Hudson Valley Retreat

Join us for our inaugural Hudson Valley Retreat the weekend of December 6–8, 2019, for poetry classes, workshops, readings, guided meditation and yoga at the renown Garrison Institute in the Hudson Valley. Housed in a beautifully renovated former Capuchin monastery above the Hudson River about fifty miles north of New York City, the Garrison Institute was founded on the belief that action in the world is more compassionate and effective when infused with the wisdom and skill cultivated in contemplative practices. During our retreat we’ll draw upon these practices and the art of poetry to seek deeper engagement with ourselves, each other, the world around us, and our own work.

Faculty members Laura Eve Engel, Jason Koo, Dorothea Lasky and Javier Zamora will lead morning poetry classes on Saturday and Sunday devoted to writing new material and small-group afternoon workshops providing feedback on previously written work. Students and faculty will share their work in evening poetry readings on Friday and Saturday nights. Rozanne Gold, award-winning food writer, end-of-life doula, and former trustee of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, will serve as our retreat host and meditation guide for the weekend. As a special treat, attendees will also get to attend a talk and performance by Meredith Monk on Saturday night, who will be hosting her own retreat at Garrison concurrently.

Registration covers tuition, room and board for the entire weekend. Meals at Garrison are provided by Fresh Company, a catering company led by Executive Chef Shelly Boris. All meals for the retreat will be vegetarian (including vegan options), with ingredients drawn from local farms and producers in the Hudson Valley. Single registration includes lodging in a private bedroom; double registration includes lodging with a roommate; dormer registration includes lodging with 2–3 roommates. Click here for more information about accommodations and a virtual tour of Garrison’s facilities and grounds. Let us know your rooming preferences (including any roommate requests) and any dietary restrictions you might have on the registration form.

Register early by October 23 to take $100 off registration and unlock three installment payments. Register between October 24 and Nov 6 and take $50 off registration and pay in two installments. Register between November 7 and 20 and pay full price all at once. Members can take $25 off registration when it reaches full price.

Single registration: $745 (by Oct 23) | $795 (by Nov 6) | $845 (by Nov 20)

Double registration: $695 (by Oct 23) | $745 (by Nov 6) | $795 (by Nov 20)

Dormer registration: $665 (by Oct 23) | $715 (by Nov 6) | $765 (by Nov 20)

To get to the retreat, take the MetroNorth train from Grand Central Station to Garrison, New York. The Institute provides a free shuttle to and from the Garrison MetroNorth station. Driving directions and other transportation details are available here. More detailed information is available upon registration.


Retreat Schedule

Friday, December 6

3–6 PM: arrivals
6–7 PM: dinner
7–7:30 PM: opening reception
7:30–8:30 PM: student reading
8:30–9 PM: break
9–10 PM: faculty reading

Saturday, December 7

7:30–8 AM: guided morning meditation
8–9 AM: breakfast

9–10:15 AM: “Repetition & Renewal” / Laura Eve Engel

As humans, we’ve made at least this one big agreement with one another: time exists. We use it to mark segments of our collective existence, give those segments a beginning and an end, and note each time one comes around again. Across cultures and calendars, the ritual acknowledgement of the new year invites us to cast our gaze back into the past and look forward into the future from the threshold of this moment, where we stand. Of the month leading up to the Jewish New Year, Marge Piercy writes, “Now is the time to let the mind / search backwards like the raven / loosed to see what can feed us. / Now, the time to cast the mind forward / to chart an aerial map of the months.” With the Gregorian New Year approaching, we’ll spend our generative time together preparing to enter the new year as writers, and engage with rituals and exercises meant to ground and challenge us as we process what’s past and look ahead to the unknown.

10:30–11:45 AM: “Cultivating Attention: Poem as Prayer” / Jason Koo

Simone Weil writes, “Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” What, for each of us, is prayer? When do we find ourselves praying, how do we pray, and what are we praying for, if anything? What relationship does prayer have to poetry? In this workshop we’ll seek to cultivate the attention Weil identified as prayer by reflecting on and discussing our own individual relationships to prayer, then exploring how a poem can act as a kind of prayer, ranging from secular to religious expressions of belief. We’ll look closely at poems by Emily Dickinson, James Merrill, Jane Kenyon, Louise Glück, Terrance Hayes, Jericho Brown and others as we discuss what formal and tonal qualities we associate with the poem as prayer, then write our own prayer poems.

12–1 PM: lunch
1–2 PM: silent time
1–1:30 PM: walking meditation
2–4:15 PM: small-group workshops
4:30–5:30 PM: open-level restorative yoga class
6–7 PM: dinner
7–8 PM: student reading
8–9 PM: Meredith Monk talk & performance
9–10 PM: wine reception
10 PM–on: “Noble Silence” through Sunday breakfast

Sunday, December 8

7:30–8 AM: guided morning meditation
8–9 AM: breakfast

9–10:15 AM: “Poetry and the Occult” / Dorothea Lasky

In this generative workshop, we’ll think of poetry as a divination tool. We’ll use poetry as a space to uncover the occult aspects of our everyday existence: the hidden, the often unacknowledged, and the mysterious “blood jet” (as Sylvia Plath called it). We’ll do the Tarot Card exercise, in which we think about the history of tarot cards, make our own cards and write new poems inspired by them. We’ll also use chosen poetry books as additional sources of inspiration and divination, ask hard questions of these texts and use poems to find our “answers.” We’ll read poems by William Blake, Bhanu Kapil, H.D., Nathaniel Mackey and Alice Notley, all of whom have thought about the mysterious connections between poetry and real life, as guides in our exploration. Finally, by the end of the workshop, we’ll walk away with new work and new ideas for our future writing.

10:30–11:45 AM: “Poetry and Engagement” / Javier Zamora

What keeps us engaged? What drives us down the page to the end of the poem? In this class, we’ll explore speed or momentum in poems by taking a closer look at poems that keep our attention. But we’ll also explore how we as writers can be more engaged with our surrounding world—to the point where we must do something about it. We’ll look at poems that have this quality of engagement and inspire us toward change. To inspire our own creativity, we’ll look at current headlines and discuss what feels most urgent for us to address about our world.

12–1 PM: lunch
1–3:15 PM: small-group workshops
3:30–4 PM: departures