Deirdre O’Connor, The Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets

13 Nov

Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland, the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, monkey cages on a college campus:  if you see a reference to any of these places in a poem, chances are high that the poet once participated in the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, a residential fellowship program for undergraduates who are enrolled in or have just graduated from U.S. colleges and universities.  Founded by Jack Wheatcroft in 1985, the Seminar is intended to provide talented young poets with an opportunity to focus single-mindedly on poetry among like-minded peers.  The 3-week program, free of cost for all participants, attempts to blend characteristics of a writing residency—uninterrupted chunks of writing time, free meals prepared by others, camaraderie with fellow writers—with a writers’ conference (workshops, craft talks, tutorials, readings).

For most undergraduate poets, the Seminar is the first opportunity they have had to focus on poetry without having to juggle other commitments like degree requirements and part-time jobs.  In the Seminar, all scheduled events are optional (though fellows almost always choose to participate).  Freedom from routine constraints is typically both liberating and unsettling.  Though the staff and visiting poets offer plenty of opportunities for interaction and discussion, fellows must individually find ways to structure their time, to strike a balance between working and relaxing, between seeking solitude and hanging out with others.

“For young writers, crossing over from being a creative writing student–to being an actual writer–can be a challenge,” director G.C. Waldrep says.  “Poetry is not just a subject, not just an art; it’s also a discipline, in the old sense of that word.  What we hope is that the Bucknell experience will help talented younger poets bridge their undergraduate experiences and the rest of their writing lives–to start to find out what the art and craft of poetry really mean to them, beyond the constraints of the classroom.

Seminar alumni include such accomplished poets as this blog’s host, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Kevin Young, Mark Wunderlich, Mary Szybist, Kyle Dargan, Emily Rosko, Ilya Kaminsky, Ron Mohring, Stacey Waite, K.A. Hays and many others who have gone on not only to write thousands of poems, but also to become literary scholars, editors, yoga teachers, dentists, and musicians, among other occupations.  In recent years, visiting poets have included Arthur Sze, Carol Moldaw, Eleni Sikelianos, Laurie Kutchins Terrance Hayes, Dana Levin, Tracy K. Smith and Kazim Ali.

For the past two years, the Younger Poets have lived together in Bucknell’s Seventh Street House, a residence building that is centrally located on campus, close to the dining hall, the athletic center and the Stadler Center for Poetry.  Younger Poets have access to all campus facilities, including the gym and pool, the Mildred Martin poetry library, housed in the Stadler Center and the University’s Bertrand Library.

Creative writing teachers:  please encourage your accomplished undergraduate poets to apply.  The next Seminar will be held from June 10 – July 1, 2012.  Visiting poets Rick Barot and Brigit Pegeen Kelly will join staff members G.C. Waldrep, Deirdre O’Connor, Diana Park and Jamaal May.  The application deadline is January 31, 2012.

More information and application instructions can be found here.

Deirdre O’Connor is director of the Bucknell University Writing Center and Associate Director of the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. Her book, Before the Blue Hour, was the winner of the Cleveland State Poetry Prize for 2001. Her work has appeared in Poetry, XConnect, the Laurel Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and other journals. Her new manuscript of poems, “The Mouth of the Sparrow,” is seeking a publisher and has been a finalist for the National Poetry Series, the Beatrice Hawley Award, the Vassar Miller Prize, and others. She lives in Central Pennsylvania.

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  1. DEAR JUNIE: Fond Memories of the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets « THE BUCKNELL AFTERWORD - May 30, 2012

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