Chautauqua Institution

Each workshop is taught by an experienced, published author (writer-in-residence) in a small group setting. Most classes are limited to just 12 participants. All workshops are held on the second floor of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. (Located on the south end of the grounds on Wythe Ave. across from the Hall of Philosophy.)

For specific questions regarding workshops, please contact Clara Silverstein.

Registration begins in April. Call the ticket ofice at 716.357.6250 to register by phone or register online at You may also register at one of our ticketing windows at our Main Gate Welcome Center.

Weekly prose and poetry workshops have been the core of the Chautauqua Writers' Center for 24 years. Faculty members are selected not only for their national reputations and the quality of their work, but also for their ability to inspire developing writers to grow in their craft.

Week 1, June 25–July 2


Philip Terman
Wendell Berry said, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”  Most writers consider where they are in a multitude of ways — to celebrate and critique, in joy and in sorrow, in knowledge and in new discovery. More frequently, the concept of place is interwoven with ambiguities. Taking advantage of where we are, we’ll use Chautauqua Institution for our prompts with an eye toward writing poems that respond to the “minute particulars” of our various places. No advance submissions necessary.

Monday-Friday, 1:15-3:15 p.m.

Phil-TermanPhilip Terman is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently Our Portion: New and Selected Poems and the hand-sewn Like a Bird Entering a Window and Leaving Through Another Window, a collaboration with an artist and bookbinder. He performs his poetry with the jazz group Catro. A selection of poems, My Dear Friend Kafka, has been translated into Arabic. He teaches at Clarion University, is co-director of the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival, and directs the Bridge Literary Arts Center in Franklin, Pa.

Week 2, July 2–9


Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Lony Haley-Nelson notes, “Wonder is valuable … because it leads us to learn and remember.” Using the vocabulary of folklore, science and natural history as inspiration, this generative workshop will help you jump-start the blank page in front of you. You’ll be introduced to several ideas for poems and journaling (some outdoors, weather permitting) to help you find new ways to revitalize your writing. Our time will be divided into composing drafts; chatting about poems that encapsulate a sense of wonder; and sharing your own poems in a workshop format. This class is ideal for both the beginner and someone wanting to refresh their poetry writing strategies. No advance submissions necessary.

Monday-Friday, 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Aimee-NezhukumatathilAimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently, Lucky Fish. She is the poetry editor of Orion magazine and her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry and Tin House. She is professor of English at The State University of New York at Fredonia and in the 2016-17 academic year, Nezhukumatathil will be the Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.


Week 3, July 9–16


Charles Coe
How do you write about people you’re close to in a way that’s honest yet sympathetic and respectful? A way that’s deeply personal yet connects with readers you may never meet? We’ll explore these questions in a relaxed and supportive environment through discussion and writing exercises. For beginning and experienced writers of poetry and prose. No advance submissions necessary, although you are encouraged to bring 14 copies of a previously written poem or 2-3 double-spaced pages of prose to discuss in class as time allows.

Monday-Friday, 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Charles-CoeCharles Coe is author of two books of poetry, All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents and Picnic on the Moon, and the novella Spin Cycles. In 2015 his poem Fortress was the inspiration for a short film by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. He was selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014” and is currently an artist fellow at the St. Botolph Club of Boston.



Week 4, July 16–23


Gregory Donovan
Developing writers are sometimes told: “Write what you know,” but that may be poor advice. Making use of your imagination, as well as drawing on surprising information that you dig up, can make writing into a deeply engaging journey of discovery. Moving beyond a narrow focus on autobiography doesn’t mean surrendering the self — it involves expanding yourself. This course will guide and encourage such explorations, leading you to enjoy and create striking poems. You are welcome to bring 14 copies of a previously written poem to discuss in class as time allows, though you’ll be especially encouraged to write and hand around new poems created during the week.

Monday-Friday, 8:30-10:30 a.m.


Gregory-Donovan-1Gregory Donovan is the author of a newly published poetry collection, Torn from the Sun and the earlier Calling His Children Home, which won the Devins Award, along with poems, essays, and fiction published in The Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Gulf Coast, Copper Nickel and many other journals. He is senior editor of the online journal Blackbird and a faculty member in the graduate creative writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University.


Week 5, July 23–30


Jim Daniels
This workshop is for poets who have some previous poetry writing experience and want to work on revising and improving their poems in a group setting. No advance submissions necessary, but please bring 14 copies of a poem that you are working on to the first class meeting so we can start right in on discussion of poems on Tuesday. We will also discuss general revision strategies that might be helpful to you on all of your writing.

Monday-Friday, 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Jim-DanielsJim Daniels is the Baker University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University. His most recent books include Apology to the Moon; Eight Mile High (fiction); and Birth Marks. He has also written the screenplays for four produced films, including “The End of Blessings,” released in 2015. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He appeared on “Prairie Home Companion” last summer.


Week 6, July 30–August 6


Nicole Cooley
This workshop will focus on inspiration and the writing process. We will talk about where our ideas for poems come from, explore new ways of writing, and read contemporary poems. Though we will mine our obsessions and return to childhood ideas of linguistic play, we will also investigate how to write about difficult material and how to use personal experience in poems. Using generative exercises in class, we will write poems based on postcards, kitchen objects, cookbooks and maps; we will write using our own memories and stories; we will share our work and learn from one another. You are welcome to bring 14 copies of one to two of your poems to discuss in class as time allows.

AFTERNOON Monday-Friday, 1:15–3:15 p.m.


Nicole-CooleyNicole Cooley grew up in New Orleans and is the author of five books, most recently the poetry collections Breach and Milk Dress, both published in 2010. She has won awards from The Poetry Society of America, The Academy of American Poets, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is currently completing a nonfiction book, My Dollhouse, Myself: Miniature Histories. She is the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College-City University of New York.


Week 7, August 8


Molly Peacock
Can the limits of a poem actually push human boundaries? We’ll discover how the sonnet’s magic proportion applies to all poems regardless of form, using examples from 17th-century John Donne to 21st-century A.E. Stallings. Exercises, individually tailored for those who’ve never attempted a sonnet as well as for those who’ve written many, will identify the techniques that shape lines into thresholds. Come away with a better appreciation of one of the most enduring poetic forms in the English language.

Peacock will hold a limited number of private, 30-minute conferences with students to review a poem of up to 20 lines. The fee is $35 per person, paid directly to her. Sign up in advance by e-mailing the Writers’ Center Program Director,

Monday, August 8, 9-10:30 a.m.


Molly-Peacock-photo-credit-Andrew-TolsonMolly Peacock, widely anthologized poet and best-selling biographer, is the author of six volumes of poetry, including The Second Blush and Cornucopia.  Co-creator of Poetry-in-Motion on New York’s subways, her poems appear in Poetry, The New Yorker, TLS and The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Her biography, The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, was an Economist, Globe and Mail, Irish Times, London Evening Standard and Booklist book of the year.


Week 8, August 13–20


Kent Gramm
The Hebrew and Christian scriptures are the “great code” of literature in English, according to Northrop Frye; they can also be the inspiration for our own poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Whether we come to these writings as skeptics, believers, searchers, or all three at once, the most beautiful, comforting and challenging words in our literary tradition offer their power to us as we write the psalms and beatitudes of our own lives. Use these Biblical traditions as a springboard to your own writing in this workshop. No advance submissions necessary.

Monday-Friday, 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Kent-GrammKent Gramm teaches in the English, Religion and Civil War Era Studies departments at Gettysburg College. He is the author of Sharpsburg: A Civil War Narrative; The Prayer of Jesus; Psalms for Skeptics; Psalms for the Poor; Gettysburg: A Meditation on War and Values, the novel Clare and November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is a winner of the Hart Crane Poetry Prize, and the Louisiana State University graduate school awards an annual Kent Gramm Prize in Creative Nonfiction.


Week 9, August 20–27


Neil Shepard
This jazz-week workshop will focus on the music of poetry. We’ll discuss everything from imagery and metaphor to tone and rhetoric, but we’ll listen especially to the musical qualities of verse — how sound echoes sense, how line-breaks dictate rhythmic effects, and how sounds and cadences weave lines and stanzas together, creating harmony or, if the poet desires it, cacophony. Whether we take our beat from jazz, rap, rock, country or classical, poets do think sometimes like musicians. In this workshop, we’ll analyze contemporary poems for musical models and use exercises to discover new strategies for our own sonorous poem-making. No advance submissions necessary.

Monday-Friday, 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Neil-ShepardNeil Shepard’s sixth and seventh books of poetry — Hominid Up and Vermont Exit Ramps II — were published in 2015. Recent poems appear in the Sewanee Review, Manhattan Review, and online at Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and Poem-A-Day (Academy of American Poets). In 2014-2015, Shepard was a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, VCCA and Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. He founded and edited the literary magazine Green Mountains Review for 25 years. He teaches at Poets House in Manhattan and in the MFA program at Wilkes University. Outside of the literary realm, he is a founding member of the jazz-poetry group POJAZZ.


Registration for all workshops begins in April. Tuition is $110 is open to writers of all stages ($150 for Advanced Poetry Workshop, and requires writing samples to be submitted).

Register online -

Register by phone - Call 716.357.6250. Please have all registration information ready before calling. Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover are all accepted.

Pre-register by mail or fax (716.357.5823) - Complete the registration form printed in the Special Studies Catalog and return it to:

Special Studies
PO Box 28
Chautauqua, New York 14722

Registration forms will be available in the Special Studies Catalog which can be obtained by writing to the address above.

Register in-person - Walk-in registrations will be accepted at the Main Gate and the Colonnade.

Note: A $5 handling fee will be added to all phone, fax and mail registrations.


Clara Silverstein
Program Director

Sherra Babcock
Director of Education