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January 3, 2021

Sharon Bryan is a poet, teacher, and editor who has published four books of poems and edited two collections of essays.  She has taught in almost two dozen universities and writing programs around the country, and is currently on the poetry faculty of the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

She has published four books of poems: Sharp Stars, Flying BlindObjects of Affectionand Salt Air. She also edited two collections of essays, Where We Stand: Women Poets on Literary Traditionand, with William Olsen, Planet on the Table: Poets on the Reading Life.  She edited the literary magazine River City from 1988-1993.

Her awards include two fellowships in Poetry from the NEA, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award for Sharp Stars, a Governor’s Award and Artist Trust Grant from Washington State, a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, a Utah Arts Council grant for the film collaboration Eureka, a Tennessee Arts Commission Fellowship in Poetry, an Arvon Foundation Award, a Discovery Prize from The Nation, and an Academy of American Poets first prize. She was poet-in-residence at The Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire.

Her poems have appeared in more than a dozen anthologies, including Poetry 180, ed. Billy Collins, Good Poems, ed. Garrison Keillor, and Writing Poems, ed. Robert Wallace and Michelle Boisseau. They have been published in many periodicals, including the American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Crazyhorse, The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Paris Review, and Poetry.

Her books have been reviewed in Book List, The Boston Globe, Field, The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, the Seattle Times, The Southern Review, Women’s Review of Books, and a number of other periodicals.

She has taught in almost two dozen programs and universities around the country, including the University of Connecticut, Emerson, Brandeis, Fresno State, San Diego State, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the University of Ohio, Western Michigan, Wichita State, the University of Houston, and Dartmouth. She is currently on the poetry faculty of the Lesley University low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Author photo: Annie Kocherhans

Website design: with the help of Team Flenniken

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How to Join the Conversation

January 2, 2021

You can respond to the current post by clicking on its title in red on the right,  then scrolling down.  After you make your Comment you can check a box to see all responses to it.  And you can Subscribe to receive the most recent post automatically.  To see all past posts, search the Index

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I hope to see you here soon.


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Work with Me

January 1, 2021





“…The main thing is to write
for the joy of it, cultivate a work lust…”

                                    Seamus Heaney


I’m as passionate about teaching as I am about writing.  It’s exciting to me at every stage, including manuscript consultations, classes and workshops




Manuscript Consultations

Something magical happens when you gather a group of poems together.  As you arrange and rearrange them, you begin to see patterns and shapes you never knew were there as you worked on single poems.  I can help you discover the stories and arcs of groups of poems, and then to structure your manuscript so that those shapes best reveal themselves to readers.

Basic   $500  

One careful read-through with suggestions about strongest poems, possible shapes, and a detailed written account of what work I think is left to be done

Intermediate   $1,000 

The basic first step plus further work on shaping the manuscript, 3-4 email or zoom exchanges

As long as it takes   $1500 +    

As much time and work as it takes for you to feel as if your vision is clear on the page and there’s nothing left to be done



I’ll be offering classes on a wide range of topics, including craft and prosody, the work of specific poets, movements and time periods, translating poetry, and topics you propose.  Some examples: The Music of the Free Verse Line, Book-length Poems,  Poems  of Wartime,  Point of View in Poems.  What would you like to study?

Each class will be 4 one-hour sessions, at a time to be determined.

$200 per person for a 4-week class, adjustable depending on the number of students



Workshops are more about listening than about talking.  Participants listen closely to the drafts they read, paying close attention to what’s already there and looking for clues about how it can  move to the next draft.  The poet whose work is being discussed has to listen carefully to what’s said about the draft they’ve written–something hard but crucial.  The focus for everyone is the poem that’s emerging and what it might become.  If you have a writing group or a few friends who want to meet, let me know.  If you’re looking for a workshop to be part of, leave your contact information and I’ll put you on a list of people to bring together.

I’m happy to work one-on-one with students at any level, beginner through advanced, on elements of the craft of poetry, or on directed readings.

$250 per person for a 5-week workshop with 5 students, adjustable depending on the number of students





I’m happy to have a brief zoom call or phone call at no charge to discuss what you’d like to work on before you decide.  Contact me. 













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Marvin Bell

December 16, 2020

Marvin lived and breathed poetry. He published…well, I just tried to count how many books of poems, but I couldn’t quite, given collected and selected and hybrids.  The inside cover of the last book published during his lifetime, Incarnate: The Collected Dead Man Poems, lists 25 items under Also by Marvin Bell, including books of poems, a children’s book, two books of essays on poetry, letter poems written with William Stafford, collaborative poems with Christopher Merrill, collaborations with musicians, painters and photographs.  Poetry was his skin, his senses, the lens he saw the world through.

Marvin taught thousands of students, at the University of Iowa, Pacific University, and dozens of conferences and residencies around the country.  He taught in workshops and seminars, and he taught by the example of his own poems.  I learned how important it is to get words on the page without judging and censoring–just get them there.  I learned how to write a whole poem, not just pieces.

And then I had the good fortune to become friends with Marvin and Dorothy, friends for life.  For a few years we lived in the same town, another great gift.  Walks, lunches and dinners, all of them filled with stories, everything somehow connected to poetry.  His generosity was as much a part of him as his poetry.  When I started telling friends about Marvin’s illness a few months ago, everyone who had ever visited me in Port Townsend said, “Oh yeah, I met Marvin there.  He and Dorothy took us to lunch/ dinner/ on a tour of the town or the peninsula.  I still remember things he said.”  Of course they do, because Marvin was totally present in every moment–there, engaged, listening and talking.

He was also a rescuer.  Of students in despair, on the verge of suicide, broke, heartbroken, lost, on drugs, confused, in jail.  He kept me in grad school when I was about to leave.  When we were all in Port Townsend, Marvin and I were talking on the phone, my phone died.  Before I could plug it in to recharge it, he was pounding on my door to see if I was ok, Dorothy watching from their car window in the driveway.  When he came in I saw the baseball bat he was holding behind his back.

The thousands of people whose lives Marvin touched will all have their own Marvin stories, and I wish they could be gathered in one place–but it would take a much bigger book than Incarnate’s 325 pages, which he described as a doorstop. They’re endless, and I’ll post a few more here over time.  I hope some of you will add yours here.   And of course there’s no way to count all the people who never met him but have been moved by his work.

For now, here’s a poem of his I love–set in yet another piece of Marvin’s life, his time in the Army.  In one more example of his endless generosity, he gave it to me to publish in WaterTable, a magazine I did just one issue of before I realized I didn’t have the time or energy or money to keep doing it.  If Marvin had been editing it, it would still be going.


crawl toward the machine guns
except to freeze
for explosions and flares.
It was still ninety degrees
at night in North Carolina,
August, rain and all.
The tracer bullets wanted
our asses, which we swore to keep
down, and the highlight
of this preposterous exercise
was finding myself in mud
and water during flares. I
hurried in the darkness–
over things and under things–
to reach the next black pool
in time, and once
I lay in the cool salve that
so suited all I had become
for two light-ups of the sky.
I took one inside and one
face of two watches I ruined
doing things like that,
and made a watch that works.
From the combat
infiltration course and
common sense, I made a man
to survive the Army, which means
that I made a man to survive
being a man.

Marvin Bell

Here are some links to more Marvin stuff:

tribute from his friend David Hamilton:

tribute from Christopher Merrill, his friend and collaborator:

Review of Incarnate: The Complete Dead Man Poems.  Marvin said, incredulously, “It sounds like he read every one of them.”:

celebratory reading of Marvin’s work sponsored by Prairie Lights Bookstore, with stories of his life, him reading at the end:

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