Poet-in-residence for Week Seven to focus on extension in poetry



The onset of a poem can unfold almost like a domino effect for William Wenthe, the Chautauqua Writers’ Center poet-in-residence for Week Seven.

“I hear a kind of rhythm,” Wenthe said. “And the rhythm suggests a voice — a tone of voice — and a voice always suggests a point of view, and a voice and a point of view will always suggest a certain timeframe, or a moment, a situation. It’ll start like that.”

Although that’s one way a poem might evolve, the construction of a poem can take weeks, months, even years. Throughout the next two weeks, Wenthe will lead an advanced poetry workshop called “Extending Your Poems.” In part, the workshop’s aim is to instruct participants on how to allow a poem to discover itself.

Wenthe will also read from his work at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. Currently a professor of poetry at Texas Tech University, Wenthe has published three books of poetry. He has received National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, has won Pushcart Prizes and publishes frequently in many journals, including Poetry, The Paris Review and Tin House.

“My writing process, for most of my life, has been a matter of trying to steal time to write,” Wenthe said. “For me, it’s a slow process. … I’m not a Jackson Pollock. … I’m more of one of these laborious painters who puts the ground on the canvas, and then maybe sketches something in, and then puts undercoats, and then various layers, and goes back and touches it up and touches it up.”

The idea of extending one’s poems, as Wenthe’s workshop title suggests, is not limited to extension in the sense of time spent on a poem; Wenthe also intends to focus on extending a poem’s thematic material, structure and form.

The format for the advanced workshop is unique from that of a typical week-long workshop. The class meets every other day, allowing more time for participants to write, revise and tackle more complex techniques on their own. Wenthe also imagines that the looser timeframe will allow him to revise poems he has recently been drafting. Writing while teaching, he said, makes the mind more nimble.

“No matter what credentials and experience I might have as a teacher of writing,” Wenthe said, “it doesn’t make a bit of difference when I sit down to write a poem. I still have to start from the beginning. It’s always a challenge.”

The planned prose writer in residence for Week Seven, Michael Morris, was forced to cancel his visit due to a family emergency. Taking his place is Tom Noyes, professor of English and creative writing at Penn State Erie.