Holly Wren Spaulding
Founder of Poetry Forge / Teaching Artist
diversity of experience
I have been teaching in different forms and settings since 1995, when I ran my first poetry workshop at the alternative high school in Ann Arbor, MI. Soon after that, I headed up the writing concentration in an arts mentoring program at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American Art in Detroit, and later served as director of the Leelanau Young Writers Workshop at the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, MI.
For six happy years I taught poetry and composition at Northwestern Michigan College, before joining the faculty of Interlochen College of Creative Arts, where I continue to teach weekend intensives and 3-5 day workshops for adults who wish to explore the practice of poetry in an inspiring setting.
Since 2010, I’ve facilitated adult writing workshops in Traverse City, MI (Poetry Boot Camp), Easthampton, MA, and online as Poetry Forge. I also offer occasional letterpress and poetry workshops at Big Wheel Press and travel to conferences, retreats, museums, arts centers, and other venues, where I enjoy teaching and speaking on the imagination, creative process, poetry in public spaces, and other topics.
a multidisciplinary perspective
In addition to majoring in creative writing at Interlochen Arts Academy, University of Michigan, and Trinity College, Ireland, where I received my Master of Philosophy in Creative Writing and Book Publishing in 2000, my approach and teaching is influenced by research and studies in the areas of art history, literature, foreign language, and Zen. Other important influences include: ballet and modern dance training; rock climbing, mountaineering, and backpacking; violin, voice, and piano instruction; farm work and manual labor; extensive international travel; documentary film projects; the Zapatista movement; yoga and meditation; direct action and anarchist philosophy; independent media work; editorial experiences at numerous literary publications and presses; Feminist Business School; and years of organizing and public speaking on behalf of Sweetwater Alliance, a grassroots organization I co-founded with other activists in response to the corporate control of the water commons in the Great Lakes Basin.
I see my programming as an experiment in reclaiming zones of human experience that matter both personally and politically, and without which we are bound to be less whole, more depressed, and further alienated from the most vivid aspects of our very own lives.
I am always trying to create a temporary autonomous zone wherein together we can hone our voices and learn use them more powerfully, for the good; where we can cultivate the benevolent imagination; where we can preserve our inner spaces and secret lives; where we practice being more free in our thoughts and actions; where we make our work and share it with others.
I grew up in home where I was surrounded by books, music, woodworking projects, gardens, and the constant encouragement to be creative, rather than seek stimulation or enjoyment as a passive consumer. I was taken to world class music, dance, and theater performances from an early age, and knew then that I wanted a life in art. I was also introduced to political organizing and community building initiatives while still very young, instilling an urge to initiate social and creative spaces and situations that wouldn’t otherwise exist, simply on the grounds that I need them and I believe others do, too. Poetry Forge arose from such a sense, and continues to be both a means of making a living, and vehicle for shifting culture, however subtly and slowly.
I explored the fine and performing arts throughout my childhood and when I met a Writer in the Schools in early high school, I sensed that I had found my place, although I have continued to cultivate my interest in the other arts, and enjoy bringing those influences to my students and projects. Hence, I continue to collaborate with visual artists, composers, musicians, dancers, activists, and other educators, to explore connections between words and music, words and movement, and words and images.
I am deeply interested in how to bring the values of attention, slowness, contemplation and beauty to wider audiences and lately, I’ve been asking such questions as: What if we reclaimed some of our public space, our visual commons, by introducing poetic texts in spaces where we are used to seeing advertising instead? Can the values of experimentation and creative risk taking help us resist the supremacy of perfection in our culture? In what ways is poetry an integrative medicine? Who gets to decide when the work is good enough? As artists what is our relation to status, the market, gatekeeper, institutions, and external validation?
publishing & awards
My poems, articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Witness, The Ecologist, and in the books Elemental: Creative Nonfiction from Michigan (Wayne State University Press, 2018) and We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-Capitalism (Verso, 2003), among other venues. Alice Greene & Co. has published two poetry collections: If August (2017) and Pilgrim (2014). Fleda Brown selected The Grass Impossibly for the 2008 Michigan Cooperative Press Chapbook Prize. My current project will be complete in 2019.
My poems have been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net award, and my poems and essays received five Avery Hopwood Awards at the University of Michigan, as well as the CuChulainn to Kavanaugh Award for Poetry in Northern Ireland . I’ve been granted residencies at The Mesa Refuge, Blue Mountain Center, The Millay Colony for the Arts, The Hill House, The Jean Noble Parsons Center for the Study of Art & Science, Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, and the Leelanau Cultural Center, where I was the 2017 Ann Hall Artist in Residence. I serve on the advisory board of Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology. .
You can learn more about my background and personal projects on my author site.
Teaching Assistant / Poet / Bookbinder