In Lillian-Yvonne Bertram’s estimation, “home” is a concept that writers can toy with, challenge and investigate in their work — especially when it comes to the social distancing and isolation that characterize home life amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
And in their upcoming weeklong workshop titled “Writing from Home,” the Week One poet-in-residence for the Chautauqua Writers’ Center said they plan on using poems to help participants reimagine home as both a mental and physical space, and to give them the chance to use new ways of thinking about homes in their own writing.
“I want to look at poetry that deals specifically with places and homes and social places, societal locations that matter to the people who inhabit them,” Bertram said.
The award-winning poet will give a reading from their latest poetry collection, Travesty Generator, as well as How Narrow My Escapes, a poetry chapbook published in 2019, at 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, June 28, on the Virtual Porch. Bertram will be joined by the week’s prose writer-in-residence David Giffels, an author, journalist and educator, who will read from his latest book Barnstorming Ohio: To Understand America. Giffels, two-time winner of the Ohioana Book Award, said that his new book combines memoir, journalism and political commentary in order to give his readers an idea of what modern life in the state is like.
“I traveled around the state of Ohio for a year, listening to people,” he said. “I went to places that represent the wider national story and concerns and hopes, and wrote this book recording all of that and telling that story.”
That story is a deeply personal one for Giffels, who The New York Times called “The Bard of Akron” because of his history as a writer and reporter in the state.
If Bertram’s workshop emphasizes new ways of envisioning the concept of “home,” Giffels’, in contrast, will focus its participants on place and setting more broadly.
“One of the most important creative relationships an essayist can have is their relationship with place,” he said. “It’s how we understand ourselves and the world around us.”
Both Bertram and Giffels’ five-day workshops will be hosted on the Online Classroom as part of CHQ Assembly. In addition, Bertram will give the 2020 season’s first Brown Bag craft lecture at 12:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, June 30, also on the Virtual Porch, followed by Giffels’ at 12:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 3.