Laura Kasischke and Roy Hoffman will help students at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center use images and memories to inspire their work.
Kasischke will serve as Week Eight’s poet-in-residence, while Hoffman will serve as the prose writer-in-residence. Both authors will give readings from their work at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Kasischke is the author of nine poetry collections and nine novels. Her most recent work is the poetry collection The Infinitesimals. She teaches at the University of Michigan as the Allan Seager Collegiate Professor of English Language and Literature.
She’s also a frequent instructor at the Writers’ Center, and last visited in 2015 as Week Seven’s poet-in-residence. Kasischke said she’s lost track of how many times she’s visited now, but she always looks forward to working with people who are genuinely excited about poetry.
“The students at Chautauqua — knock wood, I guess I could have a bad year — they’re just so open-minded and so ready for anything, ready to try new stuff and experiment,” Kasischke said.
For her workshop, titled “Revisiting the Image,” Kasischke and her students will get back to the basics of poetry: figurative language, metaphor, similes and, most importantly, imagery. Kasischke said she likes to have a focus for her workshop, and she wants her students to think about these “tools” of poetry and new ways to use them.
“Our focus is going to be on creating really vivid, resonant, or maybe mysterious, strange, exciting, metaphysical figurative language — the kind of details in poems that make them really memorable,” Kasischke said.
Kasischke said that as a poet, she can sometimes find herself straying away from these tools. She said she’d realize she’s focusing too much on some sort of intellectual or political idea rather than the “strange juxtapositions” that writing poetry allows.
“There needs to be stuff you can smell and taste and hear in a poem, not just ideas,” Kasischke said. “Ideas need to be at the heart of a poem and can inspire a poem, but it’s not a poem unless there’s something memorable that changes the way we look at the world.”
Kasischke said she always hopes that her workshops give students new material to take with them when the week is over — material that will keep them excited about writing poetry.
“I hope at the end of the week they’re going to go home with a notebook full of stuff they just started — a lot of inspiration, a lot of material to go back to and write new work,” Kasischke said.
Hoffman is also a veteran of the Writers’ Center, having visited in 2014. He is the author of two essay collections and three novels, including Come Landfall. He teaches both fiction and nonfiction writing in Spalding University’s creative writing M.F.A. program.
Hoffman and his students will excavate their personal memories in his workshop, called “The Wellspring of Memory.”
“The guiding principle of this workshop is that in our memories, we often find our stories, whether they be fiction or nonfiction,” Hoffman said.
Finding those memories and the stories they might provide is important, Hoffman said, because “everyone has a story to tell, every life is filled with rich possibilities when it comes to memory and experience and the dynamics of living in the world.”
“This is about going down memory lane with all of our senses engaged and finding inspiration in our own personal pasts,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said he’s excited to work with students at any stage in their writing careers and help them get “more deeply in touch with the reservoir of subject matter in their own memories.”
“I feel excited by breakthroughs at any level,” Hoffman said. “Whether it’s someone who for the first time has created an aesthetic object of language on the page and is getting over their fear or anxiety about writing, or whether it’s someone who is moving into a more sophisticated level of their craft. What really gives me joy and energy is watching the creative process at work, and in that there is great value.”
Hoffman said that based on his experience in 2014, he thinks he’ll find those students and those breakthroughs again.
“At Chautauqua and at the Writers’ Center, my experience is that there is a tremendous amount of creativity that is being turned up and set loose,” Hoffman said.
Kasischke and Hoffman will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of Alumni Hall during Week Eight. Kasischke’s Brown Bag, called “The Mystery of the Image,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Hoffman’s Brown Bag, called “Tell It In Fact: The Allure of Creative Nonfiction,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.