Writers’ Center Week Eight to focus on blogging, contemporary poetry



The Chautauqua Writers’ Center workshops for Week Eight will focus on introducing students to contemporary poetry and running successful writing blogs.

Prose writer-in-residence Brian Castner will lead a workshop called “The Modern Author’s Blog,” and poet-in-residence John Hoppenthaler will lead a workshop called “Poetry Appreciation: What’s New (and Old) In Contemporary American Poetry?” Castner and Hoppenthaler will also give readings at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Castner, author of the 2013 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows, will introduce his students to the world of blogging. Castner said having a blog can help writers in a number of ways.

“A blog is a chance for a writer to try different styles, write about different subjects and maybe develop some habits for their own writing — wherever they want to take that,” he said.

Castner said that his workshop will focus on writing, but he hopes to help his students with the technical aspects of setting up and running a successful blog as well. This means talking about topics like platforms, publicity and social media, all of which authors can use to their advantage.

Castner hopes his workshop will get his students to try something new.

“That’s what’s great about a blog,” he said. “If you normally write memoir, but you always wished you could write about sports, you can write about sports in your blog. Or wine, or travel. This workshop is a chance for students to write something different, that they don’t normally write, to get outside that comfort zone and to have the technical confidence to set up a good-looking blog that they can be proud of.”



Castner said that every writer does not necessarily need a blog, but having one can help writers create good habits that spill over to the rest of their work.

“I think the biggest thing is that it should help your other writing — it shouldn’t take away from it,” he said.

Hoppenthaler, author of the upcoming Domestic Garden, will work with his students on understanding and appreciating contemporary poetry. The emphasis of Hoppenthaler’s workshop will be on reading poetry rather than writing it.

Hoppenthaler plans to look at the history of American poetry and show how poetry has become what it is today. He said that some contemporary poetry is straightforward and clear, but some can be confounding.

“So that’s the kind of thing we’ll talk about: how do you approach a poem that doesn’t want you to read it in the way you’re taught to read?” he said.

Hoppenthaler said that poetry has evolved so much over time that people must rethink the ways in which they look at it.

“I think it’s important to come with an open mind and to realize that many of the things they may think they know about poetry are things that may been true in 1920 or even 1820, but they may not be applicable today,” Hoppenthaler said. “And like anything else — like how contemporary music is quite different from music of the ’70s or ’40s or ’30s — poetry has shifted and changed, and it does require different tools. So I hope my workshop will be a very nonthreatening introduction to the kind of work available today.”

Hoppenthaler also hopes his workshop will help students get past the fear they may have about poetry.

“Sometimes people will come to a poem, be unable to make sense of it and just decide they’re not going to deal with [it],” Hoppenthaler said. “So what I’m hoping to do is give people a little bit of a toolkit — and you know, they may not like it, but at least they’ll have a sense of how to get into it, how to approach it, how to get something out of it.”

Hoppenthaler and Castner will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall during the week. Hoppenthaler’s Brown Bag, called “Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard: An American Story,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Castner’s Brown Bag, called “Writers Are Always Selling Somebody Out,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.