This June, I had the opportunity to attend the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop in Gambier, Ohio. While I had done one day workshops in the past, this was my first week-long sleepaway writers' camp.
First, although I would not have thought this to be the case before I went, setting is important. Kenyon College is beautiful! Ask anyone who has ever visited there, it is the college that movie colleges model themselves after. It was like spending a week in a post card--all of which was conducive to writing.
Because it was an all-inclusive workshop, many meals were provided, which also makes a big difference in terms of focus. I read two books and wrote a slew of poems and journaled a ton. Why? No meal prep is part of that.
Another aspect I loved was the schedule. We had workshop time in the morning, followed by hours of free time in the afternoon. I usually did my assignments during that open time. I also walked, read, and frequented the lovely bookstore there. (More on the bookstore later...)
The evening events didn't run too long or late, which was a benefit for those of us who like our sleep.
Finally, the faculty. My poetry session faculty member was Stanley Plumly, who writes primarily lush nature poems. His work is quite structured, as well. In many ways, his approach to poetry seemed at first to be diametrically opposed to my own. For the first couple of days, I struggled. However, I also found that the more I took his comments and his whole aesthetic into consideration in my own work, the stronger my work became.
Also, it helped that during our one-on-one conference he was incredibly helpful and supportive as we discussed some other in-progress work.
The upshot? I really learned from Stanley. My writing is better for having been challenged, and my awareness of form has been heightened and sharpened. My poetry has tended to be either highly praised or dismissed, but rarely has it been challenged. I love a challenge--and so do my poems.
So that is the start of the good. Next time, I'll discuss some of the bad and ugly of KRWW.