Fall 2021 Events


Transformations: Evolving Approaches to Teaching, Poetry, and the Natural World
A Virtual Conference
November 11-13, 2021

The West Chester University Poetry Center is excited to announce registration is open for our virtual poetry and pedagogy conference, Transformations: Evolving Approaches to Teaching, Poetry and the Natural World, to be held November 11-13, 2021. During the lockdown, many of us became even more aware of our symbiotic relationship with nature. Being on perpetual stay-cation inspired some to garden. Breaking away from commuting and routines helped all of us to appreciate the impact of our carbon footprint. Unexpected opportunities to socialize outdoors inspired us to reset our relationship with the more-than-human world. Returning to face-to-face instruction gives us the opportunity to use this awareness to shape our approach to teaching poetry. Please join us for our virtual gathering. Our Keynote Speaker and Featured Reader will be Anna Lena Phillips Bell.

anna bellAnna Lena Phillips Bell is the author of Ornament, winner of the Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, A Pocket Book of Forms, a fine-press guide to poetic forms, and the chapbook Smaller Songs, from St. Brigid Press. Her poems appear in journals including the Southern Review, the Sewanee Review, 32 Poems, and Subtropics, and in anthologies including A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia, Counter-Desecration: A Glossary for Writing within the Anthropocene, and Gracious: Poems from the 21st Century South. She has served since 2013 as the editor of Ecotone, the award-winning literary magazine of place, and is an editor of Lookout Books and a contributing editor for American Scientist magazine. The recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship in literature, she is the 2019–2022 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for eastern North Carolina. She teaches in the creative writing department at UNC Wilmington, and calls ungendered Appalachian square dances in North Carolina and beyond.

Featured Workshop Leaders

Josh DavisJosh Davis presents Filigreed Fire: Form and Intensity

Irony, distance, quietude, poise--these virtues prove seductive to poets inclined toward fixed forms. But taken too far, these qualities produce polite poems devoid of drama and surprise. In this workshop, we will explore how to compose--and how to revise--within formal constraints without sacrificing immediacy, panache, and power. We will also discuss how workshop leaders can translate these strategies into techniques for coaxing practicing poets toward their wildest, wiliest formal endeavors.

Joshua Davis is the co-author (with Allison Blevins) of Chorus for the Kill, a collaborative chapbook forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press. He holds an MFA from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine, an MFA from the University of Mississippi, and an M.A. from Pittsburg State University. A former John and Renee Grisham fellow, he offers online workshops and private mentoring at The Poetry Barn. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Inflectionist Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The New Southern Fugitives, Tinfish, and Apalachee Review. He is a doctoral candidate in Literature at Ohio University, and he teaches high school English near Tampa, Florida.

Raina LeonRaina Leon presents Processes: Revelation in the Hidden

In this workshop we explore the hidden cycles and processes that govern our world and our bodies within it. We will go from simple explanations of water cycles and cloud formations to how understanding the hidden can also lead to revelations of the self. This is a workshop that invites teachers across STEAM disciplines to imagine, research, delight, play, and plan collaboratively.

Raina J. León, PhD is Afro-Boricua and from Philadelphia. She is the author of three collections of poetry, Canticle of Idols, Boogeyman Dawn, and sombra: dis(locate) and the chapbooks, profeta without refuge and Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self. Her poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and scholarly work has been published in well over 100 journals and anthologies. She also is a founding editor of The Acentos Review. She educates our present and future agitators/educators as a full professor of education at Saint Mary's College of California, only the third Black person (all Black women) and the first Afro-Latina to achieve that rank there.

Shan OvertonShan Overton presents Making a Home of Outdoors

If there is a gift in the current pandemic, it is that we are noticing more in the natural world, experiencing it in new ways. If there is a gift, it could be that we, no matter who we are, are getting better at making a home of outdoors. This workshop will explore the gift and the process of noticing the natural world, of experiencing it anew. We'll discuss the permeability of the boundaries we used to set between the homes we have made for ourselves indoors and the homes we are making outdoors. The means of exploration will be reading and discussing a short selection of poems by poets such as Ross Gay, who makes his home in orchards and gardens.

Shan Overton's poems have been published in anthologies, including Virginia Overton: Deluxe and Voices from the Attic, Volumes XXV and XXVI. She studies creative writing with Madwomen in the Attic and has taken classes with Diane Glancy, Jan Beatty, and Lori Jakiela. In 2017, Overton won the Nashville Reads Writing Contest with an essay subsequently translated for publication in Spain. Overton currently serves as the Director of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary's Center for Writing and Learning Support, as a Faculty Mentor for the seminary's Creative Writing and Public Theology degree in the Doctor of Ministry program, and as the host of the seminary's writing-focused webinar series, BookTalks. She holds a Ph.D. in Theology and Education from Boston College.

Chris Vogt-HennessyChris Vogt-Hennessy presents The Container in Motion: A Survey and Workshop in Contemporary Poetic Form as Embodied Energy

What are some of the functions of form in art and in poetry? How does that function evolve over time allowing for natural and radical shifts in the landscape, climate, and cultural imagination? In this workshop, we will look closely at a small survey of formally innovative work such as the duplex by Jericho Brown and the obverse by Nicole Sealey. We'll examine traditional forms with fresh approaches like the sonnet by Diane Seuss and the cento by Maggie Smith. Through guided writing exercises, we'll explore how these contemporary poets are re-envisioning new patterns of movement contained in both traditional and novel forms.

Chris Hennessy received her MA from West Chester University and her MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers-Camden. She has been an educator for the past 18 years, and is interested in collaborative projects that explore novel approaches to ancient questions. She writes and mentors young writers through Philadelphia's Mighty Writers program. Currently, she is creating art work in collaboration with Curio Gallery, Church World Services, and Story Corp to help tell the stories of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers living in Lancaster, PA.

Alexis SearsAlexis Sears presents What the Hell is a Villanelle?

"What the Hell is a Villanelle?" focuses on one of the most powerful, underrated poetic forms: the villanelle. In the workshop, students will study villanelles written by brilliant poets including Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, and Dylan Thomas. Then, they will focus on innovative rhyme, sharp meter, and powerful refrains, to write their own villanelles! By the end, every participant will have a wonderful poem of which they are proud. 

Alexis Sears is the author of Out of Order, winner of the 2021 Donald Justice Poetry Prize, which is forthcoming from Autumn House Press in March 2022. Her poems have appeared or will appear in the Hopkins Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Cimarron Review, Northwest Review, and elsewhere. She earned her B.A at Johns Hopkins University and her M.F.A in poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Conference Presenters, Panels, and Readings

Rhina Espaillat

Rhina Espaillat and Alfred Nicol present Conversations with Rhina

Dominican-born Rhina P. Espaillat has published thirteen full-length books, four chapbooks, and two CDs, comprising poetry, essays and short stories in both English and her native Spanish, and translations from and into both languages. Her work has earned the Richard Wilbur Award, the Nemerov Prize, the Eliot Prize, awards from the New England Poetry Club, the Poetry Society of America, and the Frost Foundation, among others.

Alfred Nicol

Alfred Nicol collaborated with Rhina Espaillat in writing Brief Accident of Light: Poems of Newburyport (Kelsay Books, 2019)

Nicol has published three other books of poetry, (Able Muse, 2016), Elegy for Everyone (Prospero's World, 2010), and Winter Light (University of Evansville, 2004), which won the Richard Wilbur Award. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Hopkins Review, Commonweal, The Best American Poetry 2018, and other journals and anthologies.

chadChad Abushanab presents Wordinary Magic.

Reading a good poem can feel like watching a magic trick. “How did they do that?” we wonder. In this workshop, we’ll note some parallels between poetry and stage magic. From transforming the everyday into the extraordinary, to learning the importance of always putting oneself in the place of the audience, we’ll discuss structural approaches to elevate our poems and leave our readers smiling, surprised, and eager for more.

Chad Abushanab is the winner of the 2018 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His debut poetry collection, The Last Visit, was published by Autumn House Press in March 2019. His poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Birmingham Poetry Review, Ecotone, Southern Poetry Review, Measure: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Shenandoah, The Hopkins Review, Unsplendid, and 32 Poems, among others. He earned his PhD in literature and creative writing at Texas Tech University. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Bemidji State University in Minnesota.

Pulkita Anand

Pulkita Anand presents Musing on Nature's Music

Pulkita Anand is an Assistant Professor of English at Shahid Chandrasekhar Govt. PG College, Jhabua. Her areas of research are Indian Writing in English, British Drama and Afro-American literature. She is the author of two books. She has participated in many workshops, symposiums, international conferences, national seminars and has written papers that have been published in reputed journals. She has also published some of her creative works in journals and magazines such as Litelitone, Tint, WINC.

Roberta Cimarosti

Roberta Cimarosti presents Reflections on Lagoon Territory

Roberta Cimarosti teaches English literature at the University of Padua (Italy) and a course about contemporary Venice at Wake Forest University (Italian seat). She has written a monograph on the poetry of Derek Walcott, entitled Mapping Memory and several essays on British and postcolonial literatures. She also writes poetry.

Michele Eduarda Brasil de Sa

Michele Eduarda Brasil de Sa presents Typical Nature in Evidence—Notes on Brazilian Haiku

Michele de Sá is currently a Professor at the College of Arts, Letters and Communication in the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Michele earned her B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in Latin Language and Literature from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she took her first writing workshops and started working as a lecturer. Her research interests include transdisciplinarity, interart relations, creative writing and active learning. She has two blogs for sharing her literary texts: Littera Pulsa (www.litterapulsa.wordpress.com), in Portuguese, and Michele's Literatuesday (www.literatuesday.wordpress.com), in English.

Emma Brenner

Emma Brenner presents Connecting to History and Folklore Through Poetry

Emma Brenner is a senior at Kutztown University graduating May 2022 with a B.A. in Professional Writing. Two of her poems, "My Novel of Rage" and "Sisterhood," have been published in the 2021 issue of KU's Shoofly Magazine. She maintains an author profile on Instagram (@emmabrenner_author) and blog on WordPress (emmabrenner.com) where she takes part in the digital writing community. There, she regularly shares her poetry and progress in writing short stories and novels.

Dr. Robert Fillman

Dr. Robert Fillman presents "Water-flesh gleamed like mica": Tapping into Ron Rash's Ecopoetics

Robert Fillman is the author of the chapbook November Weather Spell (Main Street Rag, 2019). His poems have appeared in The Hollins Critic, Paterson Literary Review, Salamander, Spoon River Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and others. His criticism has appeared in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, The College Language Association Journal, and The Explicator. His full-length collection, House Bird, will be published by Terrapin Books in 2022. He currently teaches at Kutztown University.

Katie Hartsock

Katie Hartsock presents Bring-a-Blanket Verse: Moving in Place with Blank Verse 

Katie Hartsock is the author of Bed of Impatiens (Able Muse, 2016). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, The Threepenny Review, 32 Poems, Ecotone, Kenyon Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, The New Criterion, THRUSH, and elsewhere. She is an assistant professor of English at Oakland University in Michigan, where she lives with her husband and two young sons.

Diana Woodcock

Diana Woodcock presents Facing Aridity

Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and four poetry collections, most recently Facing Aridity (2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature finalist). Forthcoming in 2022 is Holy Sparks (2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award finalist). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for her debut collection, Swaying on the Elephant's Shoulders, she currently teaches at VCUarts Qatar. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into the role of poetry in the search for an environmental ethic.

Alicia Wright

Aurora Shimshak presents Defamiliarizing Ecopoetics Through Instructions and Calendars

Aurora Shimshak grew up in several rural communities and small cities in Wisconsin. Her work has been published in Salamander, The Common, and Spillway, among others. In 2018, she earned an MFA in nonfiction from the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she served as managing editor of Ecotone. She is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Wisconsin Madison.


Spring 2022 Events

Featured Reader
Anna Maria Hong
March 8th and 9th, 2022 

Anna Maria Hong is the author of three recent books: Age of Glass (Cleveland State), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award and the anna hongCleveland State University Poetry Center’s First Book Poetry Competition, the novella H & G (Sidebrow Books), winner of the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Clarissa Dalloway Prize, and Fablesque (Tupelo Press), winner of the Berkshire Prize. She is the editor of Growing Up Asian American (William Morrow/Avon Books), an anthology of fiction and memoir, and the author of a nonfiction book for teenagers titled Family Abuse: A National Epidemic (Enslow). 

Her essays, poetry, and fiction are published and forthcoming in numerous publications including The Nation, The Iowa Review, Harvard Review, The Common, Southwest Review, The Austin Chronicle, The Stranger, The International Examiner, Ecotone, Colorado Review, Plume, The Hopkins Review, Smartish Pace, Jacket2, Poetry, Poetry Daily, Fire on Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry, 250 Poems, Sonnets from the American: An Anthology of Poems and Essays, and The Best American Poetry. Her awards include a Bunting Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and residencies from Yaddo, Djerassi, Fundación Valparaiso, and Kunstnarhuset Messen. She is an Assistant Professor at Mount Holyoke College and has taught at universities and colleges throughout the United States.


Poetry and Creative Arts Festival
April 6-9, 2022
Featuring Keynote Speaker Cornelius Eady

Cornelius Trio









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