Should I apply for this poetry workshop or not?

Yesterday, this link appeared in my inbox announcing a one-week poetry residency/workshop at MASS MoCA, offered by Tupelo Press of North Adams MA.

And I am totally freaking out about it.

I have never done anything even remotely like this and the prospect is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

And I feel that I need to decide quickly as it is limited to eight participants.

Update:  To read more about my deliberations, click here.

This is where I should present an orderly list of pros and cons. Instead, there will be a tangle of pros and cons, sorted by topic.

Place:  My hometown is twenty miles from North Adams and it is the home of the high school where I met my spouse. It was also the home of my grandparents, the place we went shopping, and the area is still home to some family and friends.  Although the city has undergone a transformation from the time I was growing up, because we have visited frequently over the years, I am still comfortable there.

On the other hand, I have only been to MASS MoCA once, on a visit a couple of years ago. I am not at all knowledgeable about visual art, but we loved our visit. If I do go, most of the exhibits will be different than the ones we saw. Unlike most museums, MASS MoCA does not have a predominantly permanent collection. I am nervous about how inspirational the current exhibits will be for me in terms of writing new poetry. But, if it is, it could form the basis for a chapbook, which would be a good growth opportunity for me.

Time:  That week in November is fairly easy to re-arrange for me. Fortunately, our University Chorus concert is not until early December this year and we are doing Carmina Burana, which I know well. The sad thing is that my husband’s birthday is that week, although he has said that he is okay with my being away.

Readiness:  I have never done anything remotely this intensive with poetry – or, come to think of it, anything else. I haven’t concentrated on poetry or been in the company of poets for more than a few hours at a time. Am I ready to spend a week alternately interacting and living with poets and spending time alone writing and revising? Would I ever feel ready or is it just something one jumps into, ready or not?

There is some comfort in that the registration screen has several categories with which to describe one’s publication history, beginning with novice and ending with publishing one or more books. I at least get to claim the “one or two journal acceptances” category. Bonus:  I have some anthology credits and online credits from Silver Birch Press, even though I only have one actual journal credit. Enrollment is limited to eight participants, but I could easily find myself surrounded by much more experienced and formally educated poets, which could be intimidating, depending on personalities. Fortunately, I have had good experiences with the local established poets, who have helped me so much.  On the other hand, I could find myself being in a group of predominantly novice poets, which I am used to from Binghamton Poetry Project, although it would be strange to be the experienced one in the group for the week. Or we could have a range of experiences among the group, which would probably be most comfortable.

Perhaps “Readiness” is not the proper name for this category. It’s more how much uneasiness/fear I can face. Although we have to submit sample poems, it does not seem that Tupelo is looking to cull applicants. They seem willing to work with whomever wants to be there – and can pay them, which leads to…

Money:  It’s not that I can’t afford to do this. It’s that I don’t generally spend much on poetry because it is unlikely I will ever recoup costs through publication.  But I do think I would learn a lot and get more insights into what publishers are looking for, which would be really valuable as one of my goals is to publish a chapbook someday. There. I actually admitted that publicly.

Okay. Time to stop hashing and publish this. Any and all are welcome to weigh in in comments or by email/FB for those who have those addresses. I need to decide quickly, as I would hate to delay, decide to do it, and find out that I waited too long and it was full.

Do I try to do this or not?

Author: Joanne Corey

Please come visit my eclectic blog, Top of JC's Mind. You can never be sure what you'll find!

28 thoughts on “Should I apply for this poetry workshop or not?”

        1. The first poem I started to write were in response to visual art that we created in a group study of “Women Who Run With the Wolves.” I don’t consider myself a great visual artist by any means, but I would often be inspired to write a poem that connected to the book and the art.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I join the chorus: this sounds wonderfully challenging and exciting. Do it!

    Sherry and I were at Mass MoCA just a few weeks ago. As we drove home from seeing Joan in (an all-woman) “Macbeth”, we got off the highway on sheer impulse because it’s a place we’ve long wanted to visit. It was overwhelming, beautiful, profane… Like living in another language for a while.

    I had no idea this was your home turf.

    Do it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pat! When I was growing up, the complex where MASS MoCA lives was Sprague Electric. My aunt worked there as an executive secretary. North Adams has contracted but morphed into a very different place, powered by the old mills now populated with art. Hmm…that sounds like the seed of a poem…


        1. I do like to have my ducks in a row! My registration is now in. Thanks for the well wishes! You can be sure I will be geeking out about it after I return. November seems like such a long way away, though…

          Liked by 1 person

  2. About the money: Poetry’s unlikely to ever pay back in monetary form, so if that’s your measure it doesn’t make sense. But since you say you could afford it, is money the right measure? How much does your poetry mean to you? What would you gain from the workshop?

    Aw, hell, I’m probably writing in too late for it to matter. Sorry.


    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Ellen. You are correct that poets are not in it for the money. Ironically, I’ve spent very little time in the paid workforce myself, spending years taking care of family and volunteering in the community. Attending this workshop/residency is most analogous to paying for our daughters’ education, using our family financial resources for intellectual/artistic growth.

      I have decided to attend and am all registered. Now, there will be weeks of waiting – and apparently some pre-conference assignments will be sent, too. Stay tuned!


  3. It’ll be well worth it. I attended a Tupelo Press conference with Jeffrey last spring, and the exercises and tips I learned in the first afternoon were worth the cost of the entire conference (and of course there was much more). And while I may not have an MFA or Ph.D. in English or creative writing, I’m not inexperienced. Oh, yes. I’m attending another TP conference in October/November. If the Austin conference is any indication, you’ll find your fellow participants to be friendly, experienced, and helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The New Mexico conference will be my 5th conference since July 2012. The participants throughout have been kind and helpful, and mostly very serious about their craft. Experience has varied from creative writing professors with several books under their belts, to talented undergraduate students – a good mix. I’d guess there are few undergrads attending Tupelo conferences, with the majority of participants approaching middle age. But that’s just a guess based primarily on my experience and on the photographs I’ve see of various conferences. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I wouldn’t expect undergrads at the Mass MoCA conference because the timing isn’t conducive, but I will be glad to have a mix of ages. I myself am middle-aged and can handle being the eldest in the group, but it would help to have some “approaching middle age” folks and not have everyone else being young enough to be my son or daughter. I’m also hoping that there will be other women in the group. I think the odds are in my favor on that one…


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