My weekend was spent participating in Writers & Books and the Downtown Writing Center’s joint poetry and fiction “August Occasion.” The weekend featured four genre specific workshops led by poet Phil Memmer of the Downtown Writing Center, poet and prose writer Steve Huff of Writers & Books, poet Debra Kang Dean and prose writer Jennifer Pashley. The event was held at Writers & Books’ Gell Center in Bristol where some of the more outdoor-friendly participants pitched tents while others stayed in the Thoreau cabin and still others chose to rough it at local B & Bs. Donna Marbach and I chose to carpool and commute from our suburban Rochester homes each of the 3 days. Were I to attend this event again, I would probably be less interested in commuting to save more personal energy.
Personally, I appreciated Memmer’s critiquing from the perspective of a literary journal editor as well as Dean’s careful attention to “how the poem means,” the importence of which was ingrained in me by Tim Liu. I came away with interesting input on and direction for the poems I’d brought. The poetry workshop attendees were, with the exception of one, from the Rochester area. In spite of this, I was not familiar with everyone’s work which made for a pleasant treat to experience works in progress I would not otherwise have seen.
While this was neither a “Bennington” experience–I think nothing can duplicate an actual Bennington experience–nor a rival of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, it was a good opportunity to connect with other poets in a different setting and a credit to the western and central New York literary communities.