East Bay Poetry Workshops

Since 2013, Omnidawn has been bringing forth new educational opportunities to our community by way of our online prosody and poetry workshops. Now, we are excited to announce that we are expanding our programming and launching a new series of in-person East Bay poetry workshops, to be led by the writers we publish and admire. These workshops aim to create an affordable, high-level experience that will open your poetic capacities through engagement with your teacher practitioner, class readings, and the Bay area’s marvelous community of writing peers.

Now accepting applications:
Force Fields with Norma Cole

Starts November 13th

norma cole author photo A force field in physics is an energy field indicating the potential exerted by one object on another. In poetry, the force field is the constellation of elements influencing one another, the push-pull of elements like sight, sound, sense and silence. We’ll describe the process and slippage (for instance phrase, line, dream, time, space, dialogue, vision) in constructing a poem. While we read our own works, we will also consider the writings of others such as Brathwaite, Kyger, Akhmatova, Sagawa, Takemitsu, Guest, Zurita, Bergvall and Woolf, with a little Dante and Shakespeare thrown in. What makes a poem seem fugitive but is eternal?

This session will run for 5 weeks, once a week, from 7-9:30pm, starting March 13th. We will be accepting applications with a limit of 10 students. The cost to participate is $250, and classes will be held close to BART in Berkeley. To apply, please send 5-10 pages of poems, along with a brief statement of intent, to eastbaypoetryworkshop@gmail.com.

Norma Cole’s books of poetry include Win These Posters and Other Unrelated Prizes Inside, Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988—2008, Spinoza in Her Youth and Natural Light, and most recently Actualities, her collaboration with painter Marina Adams. TO BE AT MUSIC: Essays & Talks made its appearance in 2010 from Omnidawn. Her translations from the French include Danielle Collobert’s It Then, Collobert’s Journals, Crosscut Universe: Writing on Writing from France (edited and translated by Cole), and Jean Daive’s A Woman with Several Lives. She lives in San Francisco.

Previous workshops

Song and Singer: Tuning the Poetic Voice with Robert Andrew Perez

“When we think of voice in respect to poetry, we cannot disentangle the valence of personality. It’s a queer project for writing instructors to facilitate the finding of their students’ ‘individual’ voices, which is often a balancing of play and—ironically—mimicry. Mechanically, the voice of the poet—like the singer—can be broken down into a menagerie of overlapping Venn circles: form, style (diction and syntax), tone (or attitude), sound patterns (e.g. rhyme, assonance), rhythm, address, mood, audience, etc. The voice perhaps is the interaction and interplay or refusal of these structural elements. Or perhaps the voice is just there and these structural elements are sartorial. What does this say about persona? Identity? Polyvocality? Over the five weeks of this course, we will interrogate the trappings that dress the voice(s) of our work by interrupting our own modes of writing by infiltration, imitation and rejection. We will listen and we will sing. We will look at the poems of Alice Notley, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, gwendolyn brooks, Lorine Neidecker, Mary Jo Bang, Dawn Lundy Martin, James Merrill and more.”


Writing Nonetheless Nonetheless Writing with Rusty Morrison


“During all those hours that we are too busy to sit down to write a line, there are nonetheless ideas that shade and shadow us, just behind our conscious attention. I’m imagining them as lines crossing behind our eyes, working their way through our subliminal minds, which may be writing nonetheless, collaging into memory the presence of some gesture, some phrase, some face in a crowd, creating cloud forms of provocations shifting across the mind’s sky. In our class together we’ll consider how we might bring them forward when we begin to compose. We’ll use some wonderful poetry and prose by others, as well as our own generative catalysts. Together we’ll intuit ways to be more awake to the “writing nonetheless,” so as to bring their shading textures of shadow and brightness to the white of our pages. And we’ll do so with a sense of free inquiry. In too much of our overly busy lives we are asked to live under the world’s imposition of limitation. During our four weeks, we will devise our own intriguing constraints to see what our own choices about limit can enliven. Most important, we will take, from Mallarme’s character Igitur, the pleasure and provocation in his proposition: “you cannot do this seriously.” I’ll provide a reader of poetry and prose, for our weekly conversations and as writing catalyst. We will workshop all participants each week. The only outside assignments will be to read, as time allows, in the reader, and bring to class a thought or two about what provides insight, and to gestate, generate your own writing.”


Margaret Ross on Internal Clocks

margaret-ross-2in-grayscale“A poem’s structure is an argument about time, about how experience accrues, about what distinguishes past from future and where the two constellate a present. Line, stanza, syntax, repetition, juxtaposition—these elements of structure don’t just organize, they embody a temporal vision. How fast does time move and how consistently? Where do things echo, recur? What leads to what? Who’s implicated? In this workshop, we’ll look at poetic structures which engage questions of history, cosmology and documentary, reading work by Etel Adnan, William Blake, Paul Celan, Aimé Césaire, Inger Christensen, Jorie Graham, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Robert Hayden, Lyn Hejinian, George Herbert, Shane McCrae, William Carlos Williams, C. D. Wright and Raúl Zurita. We’ll consider what structures best embody our subjects as we revise older poems and generate new ones during our five weeks together.”

Margaret Ross is the author of A Timeshare (Omnidawn 2015) and of Decay Constant (Catenary Press 2013). Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, Fence, The New Republic and The New Yorker, and have been recognized by fellowships from the Fulbright Program, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Stanford, where she is currently a Stegner Fellow. She has taught poetry writing at the International Writing Program, the University of Iowa and Yale.

Sharon Coleman on Writing Surreal

“The focus of this workshop will be to generate new writing and revise older writing using methods of engagement and creative techniques from the various generations of surrealists. We’ll also be reading essays, manifestos, poetry, micro-fiction from surrealism’s inception to today’s practices, and engaging visual arts, including film. The workshop will consider the different instances of surrealism in their historical context. Some of the poets, artists and thinkers we’ll engage are Nadja, Suzanne Césaire, Remedios Varo, Claude Cahun, Leonora Carrington, Simone Yoyotte, Jayne Cortez, Ted Jones, Bob Kaufman, Philip Lamatia, CAConrad, Andrew Joron, D. Scot Miller as well as core surrealists like André Breton, Robert Desnos, Philippe Soupault, Paul Éluard. Our concerns will be less with producing work in a surreal style and more centered on integrating surrealist practice and concepts relevant to our work.”

Sharon Coleman, MA & MFA in Poetics, has taught poetry writing, creative writing, and travel writing at Berkeley City College and French language and culture and Surrealism at the Art institute of California-San Francisco. She wrote her undergraduate honor’s thesis on Surrealism and her Master’s thesis on George Oppen (a decidedly non-surrealist poet). She’s penned the poetry chapbook Half Circle (Finishing Line Press 2013) and the book of micro-fiction Paris Blinks (Paper Press 2016).

Sharon also co-directs the Berkeley Poetry Festival and the monthly reading series Lyrics & Dirges. She coordinates the Milvia Street art and literary journal and writes reviews and articles for Poetry Flash. Her poems and blink fictions are generously scattered across journals, recently in Pith, Your Impossible Voice, Ambush Review, Paper Nautilus, and Rivet. Her blink fictions have twice been nominated for the Pushcart award.

Emily Hunt on Speed and Stillness

unnamed“In this workshop/seminar, we will slow down and think about speed—how the pacing within which a poem’s content is constructed and delivered plays into the ways it moves us. What makes certain poems propel, inspire, ground, expand, or capture us, stay with us for years or leave us as quickly as they found us? How can stillness be amplified within the body of an agile lyric? How does poetry allow us to become unstuck, or to pause, synthesize, and magnify experience? As we look closely at the work of Etel Adnan, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Amiri Baraka, H.D., Alfred Starr Hamilton, Chika Sagawa, Shane McCrae, Larry Eigner, Arda Collins, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Lynn Xu, Inger Christensen, and others you’re excited to share, we’ll generate vibrant new drafts. Come ready to explore how your patterns of moving between environments on the page and on the ground—shifting as they can be—influence your experiences of reading and creating.”

Emily Hunt is the author of the poetry collection Dark Green (The Song Cave, 2015). Her work has appeared in the PEN Poetry Series, The Iowa Review, The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day Feature, The Poetry Society of America’s “In Their Own Words” Series, TYPO, The Volta, and Diagram, among other journals, and in the chapbooks This Always Happens (Brave Men Press, 2013) and New Clouds (Floating Wolf Quarterly, 2013). Her honors include the 2012 Iowa Review Poetry Prize, the Deborah Slosberg Memorial Award, and nominations for Best New Poets. For several years, Emily taught writing courses at University of Massachusetts Amherst and Westfield State University, and she currently works at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. She was a Visiting Writer at Reed College in October 2015 and at UC Santa Cruz in May 2016. She lives in Oakland, CA and posts links to new work at ehunt.tumblr.com.



Norma Cole: No Filter

norma cole author photo“What does ‘filter’ mean to us poets? What about the action in distraction? In this workshop/seminar, we will create, compose, decompose, deconstruct, analyze, define, disrupt, complicate, disorder, entangle, unravel, recompose in order to build some new thing. Our readings will consider the work of Valéry, Mayakovsky, Agamben, Guest, Dahlen, Zaher, Oppen, Caproni, Corless-Smith, Peck, Arteaga, Shurin, Lundy Martin, Dyson, Whiteread and others that you recommend. Layli Long Soldier writes, ‘Everything is in the language we use.’ What about the language we don’t use? Haven’t used…yet?”

Norma Cole’s books of poetry include Win These Posters and Other Unrelated Prizes Inside, Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988—2008, Spinoza in Her Youth and Natural Light, and most recently Actualities, her collaboration with painter Marina Adams. TO BE AT MUSIC: Essays & Talks made its appearance in 2010 from Omnidawn. Her translations from the French include Danielle Collobert’s It Then, Collobert’s Journals, Crosscut Universe: Writing on Writing from France (edited and translated by Cole), and Jean Daive’s A Woman with Several Lives. She lives in San Francisco.