2020 Program

LiTFUSE 2020



Dennis Nurkse


Friday, September 25 • 12pm – 3pm

Who is “Nature”?

A generation ago, Bertold Brecht claimed that to talk about a tree was a betrayal because it was to be silent about injustice. Now a "nature" poem cuts to our survival and the most intimate meanings of justice. We will look at poems that see "nature" from radically different angles --the Biblical view that we are stewards of the animal kingdom as critiqued by W.S. Merwin, the poet Issa's ironic Buddhism, Lucille Clifton, Joy Harjo, dg nanouk okpik, Wendell Berry. This workshop is interactive within the constraints of class size--there will be space for a brief free write and discussion of some participants' own work.

Chad Sweeney


Friday, September 25 • 3 – 6pm

Touching the Earth

This generative workshop will move parallel to the Buddhist “Touching the Earth” ceremony to map, explore and honor the various lineages of selfhood, including the elemental and the body, the cultural and linguistic, the spiritual and familial, and the learned maps of pleasure and pain, all tributaries of inheritance, to form a more complex and full concept of ourselves, our ever-changing fluid selves, our selves ancient and new, our prismatic selves, all of us and every part of us.

Chris Howell


Friday, September 25 • 9am – 12pm

Who Have Gone On Without Us

This class will discuss the work of Thomas Lux, Lucia Perillo, and C.D. Wright, three poets who have left us in the past eighteen months, but who each left behind an astonishing body of work. It will consist of a brief biographical discussion of each poet, a critical overview of their work, and an open discussion of a representative group of poems to be supplied ahead of time to those who register for the course.





6:30 – 7:30pm

Virtual Cocktail Hour

Meet the Faculty

Let's get this party started!



7:30 – 9pm

Faculty Reading

Featuring LiTFUSE Scholarship Poets

Free & Open to the Public

We're trying something new this year for the premier night of LiTFUSE 2020! Join us for a unique faculty reading featuring personal introductions and poems by our scholarship recipients AND a sneak peek reading of faculty work. It may not be a slam, or even a "slam-ish," but it will most certainly be a celebration of poetry, community, and literary mentorship...and what could be more LiTFUSiAN than that?


LiTFUSE Mingle

2014 Image



9 – 10:30am

Alexandra Teague

Beyond the Mask: Possibilities and Pitfalls of Persona

From Patricia Smith, as a black woman, writing in the voice of a white male skinhead to Molly McCully Brown, as a contemporary poet with cerebral palsy, imagining the voices of women a century before confined at the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, poets have often taken on voices that are not their own. In this workshop, we’ll consider the ways in which those voices may offer complicated other perspectives and/or a more embodied or truer version of a self, as well as some of the ethics and potential pitfalls of speaking as another.

Chad Sweeney

Denise Levertov and Organic Form

In this workshop we will study the visionary Seattle poet, Denise Levertov, for her theory and practice of “organic form” a poetic technique flexible enough to accommodate the elasticity and dimensionality of feeling and thought, memory and dream, all modes of consciousness overlapping and inter-being in every lived moment. We will write new poems in organic form in search of personal and artistic breakthrough, both in vision-as-technique and technique-as-vision.

Chris Howell

The Elegy

It is true that there are great elegies (laments, if you like) written in the English language: Milton’s “Lycidas,” Jonson’s “My First Sonne,” Whitman’s “When Lilac’s Last at the Dooryard Bloomed.” And a great proportion of poetry in English since the dawn of Modernism has been elegiac in character. Some of this may be understood as a response to rapid and seemingly irreversible change that has been the essence of the cultural and personal experience of time during this period—always and forever leaving behind the known, the familiar, often even the beloved. And often rather than a specific lamentation, the elegiac has been, as in the work of the great Spanish poets of the last century, a kind of darkened atmosphere, not melancholy, exactly, but suffused with the mortality of moments and things. This class will look at poems by James Wright, Gabriella Mistral, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sylvia Plath, W.S. Merwin, Melissa Kwasny, Galway Kinnell, Alberto Rios, W.H. Auden, Etheridge Knight, and a number of others as attempts to heal or re-fuse a continuity, an order, that has been broken. Packets of poems will be supplied.


11am – 12:30pm

Dennis Nurkse

Coming of Age

We'll look at poems including Yusef Komunyakaa's "My Father's Love Letters" and Larry Levis' "Family Romance," and consider how poets handle life transitions--being one person today, someone wildly different tomorrow--in a coherent (or deliberately broken) arc? Do poets remain faithful to the way they saw as children? This workshop is interactive within the constraints of class size--there will be space for a brief free write and discussion of some participants' own work.

Brooke Matson

The Art of Contrast

All art is created with contrast—sound and silence, objects and negative space, humor and horror, cacophony and euphony. Using contemporary poets, we’ll explore various contrast techniques for making poems zing for the reader, then take a stab at composing one of our own.



1:30 – 3pm

Tobias Wray

Poetry as Meditation

Often writers engage with the blank page full of expectation, anticipating a finished poem or a complete idea. Yet, such pressure rarely produces good poems, and frequently banishes coherent ideas entirely. This workshop attempts to banish, instead, the chattering monkey mind and assist you in delving into the greater questions of your work. Through a series of guided writing exercises, this class will offer paths into an attentive writing practice that emerges out of the acceptance and peace of meditation. Rumi once wrote that “what you seek is seeking you.” This class hopes to open clearer lines of communication between you and your own creative pulse. Through guided writing exercises, reflection, and discussion, we’ll study this connection between poetry and the expansive, meditative mind.

Diana Khoi Nguyen

Image and Text Hybrid Writing

Drawing inspiration from Mary-Kim Arnold, Sun Yung Shin, Anne Carson, Susan Howe, Layli Long Soldier, and many others, this workshop will investigate the possibilities in which text can become image, or in which image can also be a text—as well as other intersections between the two modes in a concerted effort to draw upon multiple fields when composing on the "page." No technical skill necessary (for photo manipulation, etc.) as we will familiarize ourselves with some user-friendly ways of engaging with images and text.


3:30 – 5pm

Ching-In Chen

Fungus Poetics: the Zuihitsu

This generative workshop focuses on the art of reading and writing the zuihitsu, a hybrid Japanese prose/poetry form which uses fragmentation and juxtaposition to loosely “follow the brush.” We will read classic and contemporary examples by writers including Kimiko Hahn, Monica Hand and Justin Chin and try our hand at the form.

Kelly Schirmann

Poetry in the Anthropocene

Poetry is a way of rearranging common language to augment beauty, possibility, experimentation and sense. If poetry is about re-envisioning our world through language, how can we apply this practice in an era of profound environmental change? Through a series of generative writing prompts, we'll move through different modes of processing the realities of the anthropocene and its attendant language through poem-making, hopefully encouraging a shift in our own thinking in the process.




6:30 – 7:30pm

Wine Down/Open Bar...

Hollywood Squares-style at your place!


7:30 – 9pm

Keynote: “Poetry and Crisis”

Dennis Nurkse



9 – 10:30am

Diana Khoi Nguyen

Radical Empathy: Ethical Inhabitation

Often we are asked to put ourselves "in someone else's shoes." But sometimes, there are costs (emotional and otherwise) to empathy, as well as limitations. After briefly tracing the roots and rise of empathy, we'll consider informed approaches to empathy, including a radical form of empathy, which is: to put yourself in the shoes of someone you wouldn't normally want to. We'll look toward examples of radical empathy in literature (poetry, prose, plays), photography, and film--tracing where writers and artists inhabit the bodies/roles of their younger selves, future selves, and sometimes their own parents (who may or may not also be their abusers).

Tobias Wray

Poems Wear Memory Well

Poetry maps our past, borrowing from and often remaking our treasure heap of memories. Poems, as we all know, grapple with meaning-making, feeling their way to a more intuitive understanding. The memories that draw our recall are sharp, frequently borne out of difficult times. In this class, we’ll work to lift some of the debris out of the way to honor the crucial details of our experience. “It's exhilarating to be alive in a time of awakening consciousness; it can also be confusing, disorienting, and painful,” writes Adrienne Rich. She writes elsewhere how, like dreams, poems teach us what we don’t know we already know. Together, we’ll maneuver such exhilarations and confusions toward poetic discovery, folding us back into the words from which we sprang.


11am – 12:30pm

Brooke Matson

How to Read a Poem (Aloud)

Poetry is a musical art as much as a literary one, but too often, poems are read in flat voices, without pauses, and without consideration of the sound of the line. In short, no different than one would read any text. But in this workshop, we’ll learn the art of delivering poetry aloud using sonic elements—rhyme, internal rhyme, meter, assonance, and natural pauses—laid down by contemporary poets. Through this practice, you’ll learn aural tricks to weave into your own work.

Ching-In Chen

Improvising the World

This generative workshop will use speculation as a seed for collaboration. Through individual and collaborative writing, improvisation, movement and performance, we will imagine a new world in response to these questions: What are the words, stories, lines, rituals and creative strategies we need for these times? How do we practice breathing and care in times of disaster?



1:30 – 3pm

Kelly Schirmann

The Poet's Essay: Writing Between Poetry and Nonfiction

In this workshop, we'll investigate a variety of attempts at what I call "the poet's essay" -- a work of lyrical creative nonfiction that exists in the boundary between the two genres. We will read various examples as a group, discussing the different narrative and lyrical techniques at play in each one. These discussions will be punctuated by a series of short generative prompts, with the option to share your work or not. The goal of this workshop is to expand your understanding of what poetic nonfiction can resemble and accomplish, and to leave the session with a few 'starts' of your own. Open to writers of all levels, genres, and abilities.

Alexandra Teague

Artful Writing: Finding Poetic Inspiration in Visual Art

Countless writers have found their inspiration in visual art, and ekphrastic poetry can go beyond describing, or using images from, visual art, to also take on characteristics of the artistic media. How might a poem not only be about a photograph but also somehow “photographic?” Or sculptural? Or painterly? In this interactive workshop, we'll read and discuss some poems to help us think about these questions, as well as try out a range of writing exercises.



4 – 4:30pm


2021 LiTFUSE Faculty

Get a sneak peek at the 2021 lineup!



4:30 – 5:30pm


Open Mic

Show your stuff—poetically, we mean!




LiTFUSE 2020

Closing Remarks

See you next year—hopefully, in person!

Register Now
for LiTFUSE 2020

Class Enrollment Begins September 1

Classes have limited participant capacities,
so register now to reserve your spot!
LiTFUSE 2020 registrants will receive the enrollment form
via email on Sept. 1, so keep an eye on your inbox
to get first pick of the classes.

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Class Enrollment Details Coming Soon

Watch for Our Late August Newsletter

Class Enrollment Details Coming Soon

Watch for Our Late August Newsletter


Lauren Westerfield

LiTFUSE Program Director

Lauren W. Westerfield is a writer from Northern California. Her essays and poetry have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Willow Springs, Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, and Third Coast.

She received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Idaho, where she was a Centrum Fellow and a Center for Digital Inquiry & Learning (CDIL) Graduate Fellow and served as the Nonfiction Editor of Fugue. As a graduate student, she also co-founded Pop-Up Prose, an itinerant and experimental community reading series based in Moscow, Idaho.

Lauren teaches in the English department at Washington State University and serves as the creative nonfiction and co-managing editor of Blood Orange Review. She is also the nonfiction editor at Split/Lip Press and the artistic program director at LiTFUSE Poetry Workshop.

A Bay Area native and (semi) recent Los Angeles transplant, she now lives in Moscow, ID.

Laura Walker

Assistant Director

Born in the shadow of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, Laura Walker rode out her adolescence in Las Vegas, rambled through her twenties in Utah, grew a decade in Eastern Washington, somehow survived SoCal, and is now thriving in the Colorado Rockies, where she teaches English at Front Range Community College. She is also a freelance writer, editor, web designer, marketing & communications consultant at LauraWalkerWriter.com, and a general Jill-of-many-skills.

Laura earned her MFA in 2005 from Eastern Washington University, while teaching poetry in a medium-security men’s prison. Her poems have appeared in Chautauqua, Grist, Inscape, San Pedro River Review, and elsewhere. A finalist in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition, her poem, “Gladiator Days,” was highly commended by judge Thomas McCarthy, and was published in Southword Journal.