untrue. I wrote an extended metaphor on demand. An extended fucking metaphor! (btw, that piece is being turned into a song by members of my university’s music department for our school’s 125th anniversary celebration. Also, a long, boring story, so I’ll spare you). And since I’ve been home, I’ve composed more poems.
Lastly, I was impressed by Marge’s acumen in finding poets for the workshop. I loved the different styles of poems from the poets, the personalities, and the overall congeniality. My workshop mates were inspiring and encouraging. I’m so happy to have met them and hope to keep them in touch. Lastly, lastly, I am very grateful to have met with Marge one-on-one, to have shared a stage with her, and to attend a party in her beautiful home. I’m honored that one of her cats came to sit with me when I had my one-on-one. I’m sure he must have sensed my fear and came to calm me. In stressful situations, I look for books or animals, and as it would have been rude to read a book while Ms. Piercy was discussing my poems with me, I was so happy to have a cat to pet! I learned so much during my week in Wellfleet from Marge and my fellow attendees of her Poetry Intensive. I will be forever thankful.”
-DeMisty Bellinger, Framingham, MA
Submissions for the June 15 – 19, 2020 workshop are now closed.
To apply, send 5 poems—in one file; limit 7 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.